EPA cutbacks hurt science: Congress

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) linkurl:closure;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/27334/ of several of its research libraries is flawed, unjustified and is depriving academics, government employees, and the public of crucial environmental data, according to a Congressional report released yesterday (Mar. 13). Of the EPA's 26 libraries, six libraries have changed their hours of operation, and four others have been shut since 2006. These include its Office of Environmental Inf

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Mar 13, 2008
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) linkurl:closure;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/27334/ of several of its research libraries is flawed, unjustified and is depriving academics, government employees, and the public of crucial environmental data, according to a Congressional report released yesterday (Mar. 13). Of the EPA's 26 libraries, six libraries have changed their hours of operation, and four others have been shut since 2006. These include its Office of Environmental Information headquarters library and the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics Chemical library, both in Washington, DC. The linkurl:report,;http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08304.pdf issued by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), calls EPA's attempt at cost-saving through reorganizing its library system disorganized and poorly implemented. "EPA's library plan describes the reorganization effort as a 'phased approach,'" the report reads, "but it does not provide specific goals, timelines, or feedback mechanisms that allow the agency to measure performance and monitor user needs to ensure a successful reorganization while maintaining quality services."...
lawed, unjustified and is depriving academics, government employees, and the public of crucial environmental data, according to a Congressional report released yesterday (Mar. 13). Of the EPA's 26 libraries, six libraries have changed their hours of operation, and four others have been shut since 2006. These include its Office of Environmental Information headquarters library and the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics Chemical library, both in Washington, DC. The linkurl:report,;http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08304.pdf issued by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), calls EPA's attempt at cost-saving through reorganizing its library system disorganized and poorly implemented. "EPA's library plan describes the reorganization effort as a 'phased approach,'" the report reads, "but it does not provide specific goals, timelines, or feedback mechanisms that allow the agency to measure performance and monitor user needs to ensure a successful reorganization while maintaining quality services." "To ensure that the network was evolving and keeping pace with newer demands from a growing, diverse customer base, EPA began reexamining its library model in 2003 to identify new ways to deliver library services and meet customer needs in a cost-effective manner," said EPA's chief information officer, Molly O'Neill, in linkurl:testimony;http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Commdocs/hearings/2008/Oversight/13mar/O'Neill_Testimony.pdf given at a House Science and Technology Committee hearing held yesterday. linkurl:EPA's libraries;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/52884/ are used by local, state and federal agencies to enforce environmental rules, by advocates, members of the public, and researchers to mine environmental data. Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, was one of four Congresspersons who requested that the GAO conduct the inquiry. "GAO's report paints a grim picture of the current state of EPA's library system. The Agency's modernization effort is characterized by poor planning, failure to communicate with its employees, the public or Congress and failure to protect unique government assets," Gordon said in a statement. "There is only one way to describe the path to this outcome -- gross mismanagement." "Our vision is to be the premier model for the next generation of federal libraries by enhancing our electronic tools to complement our traditional library services," O'Neill testified at the hearing. Though the EPA planned to digitize much of the information in their libraries, the GAO report found that, due to copyright issues, the agency planned to make only ten percent of its library holdings available online. In January of last year EPA issued a moratorium on further changes to its libraries. The GAO report recommends that the agency uphold the moratorium until the agency can better justify its reorganization plan and improve the reorganization process.

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