EPA Libraries Coming Back: Following an Outcry over Closings, the Federal Agency Will Reopen All Shuttered Facilities, Staff Them with Info Pros, and Make Them Available to the Public

Article excerpt

All Environmental Protection Agency libraries that were closed in budget-cutting actions will reopen by the end of September, the agency says in a report to Congress.

Regional libraries in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City, plus the headquarters repository and chemical library in Washington, D.C., will reopen for walk-in or appointment use at least four days a week--with professional librarians at each site, the agency pledges.

EPA officials discussed the report in a conference call with SLA and other interested organizations the day after it was released.

"I am thrilled to learn of the EPA's plans to reestablish the collections, as well as appropriate library staff, at the closed libraries before the end of the year," said SLA CEO Janice Lachance. "This kind of thinking and planning is exactly what we expected would come from extensive efforts by SLA staff and members to bring about a turnaround on this issue, and I think that EPA is currently moving in the right direction."

The report lays out the general approach EPA plans to take for each library location to reopen, and establishes operational standards applicable to all libraries in the EPA network. Specific site plans are still in the works.

For all the libraries, the EPA has established the following guidelines, which are quoted here directly from the report:

* Libraries must provide adequate space and resources to accommodate in-person interactions between library staff and patrons. This includes separate workstations for library staff and patrons, including EPA staff and the public. Workstations must provide a computer with appropriate software for access to electronic resources and EPA's digital collections, along with printing and copying capabilities.

* Libraries must establish and maintain an on-site collection of materials developed and tailored to meet local/regional needs. Library facilities must provide appropriate shelving for library collections. Initial acquisition of core collection materials will be through FEDLINK services offered by the Library of Congress.

* All libraries will be staffed by one or more library professionals with appropriate expertise and experience to provide services to EPA staff and the public via phone, email, or in person.

* The libraries must provide access for EPA staff and public patrons at least four days per week on a walk-in basis or by appointment during core business hours. The mechanism for public access to the library and its resources may vary to some extent, depending on local facilities and security requirements of individual sites. Some sites may be open for walk-in public access while others may require access by appointment.

* All libraries will meet standard services requirements and will provide core services of reference/research assistance and interlibrary loan/ document delivery.

* Libraries may enhance their local service offerings through agreements with Lead Service Centers, designated network libraries with expanded capabilities to provide services. The service centers can assist with reference and research assistance, as well as some of the technical aspects of library operations such as cataloging and interlibrary loan/document delivery, which can be done more efficiently from a central model.

* All libraries will follow network procedures on various library services. These procedures are being finalized and will be implemented to ensure that all EPA libraries maintain or exceed standard service levels in accordance with library best practices.

According to the report, "Over the next few months, we will continue to engage affected stakeholders (including our employee unions) as we finalize our specific plans for each library. The Agency is committed to working with its employees and outside parties on its future digitization plans (based on the third party review), a customer needs assessment, and long term strategic planning efforts. …