Magazine article Information Today

EPA Update

Magazine article Information Today

EPA Update

Article excerpt

Mike Flynn, deputy director of the Office of Information Analysis & Access at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was a guest at SLAs Public Policy Update session at the SLAAnnual Conference in June in Denver.

The issues surrounding EPA libraries have been a hot-button item for months. (For background on the issue, see Barbie Keiser's NewsBreak from Feb. 12, 2007, at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?Articleld=19226.)

Flynn, who has been with the agency since 1980, was remarkably upbeat. He said he was there to tell the SLA audience what the EPA was doing and not doing. Everyone in the room applauded when he said, "The EPA libraries are alive and well-and we intend to keep them that way."

His goal is to improve the library network, and he admitted that much of the bad publicity was due to poor communication. He's looking for ways to empower information to make it useful for users. However, there is continuing pressure regarding resources, which is why some of the regional EPA libraries and the headquarters library were closed to walk-in traffic, while others cut back their hours. Technology enables the libraries to provide service even without a physical presence. The new EPA approach is not to diminish resources but to change the delivery mode. He likened librarians to "high-tech info sleuths" (humans can make connections that computers can't).

Flynn made some promises to the group: There will be no more closures or cutbacks in hours (at least not without thorough review and presumably better communication about why this is happening if it happens in the future). The hiring of Debbie Balsamo, an SLA member and president of the North Carolina chapter, shows the agency's commitment to the profession. EPA has stopped its digitization project pending a third-party review.

EPA will schedule stakeholder meetings. July is the next scheduled one, which will be hosted by ALA. EPA, which will set up an advisory board, intends to integrate more with other government agencies. EPA will update its Web presence.

Flynn closed by saying that the EPA "is committed to providing access and improving library services." He then fielded some tough questions from the audience. He clarified specific staff cuts and open hours for some regional libraries. One librarian wanted to know if she could still ask EPA librarians questions to further her company's goal of reducing emissions in their truck fleet. The answer was yes. …

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