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E-M:/ Saving EPA Libraries

Enviro-Mich message from "Link, Terry" <link@mail.lib.msu.edu>

Here's a message from a colleague of mine who has worked with federal environmental libraries for more than two decades.

A Justification for Saving the EPA Libraries and a Call for Action-DRAFT #2
Frederick W. Stoss, MS, MLS*
Biological and Environmental Sciences and Mathematics Librarian
Art and Sciences Libraries
University at Buffalo
State University of New York
20 February 2006

[NOTE: Because of the nature and time sensitivities involved in establishing appropriate organizational or individual responses, anyone wanting to use this information to assist in their alerting other library groups or associations, including email discussion lists, newsletters, and personal correspondence, may do so. Fws]

Marta Dosa, Professor Emerita in  the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, provides a multi-part definition including a poignant observation (made in 1978) of "environmental information" as reflecting "the peaks and valleys in public policy attention to these problems [environmental], resulting in uneven funding of research, information services, and collection development.1 

On February 10, 2006, the nonprofit organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER, a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals), noted that under President Bush's proposed FY '07 budget, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be forced into closing it National Library Network. This library network serves the environmental information needs of EPA's own scientists, policy analysts, and other research, administrative, and support personnel. In addition this vital library network would be closed to the public. Included in the proposed elimination of the EPA Library Network would be the loss of the EPA's OPAC (online public access catalog). 

According to a news release from PEER, "Under Bush's plan, $2 million of a total agency library budget of $2.5 million will be lost, including the entire $500,000 budget for the EPA Headquarters library and its electronic catalog that makes it possible to search for documents through the entire EPA library network."2

The PEER news release also included a question of vital importance to the central mission of the EPA. "How are EPA scientists supposed to engage in cutting edge research when they cannot find what the agency has already done?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is moving to implement the proposed cuts as soon as possible. "The President's plan will not make us more competitive if we have to spend half our time re-inventing the wheel."

The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 as an independent agency as a result of a large-scale reorganization of the U.S. Federal Government by President Richard M. Nixon. The EPA's National Library Network was created in 1971 and now is a coordinated network of information resource centers facilitating access to its collections of books, reports, journals, and other data and information resources. The EPA Library Network and information resource centers assist in maintaining special information clearinghouses, information dockets, information hotlines, and publication distribution. The EPA Office of Environmental Information oversees the agency's National Library Network, which is one of the oldest and largest environmental libraries in the country. The network provides services and resources from 28 units in 10 regional offices, 12 EPA laboratories, four separate libraries within the EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and two research centers.

The EPA Library Network provides comprehensive access to environmental data and information and offers a range of services to EPA staff including interlibrary loans, research assistance, reference and referral services, subscriptions to publications, and online searching of commercial databases. The EPA Library Network also provides similar services to the public at-large.

A multitude of resources comprise the largest of the EPA Libraries Collections in the Headquarters Library:

*	16,000+ books and technical reports produced by government agencies other than the EPA
*	subscriptions to scientific and technical journals, newsletters, and newspapers
*	5,500 hard copy EPA documents
*	380,000  technical documents on microfiche, including those produced by EPA and its predecessor agencies
*	a microforms collection that includes back files of abstracts and indexes, and periodicals3

The materials in the library cover environmental regulations, policy, planning, and administration. The collections of the entire EPA Library Network are as equally impressive:

*	504,000 books and reports
*	3,500 journal titles
*	25,000 maps
*	3,600,000 information objects on microfilm
*	60,000 PDF files indexed, provides
*	430 mostly commercial information resources4

The EPA's Library's Online Library System (OLS) consists of databases that can be used to locate books, reports, and audiovisual materials on a variety of topics. The material on OLS is updated every two weeks, and may be searched in many ways, such as by title, author, and keyword, and is provided to users within and external to the Agency. Among its integrated databases are its access to the 

*	National Catalog (which includes citations from the National Technical Information Service) National Service Center for Environmental Publications (which provides print copies of popular EPA documents free of charge)
*	Environmental Financing Information Network
*	National Enforcement Training Institute Database
*	Several EPA Regional Offices (I, V, IX) special collections databases

Libraries in the EPA Library Network are generally open for public use and support walk-in, telephone, and email reference and referral requests by researchers in the applied, life, physical, and social sciences; educators and teachers, students, environmental policymakers, nonprofit groups, and other who have a need for environmental information. These needs range from students looking for science fair projects to community officials and organizations seeking to build environmentally sound and sustainable communities. The EPA Libraries also participate in interlibrary loan programs to enhance the Library Network's information resources sharing services and programs. These services, programs, and outreach activities are performed by professional librarians (holding MLS, MLIS, or equivalent graduate degrees in library science) and paraprofessionals acting in strategic administrative, management, and support capacities.

According to a 2004 EPA Report (EPA 260-R-04-001) prepared by Stratus Consulting, Inc., 4 "On an annual basis, provision of this functional category accounts for slightly under $1.7 million, or nearly one-third of the composite library services budget." Stratus consulting analyzed data for librarian performance over the EPA Library Network, noting that EPA librarians "fielded and successfully addressed:"

56,175 reference questions from EPA Staff (roughly 60 percent) and the public and conducted 90,116 database searchers. These EPA librarian efforts saved 214,566 hours of EPA Staff time at a cost saving to the agency of more than $7.5 million and a savings of more than $2.87 million for the public at-large. In addition to these basic reference and referral services, the EPA Librarians processed and delivered 99,197 documents and information resources to all patrons (65,825 to EPA Staff) in 2003. The value of this distribution service was estimated at slightly more than $3 million. The Stratus Consulting report concluded that

		The Environmental Protection Agency's libraries are clearly a source of substantial 
		value to the Agency, its stakeholders, and the public. Even employing the most 
		conservative of assumptions, benefit-to-cost ratios for core library services indicate
		that libraries "give back" far more than they take in terms of Agency resources. EPA 
		libraries are nonetheless a significant capital and operational investment, costing the Agency roughly $6.2 million annually to operate and maintain4

The Stratus Consulting report also provided an estimation of a comprehensive cost and benefits analysis for a full-suite of librarian-based reference and referral services (walk-in, phone, email, virtual), document delivery, database searching, distance learning and training services of $22,153.550 per year, which is an aggregate cost benefit ration of 5.7:1.

The American Library Association5 (ALA) and Special Libraries Association6 (SLA) issued individual statements concerning this proposed closing of the EPA Libraries Network. In the ALA news release, ALA Washington Office Associate Director Patrice McDermott told American Libraries, "(W)while the 80% cut in library funds is 'massive,' it's only part of a proposed $300-million cut to the EPA's overall budget, and the question of whether the library's budget might be restored could go either way." McDermott also added that, "In relative numbers, it's such a small amount," she said, "and Congress could potentially restore the library funds. But many of the library community's natural partners in the drive to reinstate funding may be overwhelmed by their own fights," she warned.

The statement issued by the Special Libraries Association was more strongly worded. "SLA is gravely concerned with the proposal in the Bush Administration's FY2007 Budget to close the network of 27 libraries and information centers within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," stated Janice R. Lachance, Chief Executive Officer of SLA "With this proposal, EPA's leadership is making it more difficult for the agency's policymakers and the public to leverage the extensive knowledge found in high quality, accurate information to make important decisions on our nation's environment, potentially compromising the public's health, she noted. Lachance also stated, "Short-sighted budget savings like this will give way to increased costs for EPA that aren't apparent right now."

Librarians, educators, researchers, policymakers, government officials and staff can voice their concerns in opposition to this proposed budget cut, that would eliminate an extremely cost-effective, professionally-competent, and vital natural resource-The Environmental Protection Agency's National Library Network. The best means to accomplish this is for librarians to contact the professional organizations to which they belong, such as the American Library Association (www.ala.org) and use their staff that routinely interacts with government agencies and other institutions and organizations (such as done by the ALA Washington Office or the ALA Task Force on the Environment, a component of the Social Responsibilities Round Table), and alert them to this issue and request them to take appropriate actions.

Librarians can also voice their individual concerns to their respective Congressional Representatives (www.house.gov) and Senators (www.senate.gov) and ask them to prevent the closing of the EPA National Library Network and to expand its funding. 


(1)	Marta Dosa as quoted in Frederick W. Stoss 2003. "Environmental Information." In: Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. http://dekker.tfinforma.com/sdek/section?content=a713532091&scope=doc&fmt=.html Searched on 17 February 2006.
(2)	Chas Offutt. 2006. "Bush Axing Libraries While Pushing for More Research: EPA Set to Close Library Network and Electronic Catalog. News Release, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, 10 February 2006. http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=643. Search 17 February 2006
(3)	U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2005. EPA Headquarters Library: Services for the Public. http://www.epa.gov/natlibra/hqirc/services.htm Searched 17 February 2006.
(4)	Stratus Consulting. 2004. Business Case for Information Services: EPA's Regional Libraries and Centers, EPA 260-R-04-001, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 21 p. http://www.epa.gov/natlibra/epa260r04001.pdf Searched 17 February 2006.
(5)	American Library Association. News Release: "EPA Library Funds Cut 80% under Bush Budget," 17 February 2006. http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=alonline&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=116849 Search 18 February 2006.
(6)	Special Libraries Association. News Release: "SLA Denounces Proposal to Close EPA Libraries," 17 February 2006. http://www.sla.org/content/SLA/pressroom/pressrelease/2006prelease/pr2605.cfm. Searched 18 February 2006.

* Frederick W. Stoss is a past-Chair and current co-Chair of the American Library Association's  
Task Force on the Environment, a past-Chair of the Special Libraries Association's Environmental Information Division. He is a research librarian with undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology and zoology. He has more than 25 years of professional experience as an environmental information specialist and librarian. Comments can be addressed to Fred Stoss at fstoss@buffalo.edu.

Terry Link, Director
Office of Campus Sustainability
Michigan State University
106 Olds Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824
1-517-355-1751 (Phone/fax)

One planet, one family, one future

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