ALA Pres: EPA Closures Threaten National Security
Anyone who needs to understand the environmental impact of, say, living downwind or downstream from a new nuclear power plant, or the long-term public health impact of Hurricane Katrina, cannot afford to find the doors barred to potentially lifesaving information.
The EPA intends to complete its program of closures, absent opposition from the 110th Congress to Bush's FY 07 budget, despite growing opposition and alarm from professionals and the general public. Leslie Berger lists several uses of the now defunct or severely restricted EPA libraries. First responders and government officials use these libraries, and Berger rightly claims that "in the age of terrorism, when the safety of our food and water supply, the uninterrupted flow of energy, and indeed, so much about our environment has become a matter of national security, it seems particularly dangerous to take steps that would hinder our emergency preparedness.
Even without Congressional approval of the budget, the agency's library in Washington D.C, is now closed to the public. The Dallas, Chicago, and Kansas City, Mo. regional branches have shut down altogether.. In the far west, the Seattle and San Francisco branches have seen reduced hours and public access, and in the east the same is true of branches in New York City and Boston.
The American Library Association's campaign is timely and important. Write or e-mail your Congressional representative to protest these untimely closings and service reductions, so that when the new Congress convenes, our political leaders will understand that we object.. EPA has promised that no information will be lost in what they are calling a digitization and modernization campaign.If the information had been digitized before the closures, this might be a little easier to swallow.But even so, EPA documents are often complex and highly technical, and even area experts require the services of specialized librarians, whose skills are now either not available at all or are only accessible on a more limited basis. The timing of the closures is also highly suspect. It will be a long holiday, and the mainstream press has a short memory. It is up to bloggers , to librarians, to scientists, and to intelligent public readers to keep up the heat on this important issue, and to welcome the 110th Congress with a groundswell of outrage on these cuts.