Today, ALA President-elect Jim Rettig testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on the closure of libraries at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Speaking to the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Mr. Rettig spoke to several questions that have raised alarm bells within the library community, the science community, and several other affected fields.
“Overall, from the library standpoint, the key issue to determine is whether or not the EPA’s library plan is based on the end users’ needs. We think not,” Mr. rettig said. “Our sources have repeatedly told us that there has been no outreach to the EPA Library user community… Indeed, there has been a lot of talk about getting information to a “broader audience,” which EPA has repeatedly claimed is its primary goal, but how do the steps being taken by EPA accomplish that? ALA doesn’t see how what’s being done is connected to users’ needs.”
Testifying on behalf of the EPA, Assistant Administrator in the Office of Environmental Information and Chief Information Officer Molly O’Neill claimed that all of the regional libraries, the headquarters library and the pesticide library will all be re-opened this fiscal year. Also, EPA is preparing a report on the reopening process that is set to be released at the end of March.
“Unfortunately, there continues to be a lot that we don’t know,” Mr. Rettig continued, “exactly what materials have been being shipped around the country, whether there are duplicate materials in other EPA libraries, whether these items have been or will be digitized, and whether a record is being kept of what is being dispersed and what is being discarded. We remain concerned that years of research and studies about the environment may be lost forever.”
In closing, Mr. Rettig asked the Committee to request that EPA:
a) Discuss with stakeholders on how best to meet user needs and plan for the future;
b) Base its actions upon these users’ needs;
c) Stabilize and inventory the collections that have been put in storage;
d) Develop and implement a government-wide process to assist agencies to design effective digitization programs; and
e) Reestablish the standard that federal government librarians manage federal government libraries.
Mr. Rettig’s full testimony is available for download from the Subcomittee’s website (PDF).
Also at the Subcommittee’s website, you can view the hearing itself in its entirety. Jim Rettig’s testimony begins at the 33:20 mark.