Monday, August 28, 2006

American Chronicle | EPA begins closing libraries

EPA begins closing libraries before Congress acts on plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving ahead this summer to shut down libraries, end public access to research materials and box up unique collections on the assumption that Congress will not reverse President Bush’s proposed budget reductions, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At the same time, EPA’s own scientists are stepping up protests against closures on the grounds that it will make their work more difficult by impeding research, enforcement and emergency response capabilities.

In an August 15, 2006 document entitled “EPA FY 2007 Library Plan,” agency management indicates that it will begin immediately implementing President Bush’s proposed budget cuts for the next fiscal year, which begins in October, without waiting for Congress to act. The memo describes what EPA terms “deaccessioning procedures” (defined as “the removal of library materials from the physical collection”) for its network of 26 technical libraries. Under the plan —

• Regional libraries, located in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City, serving 15 Midwestern and Southern states will be closed by September 30. Other regional library hours and services will be gradually reduced;

• Public access to EPA libraries and collections will end as soon as possible;

• As many as 80,000 original documents which are not electronically available will be boxed up (“put their collections into stasis,” in the words of the EPA memo) and shipped for eventual “digitizing.”

EPA scientists represented by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal employee union, had previously sent a “Demand to Bargain” on the issue, but EPA managers dismissed that demand as premature. The August 15th EPA memo, however, shows that the union concern was far from premature. On August 16, the AFGE National Council of EPA Locals filed a formal grievance demanding that all library closures be put on hold until affected scientists can negotiate the matter as required in the collective bargaining agreement, writing:

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