In a memo prepared last week by the enforcement arm of EPA, called the Office of Enforcement and Compliance (OECA), agency staff detailed concerns about the effects of EPAs plans to close many of its libraries, box up the collections and eliminate or sharply reduce library services. Each year, EPAs libraries handle more than 134,000 research requests from its own scientific and enforcement staff. The memo states:
If OECA is involved in a civil or criminal litigation and the judge asks for documentation, we can currently rely upon a library to locate the information and have it produced to a court house in a timely manner. Under the cuts called for in the plan, timeliness for such services is not addressed.
In addition, the memo raises negative side effects relating to
Forensics. The NEIC (National Enforcement Investigations Center) Library is the only specialized environmental forensic library in the Agency. The NEIC library supports enforcement in the regions when there is a need for NEICs expertise or unique materials Loss of support for enforcement within the regions may cause an overwhelming demand on the small NEIC library by requiring the NEIC library to provide not only unique materials, but also items that the regional libraries currently provide. There is no budget available to expand NEICs library capacity should this increased demand for NEIC library services occur. Lost Collections. OECA is seriously concerned that these documents may be distributed without adequate documentation and cataloging and may become virtually lost within the system. Institutional Memory. OECA is concerned that the loss of institutional memory as well as the loss of expertise from professional librarians in the regions will hamper OECAs enforcement program. Cutting $2 million in library services in an EPA budget totaling nearly $8 billion is the epitome of a penny wise-pound foolish economy, stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. From research to regulation to enforcement, EPA is an information-dependent operation which needs libraries and librarians to function properly.
To read more about PEER, visit them at www.peer.org