A project of the EPA, Information Renaissance and the Environmental Law Institute

Libraries as a Community Resource for Environmental Information



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Frequently Asked Questions


  1. How exactly does an online Dialogue work?
  2. The discussion is asynchronous which means that it is not conducted in real time. This allows people to participate at any time, day or night.

    The Dialogue is organized in a Roundtable format with a panel of individuals who represent specialize information and/or agencies. Each day, typically in the morning, the moderator poses a question to the panelists. Each member of the Roundtable responds to the question during that day. Registered participants may also respond to the discussion. Participants can visit the web site to read the messages and use the comment form to contribute to the discussion. At the conclusion of each topic a brief discussion summary will be posted to the discussion.

    A record of the discussion is maintained on the Dialogue web site and messages are organized by thread, topic, date or author. Please feel free to post a message to an earlier thread.

  3. What equipment is necessary for someone to participate in a dialogue?
  4. Individuals need to have access to the Internet and use a Web browser such as Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer or the text-based browser Lynx.

  5. How does a conversation actually happen?
  6. All messages that are sent to the discussion group are reviewed by the administrator before being posted. The administrator will clarify any questions and help keep the discussion running smoothly and productively.

    The discussion is focused around a Roundtable, or panel of experts. The moderator poses questions to the panelists and they usually reply within a few hours. Our participants should submit comments and ask questions as well. Invited panelists are asked to respond to one question from the moderator every day. Panelists and participants typically exchange comments and questions as the discussion develops.

  7. Do participants send in their thoughts on the topic for that day, and then periodically check to see if others have responded?
  8. Messages are posted to the web site throughout the day. Many participants bookmark the site and check it at least once or twice every day.

  9. How do I follow the discussion?

    You may read the Dialogue using message Threads (all replies to the first message are grouped below that message), a Subject matter index or Date and Author indices.

  10. How do I post a message?

    Messages are posted to the discussion by using a comment form on the web site. When you click on a message in the discussion, you will see two hot links in the top corners of the screen. If you want to start a new topic, click on the link "Post a New Message" in the upper left-hand corner. If you want to reply to a previous message just click on the link "Reply to This Message" in the upper right-hand corner.

    Create clear subject headers. We would like to solicit your help in making the discussion easy to follow. As those of you who are familiar with asynchronous discussions know, subject matter headers and threads can be cumbersome to follow. This happens because participants often do not take the time to summarize their message accurately in the header line. Please take the time to select a good message header that succinctly encapsulates your thoughts.

    Please also remember that unlike e-mail, the Reply feature may not always be your best option. Your thoughts on the topic under discussion may be breaking new ground; under these circumstances please post a new message.

  11. What is a Summary?
  12. Summaries provide an overview of the comments of Roundtable panelists and participants during a given period of time. Each summary should also help participants find threads they want to read in more detail.

    The text is presented in a bulleted format. Space and time limitations obviously will prevent us from doing full justice to your ideas.

    Whenever possible we post summaries at the end of the day. All comments posted before 7:00 PM EDT will be included in the summary of that covers that day's discussion. When appropriate, postings made after that time will be incorporated in the next summary.

  13. Is everyone online at the same time?
  14. Because the discussion is asynchronous (not conducted in real time) people can participate at their convenience during the day or night. This structure makes it much easier to accommodate different time zones and busy schedules. A thoughtful discussion can evolve when participants have time to refer to reference materials, think about contributions from others in the group and have time to create their own thoughtful message.

  15. How much time does it take to participate?
  16. The time required to participate in the Dialogue is quite flexible and has much to do with the extent to which the reference materials are used and how actively each individual wants to offer comments to the discussion. The amount of time can range from a minimum of 15 to as much as 45 minutes should an individual want to give the discussion a great deal of thought.

  17. What's the URL for the EPA Dialogue?
  18. http://www.network-democracy.org/epa/

  19. Results of the Dialogue.

There will be a summary report that will be shared across EPA. That report will be the basis for deciding whether to pursue the concept of developing partnerships with libraries. If the Dialogue participants do believe that librarians can serve as a bridge to communities for environmental data and information, then the office of Policy, Economics and Innovation may seek partners for possible pilot projects in different types of library settings and in various communities. Some of the libraries and communities may "self-identify" in the course of the Dialogue.


Overview Agenda Panelists Demographics
How to Participate Rules of the Road FAQs Sponsors

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