September 20, 2000
Today Steve Curwood asked a three-part
question aimed at different segments of our audience. First, he
asked the librarians to tell us the kinds of requests they are
getting, and share some anecdotes. Next, he asked library users
to share their experiences with librarians assisting them in their
online and offline searches. Finally, he asked EPA and state and
local agency librarians to specify what resources they are offering
libraries to understand and use their information?
Many of you have provided each
other with useful information, which you can find by checking
the thread index or by using the search engine.
Responses to the Moderator's
- Several participants criticized the use
of Adobe format and advocated putting older, hard-to-find
EPA documents online. Such a project is presently under way.
- Several librarians suggested that EPA
number and catalog every document approved for publishing
before it is released.
- An EPA librarian asked whether EPA should
make a greater effort to put draft policies and reports on
the Web site.
- EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking
Water wanted to know how they could distribute more broadly
documents they have produced for communities about protecting
the sources of drinking water. Can libraries help to make
these publications available to the public? [Some documents
are too large to download easily from the Internet.]
- Pat Bonner asks participants to think
about how EPA could better use listservs to aid librarians.
- A local agency librarian recommends a
site like the Environmental Information Project in the California
Digital Library as a starting place on the Internet.
Issues Raised by our Panelists
- Why is it difficult to get answers about
genetically modified foods from EPA and FDA? [Blackwelder]
- What requirements does EPA have on how
long reports will remain available online? What happens when
a report is taken down? Is there a risk that the item will
be lost forever? [Fox]
- Industry worries that EPA may post misleading
information on its site and supports the practice of providing
a heads-up to companies about new materials that will be posted
online. There should be a uniform Web-wide feature that allows
for error corrections. [Conrad]
- EPA should enable people to answer the
most basic questions on their own such as:  What toxic
ingredients are in pesticides?  What pollution sources
and hazards are near their home, work or school?  What
regulated and unregulated contaminants are their drinking
water?  How do they get data on a single plant from a single
source? and  What are the known and unknown hazards of
a particular chemical? [Orum]
- The EPA Web site should have information
and links to aid citizens in finding their way through the
bureaucracy and in tracking down other sources of help and
- States recognize the need to work with
EPA to provide good information. Difficulties arise from incompatible
data systems. There are problems with the quality and accuracy
of date in reports such as Envirofacts and the Sector Facility
Indexing Report. [Duncan]
- EPA has insufficient resources allocated
to fund library projects. [Stoss]
New Issues Raised by Our
- EPA should provide more help in searching
the Federal Register. FOIA documents should be indexed online.
- EPA should provide descriptors with information
on the required reading level and technical content of documents
on the EPA Web site.
- Some features of the EPA site make it
too time-consuming to download materials quickly.
- Printed copies are easier to read, copy
and loan. Rural areas may lack access to online materials.
- Printed materials can be hard to find
in a timely manner. Not everything sent to a depository library
stays available at that library.
- Budget cuts have led the federal government
to cut back distribution of print materials.
- Electronic formatting issues and the
Americans with Disabilities Act raise real problems for libraries
and their patrons.
- EPA should provide a choice of formats
in its databases.
- EPA should provide case studies of citizen
involvement in the regulatory and permitting process that
include: (1) where to gather needed materials; (2) how to
prepare and present information for a hearing and (3) how
to follow up with post-hearing submissions.
- EPA should present "issue" collections
on hot topics such as the breaching of dams on the Snake River
through a combination of web sites, local news stories, advocacy
groups and government documents. The Boulder Area Sustainability
Information Network provides a local example of such an effort.
- Local libraries can establish small information
repositories for community groups.
- Local companies should place information
on their activities at local libraries under "good neighbor
- Local groups should budget mailing costs
to libraries to broaden distribution of their materials.
Questions from Our Participants
- What public libraries and communities
have worked well together, and what they learned?
- How can Superfund dockets be better organized?
- Is online training an acceptable approach?
- Is there some type of publish-on-demand
feature that would allow libraries to print up and bind Internet
documents as needed?
by Barbara Brandon, email@example.com