About this Event
Join the Dialogue
September 21, 2000
Further responses to Steve Curwood's
Questions from Sept. 20 [for librarians, library patrons and workers
in federal and state environmental protection agencies]
Panelists and EPA staff:
- Local librarians are asked a variety
of environmental questions, but this occurs less frequently
with the availability of databases and the Internet. Libraries
could offer "real time reference" to users of their homepages
and databases. Patrons could click on "talk to a librarian"
and be linked in real time to a librarian for help. Software
for this is being developed, and EPA should consider adopting
- EPA has conducted a national phone survey
to see what sources of environmental information the public
wants, it has not been released. EPA says that the response
rate to the survey was too low to extrapolate its results
broadly, but that copies were available. [Conrad]
- The net should not be your sole source
of information; librarians can play an important role. [Conrad]
- A new HUD site, http://www.hud.gov/emaps,
allows users to look at local environmental hazards. [Bonner]
- Recommended online resources include
sites maintained by non-profit environmental groups such as
EDF's Scorecard (http://www.scorecard.org)
and OMB Watch's RTK NET (http://www.rtk.net).
- While EPA produces good quality information,
reliance on a single source is not a good idea. EPA could
compensate for this by providing links to industry, ngo and
- EPA should leave no one behind in providing
high quality information. Sometimes we rely too much on data
and science and don't think enough about how to supply information
that speaks to our humanity and our place in existence.
- EPA libraries make documents publications
available to the public by cataloging them, making them searchable
via an Online Library System (OLS), and loaning them out to
other libraries. Public librarians can get assistance from
their regional EPA library.
- The EPA Office of Water Resource Center
has a useful automatic e-mail distribution list. (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Most community members don't go to the
library to obtain environmental information. They may lack
- Pros and cons of using the Adobe PDF
format were presented, including an argument in favor of this
format for archiving historical documents.
- Catalogs could contain links and be monitored
by sniffers that that hunt down dead links. An alternative
approach is to create bibliographic Web sites that lead to
books or topical sites.
- Performance-partnership grants with local
libraries could help bridge a lot of gaps.
Steve Curwood asked three new
questions this morning. First, he asked how should libraries integrate
their written and Internet resources so that people
can find accurate information
easily? Next he asked us to discuss why some of the participants
had a skeptical tone abut EPA. Finally he asked if EPA generally
a source of accurate, timely and accessible information, or do
its inadequacies in some areas turn its data into Internet clutter?
- Political factors do not influence dealings
with EPA libraries. Real-time, interactive, distance learning
modules will be commonplace within 5 years. [Stoss]
- EPA should organize information by designing
routine data collections for electronic data management. Paper
collections should also be put online. The federal government
should catalogue standard information products according to
a common reference system and understand the importance of
archiving. The distribution of computer work stations to low-income
areas is needed to address the Digital Divide. [Orum]
- The agency generally does a good job
in presenting and providing information, given that it is
subject to conflicting political pressures. [Fox]
- An academic librarian cautioned that
even with unbiased sources we must ask where did they get
- A librarian at the University at Buffalo
points out that a local Love Canal group donated an invaluable
"grey" collection of materials to the University
and that other local groups should follow this example.
- Another librarian suggests that EPA should
post materials on state listserves.
- Since 1997 the University at Buffalo
has been providing government document and pamphlets on line.
The site is useful as a source of general information on popular
topics and the Government Printing Office is looking at it
as a possible model.
- One participant who works with the Agency
frequently says she trusts 70% of the staff to do the right
thing but the rest are either punching their ticket for a
job in private industry or coasting. She also points out that
EPA suffers from many conflicting statutory mandates when
it comes to releasing information. Funding is also a problem.
This participant was also skeptical that the agency would
routinely release draft documents on the Web, especially given
that private research services provide these materials to
the business community.
- Two participants were also cynical about
the political pressures that EPA is routinely subject to from
industry and OMB. They pointed out that industry lobbyists
far outnumber environmentalists at Agency meetings and that
constant industry pressure can water down good programs like
- A researcher for local government strongly
protested EPA's change in policy on AIRSData. This material
used to be posted on the net but now the agency makes the
public submit FOIA requests for hourly exceedances and violations
of the national ambient air quality standards. She thinks
this is going the wrong way.
Questions from Participants:
- How can those librarians who work in
Special Collections find repositories that hold special collections
related to environmental topics, including the private papers
of a prominent person, organization or even government departments?
- An ELI representative asked how EPA and
the states could better disseminate information to communities
about upcoming regulatory decisions that will affect them?
Should there be notices in libraries or mailings to neighbors?
by Barbara Brandon, email@example.com
Welcome | About
this Event | Briefing Book | Join
the Dialogue | Search