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Libraries as a Community Resource for Environmental Information



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Discussion Summary: September 22, 2000

We have decided to change the format of the daily summaries and simply point you to hot topics in the threads of the day. This will shorten the summaries and highlight the most actively discussed topics.

There are two broad areas of discussion in the Dialogue. One relates to how the EPA manages information, and the other involves library issues and public access. Continuing threads are summarized below.

Threads relating to information management:

  • Trusting EPA as an organization and as a provider of data. [Summary from Tom Beierle]
  • The thread ranges broadly across issues of trust and EPA, but two themes stand out. The first deals with whether individual staff or the entire agency manipulate information (and access to it) to push a particular policy agenda (pro-industry or pro-environment--opinions differ).
  • The second theme deals more with issues of competence: Given its staff, mandates, budget, does EPA have the ability to provide quality information?
  • From the perspective of someone seeking "trustworthy" information from any source, these two themes translate into two quite different questions:
    1. Is this information biased by an agenda that is not in my interest? and
    2. Is this information complete and correct?
    • Complaints about EPA inadequately maintaining data on the IRIS, Heast and AirsData systems.
    • Suggestions to provide permit notification data online.

    Threads reflecting concerns of the Library Community:

    • Organizing and cataloguing information.
    • Performance partnership grants through EPA's new Office of Information as a tool for reforming the way information is provided and disseminated.
    • Library environmental links.
    • Use of EPA librarians to assist in online searches.

    State and national environmental Web sites. Friday's agenda introduced questions relating to state and national environmental Web sites. Several new threads emerged:

    • Resources on toxicological and environmental health at the regional, state and county level [Stoss] and from the Missouri Watershed Information Network [Madzura] which effectively link state, federal and other Web sites into an effective resource for grassroots users.

    Participants Questions:

    • EPA Region III asked us to evaluate their Green Communities Web site, which provides local communities with information and tools on topics of sustainable development and environmental protection. See http://www.epa.gov/greenkit
    • A query for a comprehensive list of periodicals and newsletters covering EPA activities was answered by another participant.

Summary prepared by Barbara Brandon, bhb@info-ren.org

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