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Libraries as a Community Resource for Environmental Information



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Discussion Summary: September 25, 2000

Over the weekend and on Monday participants and panelists discussed a variety of topics and launched several of their own.

Contrasting state and federal Web sites

  • Some state sites were criticized for doing their utmost to defeat citizen access to materials. EPA was viewed as doing inadequate job in supervision.
  • EPA should develop information systems that allow the public to retrieve information in common sense ways such as by facility or substance. [Orum]

Federal/State/ Local Web Site linkage

  • EPA should add links to state and local materials on its Web site with appropriate recommendations. [Eklund]

Response to posting on pollution-induced illness

  • Web sites are often too technical and do not provide usable real world data to the average citizen.
  • Librarians are not in a position to solve this problem.
  • Community organizing could help people get appropriate answers.
  • Organization can't happen without a good information base. [Smith]
  • Epidemiological links between chemicals and illness are poorly understood except in instances like tobacco so we should be cautious in jumping to conclusions. [Conrad]

Public participation

  • Citizens can't effectively participate in agency decisions if EPA does not provide the public with the necessary information.
  • How should EPA update its 20-year old public participation policy? [Bonner]

The role of libraries

  • Neutral forum or vehicle for promoting general understanding of environmental problems? [Orum, Conrad]

Quality of online data

  • Assessment of date retrieved online.
  • Peer-reviewed documents.

Difficulties in rural areas

  • There are often delays for inter-library loans to small town libraries.
  • Local libraries have limited resources.
  • Environmental analogue to NIH's Medline would be helpful.

  Questions and policy issues raised by participants

  • Is the Government Printing Office right not to send publications available online to depository libraries?
  • Has EPA, like USDA and the Department of State, made arrangements with research librarians to store complete copies of their Web sites?
  • How long should EPA store online non-compliance data for facilities?

Dialogue welcome page: http://www.network-democracy.org/epa/

Index of threads: http://www.network-democracy.org/epa/archive/thrd1.html

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

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