September 26, 2000
Over the last week and a half
most of the discussion in the Dialogue has split into two sections.
One section has focused on the types of information and data distribution
practices EPA should have. The second section has focused on how
libraries and EPA can better function to provide environmental
Building Capacity Through
Howard Fox will act as a "Keeper
of the Thread" to help guide this discussion. Today he posed the
two questions listed below.
What can libraries do to
build capacity for environmental decision making?
- EPA should provide funds to help train
librarians and to develop and maintain clearinghouses of environmental
- Business and the bureaucracy want to
maintain control over public access to databases, making the
establishment of community clearinghouses very difficult.
- EPA should encourage environmental partnerships
- Lower the cost of resource acquisition.
- Libraries need models and success stories
to learn how to build sustainable communities.
- The Web will distribute information more
cheaply and quickly to community groups than libraries can.
- Time limits and printing charges can
be problems with Web access at libraries.
What do libraries need to
fill the role they'd like to play?
- Libraries make a difference in helping
citizens sort through the disinformation put out by public
relations firms and by helping citizens to find technical
resources and to evaluate scientific data.
- Libraries function best as a source of
mediated information but should not take a more active role.
- Libraries should focus on their local
- Local pressure groups can prevent small
libraries from creating topical collections or hosting training
sessions on polarizing issues.
- Libraries should provide meeting space,
organize study groups, and host public programs.
- Staffing problems at libraries can hinder
their ability to address community concerns.
Let's Get Real, continued
- Activists said that comment periods
seldom prove useful to community groups trying to change
agency decisions, but one praised EPA's training efforts
in Clean Air Act permitting.
- Solutions to this problem include:
early notice, more access to information, procedures that
allow input prior to the start of the comment period, searchable
databases like TTN and the RACT/BACT/LAER clearinghouses,
and guides on how to review permits.
- E-mails and phone calls on permitting
matters are often ignored by the relevant agencies.
- EPA could post compliance data quickly
on the Web.
- EPA's clearinghouse is too slow in
delivering large documents that can't be downloaded easily.
Draft EPA Documents, continued
- Subscription charges of publishers like
the Bureau of National Affairs preclude citizens from learning
what's really going on. The economic facts of life preclude
cheap distribution to the public.
Trusting EPA, continued
- A post applauded EPA for conducting this
discussion in public and pointed out the number of agency
personnel who felt free to speak up.
Community Issues and Access
- Community technology centers organized
at the grass roots level or through libraries are addressing
the digital divide. Terminals and training are well used.
- E-Rate and Gates grants are helping to
bridge the divide.
Agricultural and other topics
- Study circles proved effective in teaching
farmers about sustainable agriculture.
- One local library has developed new information
resources for its local farming community.
- The National Agricultural Library and
Cornell are good resources for integrated pest management.
- EPA provides online mapping resources.
Barbara H. Brandon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dialogue Welcome page: http://www.network-democracy.org/epa/
Dialogue Thread Index: http://www.network-democracy.org/epa/archive/thrd1.html