A project of the EPA, Information Renaissance and the Environmental Law Institute

Libraries as a Community Resource for Environmental Information



About this Event

Briefing Book

Join the Dialogue

Search the Site

Discussion Summary: September 28, 2000

To conclude, Tom Beierle asked us to evaluate the success of this Dialogue and to state what are the "take-home messages" for EPA. He also asked what you want to hear back from EPA and Information Renaissance about this dialogue.

How do we define success?

  • Success will be achieved when basic questions about environmental trends and pollution prevention can be answered through a unified and user-friendly national system. [Orum]
  • EPA can't be all things to all people but should focus on providing accurate, timely national data with appropriate warnings about data comparisons. EPA should work on giving citizens tools for understanding environmental claims and recognizing disinformation.
  • EPA should devise a national environmental information action plan with long-term and short-term objectives, and then specific projects and funding requests; partnerships between EPA and state and local public libraries, and between EPA, NGOs and industry are needed to put together projects.
  • Regional environmental information action plans would be a more effective focus. [Eklund]
  • Libraries are only part of the solution; EPA needs to standardize the public participation process to insure that citizens have accurate and timely data and a chance to impact decisions.
  • The discussion involved requests for more funding, requests for more understandable data and requests for more raw data. Industry will try to play off the second goal against the third; librarians should know that lobbying can influence EPA data distribution policies.

Library Capacity Building

  • Libraries must serve the whole community, but they lack the resources to serve a greater environmental agenda.
  • If libraries could bill the government for printing costs when downloading online government documents, then more libraries to serve as repositories for government documents.
  • EPA should collaborate with the National Library of Medicine's Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program and the non-regulatory National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), which focuses on improving the scientific basis for environmental decision making.
  • EPA and libraries could collaborate to upgrade skills through courses for continuing education credits. [Fox]
  • Stakeholders need libraries that are learning centers and gathering places. They need access to the web and individuals they can trust to provide unbiased research and education.
  • Librarians could help EPA staff develop better cataloguing methods for EPA's document collections.

Digital Divide

  • ADA (American Disabilities Act) has imposed a deadline on all governmental web sites that will make all sites accessible to a text reader.
  • Native American communities rely upon printed matter from libraries, but such materials are often out-of-date. Networking by phone, e-mail, fax and mail allows tribes to share current information. The Internet has become both a reference tool and a link between indigenous peoples worldwide.
  • Municipalities need to partner with other entities to place computers in retail areas, police/fire departments, schools and senior centers. [Eklund]

EPA's Web site

  • A listserve should be established for those interested in capacity building and participation.
  • A dropdown online dictionary could make it easier to obtain information from the EPA Web site.
  • Old-fashioned reporting can yield information when the EPA site is down, but this works best for those living near EPA offices.
  • Retired professionals could serve as external reviewers for EPA's online data.

Let's Get Real and Data Gaps

  • Yesterday a poster commented that EPA risks its credibility by releasing data prematurely. A response today pointed out that these fears are often overblown.
  • The risks of disclosing confidential business information must be taken into account before releasing some data.
  • The Envirofacts database now lacks locational data, making mapping much harder. Air quality trend data from the Cumulative Exposure Project has not been released.

Barbara H. Brandon <bhb@info-ren.org>


Overview Agenda Panelists Demographics
How to Participate Rules of the Road FAQs Sponsors

Welcome | About this Event | Briefing Book | Join the Dialogue | Search the Site