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March 14, 2008


Report Blasts EPA Library Closures

GAO says agency acted hastily and without proper procedures

David J. Hanson

The Environmental Protection Agency's plan to reorganize its network of 26 libraries is plagued with serious managerial problems, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. GAO cites a number of problems with the plan, including that it lacks procedures for informing the staff and public of decisions on closings, an evaluation of alternatives and their costs or benefits, and a post-reorganizational strategy to ensure the continuity of necessary library services.

The report (GAO-08-304) was the topic of a March 13 hearing held by the House Science & Technology Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight during which EPA was heavily criticized for its actions.

"The most generous possible explanation is that EPA managers were stunningly incompetent," said subcommittee Chair Brad Miller (D-N.C.). "The EPA ignored its own careful plans and abruptly closed libraries, limited access to the public and EPA employees, and just threw away documents that may be irreplaceable."

EPA began its library reorganization in 2006 because of anticipated budget cuts that never happened. Several libraries were to be closed, access to others was to be reduced, and much of the information was to be disposed of or digitized. Widespread concerns of government watchdog groups and Congress about the impact of EPA's actions on the availability of information forced the agency to impose a moratorium on any further changes to the network.

GAO recommends that EPA continue the moratorium until the agency takes a number of corrective actions. These include justifying its decision to reorganize the library network, improving its outreach efforts, ensuring sufficient oversight of the project, and implementing procedures for the proper dispersal and disposal of library materials.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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