And now we start the big fight over EPA libraries again. I don’t know about you but I find this so upsetting. Not that someone could be so shortsighted as to think you could close a bunch of libraries with practically unique information and replace them with a (shoddy, sorry) database, but that the whole idea of closing a LIBRARY isn’t seen as a last-ditch thing you only do when you need to, I don’t know, burn the books for fuel to keep from freezing to death. In any case, my bad for not reporting more on this, I had OMG fatigue. This latest article Congress Directs EPA to Re-Open Its Libraries is cautiously good news, but very very angering to those who care about information services. Granted, it’s a partisan article, but if the facts are indeed correct the whole thing has been and continues to be a fiasco. I’d love to hear from other readers with direct knowledge of any of this.
Prior to the closures, the budget for the EPA library network was $2.5 million. By earmarking $3 million, Congress increased the total library budget, allowing the agency to absorb the expense of collecting dispersed collections and replacing jettisoned facilities. For example, EPA closed its largest regional library in Chicago and sold all of its fixtures, valued at more than $40,000, for less than $350. [emphasis mine]
The rationale for the library closures was never clearly spelled out by the agency, which maintained that it wanted to digitize all of its holdings. Its original claim of cost savings did not bear up under scrutiny and clashed with the enormous expense of digitizing hundreds of thousands of documents. In addition, the agency did not anticipate copyright restrictions, which barred many of its holdings from being digitized.