AALL, MLA and SLA Request Hearings on EPA Library Network

April 4, 2011

Today, AALL, the Medical Library Association and the Special Libraries Association sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, to urge her to hold additional oversight hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) library network.

AALL has been concerned about EPA’s libraries since we learned in 2006 of the agency’s plans to reorganize its network and close five of its libraries. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Boxer, who has held several oversight hearings on EPA’s plans, Congress provided EPA with a $1 million order to reopen the libraries in 2008.

A troubling report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in November 2010 found that EPA has still not finished its strategic plan, despite having spent more than three years developing it. In addition, EPA has not yet  determined what documents it will digitize or set target dates for completing the digitization project. Our letter urges Chairwoman Boxer to hold additional oversight hearings to address these findings.


Thurgood Marshall Law Library Adds to Commission on Civil Rights Collection

September 30, 2010

The Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland School of Law recently added twenty new documents to their digital collection of historical publications from the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR). The Library’s collection is a partnership of the Government Printing Office, the USCCR and the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.

Some of the latest additions include:

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


National Archives Releases Reagan and Bush Presidential Records

April 15, 2009

Last week, Acting Archivist of the United States Adrienne Thomas announced that starting this week, 245,763 pages of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Presidential records will be opened for research at their respective libraries.

These Presidential records, which are being released in accordance with the Presidential Records Act and the Obama’s Executive Order on Presidential Records (E.O. 13489), had been held up for review during the Bush Administration under E.O. 13233. Obama’s Executive Order overturned the Bush-era E.O., which gave current and former presidents and vice presidents the expanded authority to withhold presidential records indefinitely. E.O. 13489 restores standards for the timely release of presidential records.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


EPA Libraries Reopen After More Than Two Years

October 3, 2008

On Tuesday, September 30, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reopened its regional libraries in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City. The EPA Headquarters Repository and Chemical Library also opened as a combined library in Washington, DC. The reopenings followed a $1 million order (see page 35) from Congress in the FY 2008 appropriations omnibus bill (P.L. 110-161) to EPA to restore its library services across the country.

On Wednesday, September 24, EPA posted a Notice of Access to EPA Library Services [PDF] in the Federal Register. The Federal Register notice reflects the Memorandum of Agreement between EPA and the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, which we wrote about here in August. As we noted then, the Memorandum addressed some of the concerns that AALL, the Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) highlighted in a letter in July to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN-6), Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI-15), and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA-30), Chairmen of the committees with jurisdiction over EPA. The letter outlined three major concerns: first, that EPA should further define the scope of the libraries’ required core collections; second, that EPA should lay out the requirements for hiring knowledgeable professional staff; and third, that EPA must work with the relevant unions and other stakeholders to ensure adequate space for the libraries.

AALL representatives first met with EPA officials about the library closures in spring 2006. We are grateful to Congress for holding hearings on this issue (including this one held by the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight in March, which we wrote about here) and for providing EPA with a $1 million to reopen its libraries. We are very pleased that the libraries are now open to the public once again.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Partners Join Together to Preserve Government Web Sites

August 19, 2008

Last week, the Library of Congress announced a collaborative project with the California Digital Library, the University of North Texas Libraries, the Internet Archive, and the U.S. Government Printing Office to provide permanent public access to and preserve public government web sites at the end of President Bush’s term in January 2009. According to the announcement, “This harvest is intended to document federal agencies’ online archive during the transition of government and to enhance the existing collections of the five partner institutions.” This exciting project will provide the American public with an important record of what the government looked like at this time.

While AALL is extremely pleased with this new collaboration and applauds these partner institutions, we continue to be disappointed that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will not conduct its own web harvests of federal agency web sites at the end of this presidential administration. As we wrote in the April Edition of the Washington E-Bulletin, NARA released a memorandum to agencies in March indicating that it would not harvest these web sites as it had done in the past, pointing to agencies’ responsibility to preserve their electronic records under the Federal Records Act. However, as we noted at the time, the preservation of records is not the same as a capture of agency web sites, since the latter provides the public with an image and understanding of the government during a specific period of time.

In April, AALL signed on to a letter to Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, urging him to rescind the decision and continue NARA’s web harvesting program. Unfortunately, NARA’s decision stands, making the new collaboration between the Library of Congress, the California Digital Library, the University of North Texas Libraries, the Internet Archive, and the U.S. Government Printing Office essential to providing permanent public access to and preserving the federal government’s digital information. We thank all of the partners for their strong commitment to digital preservation.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


EPA Settles Dispute with Union over Closed Libraries

August 18, 2008

On Monday, August 11, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) announced an agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 to re-open the five closed EPA libraries with adequate librarian services and research facilities. The Memorandum of Agreement states that EPA will:

  • Provide adequate space and resources to accommodate in-person interactions between library staff and patron(s)
  • Establish and maintain an on-site collection of materials developed and tailored to meet local/regional needs
  • Retain one or more experienced, professional librarians with a Masters in Library Science (MLS) degree to provide on-site support to EPA staff and the public via phone, email, or in person, and library support staff as needed to support the mission of the Library

The agreement addresses some of the concerns that AALL, the Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) highlighted in a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN-6), Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI-15), and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA-30), Chairmen of the committees with jurisdiction over EPA. In that letter, we thanked the Chairmen for their opposition to the EPA library closures and expressed our continued concern over EPA’s published plan to reopen the agency’s closed libraries.

The letter outlines three major concerns stemming from EPA’s National Library Network Report to Congress: first, that EPA should further define the scope of the libraries’ required core collections; second, that EPA should lay out the requirements for hiring knowledgeable professional staff; and third, that EPA must work with the relevant unions and other stakeholders to ensure adequate space for the libraries. We asked the four committee chairmen to urge EPA to clarify its plans on these three items. Questions about the scope of the libraries’ required core collections and professional staff qualifications still remain, and the Washington Affairs Office will continue to closely follow these issues and keep you updated with the latest news.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Summary of This Week’s Hearings

March 14, 2008

This week, the House held many hearings on issues of interest to AALL. Mary Alice Baish and I attended hearings on network neutrality, orphan works, and EPA library closures. Here are our summaries of those hearings.

Hearing on Network Neutrality

On Tuesday, March 11, the House Judiciary Committee Antitrust Task Force held its hearing on network neutrality. The hearing brought together an interesting set of bedfellows, including Michele Combs, Vice President of Communications Christian Coalition of America and Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, who argued that net neutrality is a free speech issue. Damian Kulash, Lead Vocalist and Guitarist of the band OK Go and Susan P. Crawford, Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School also testified in support of net neutrality. Christopher S. Yoo, Professor of Law and Communication and Director of the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition at University of Pennsylvania Law School, argued against mandating network neutrality, and Rick Carnes, President of the Songwriters Guild of America testified that internet regulation would harm the fight against internet piracy. Testimony is available on the Committee website.

While members of OK Go were up on the Hill, they sat down to talk with Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA-7), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, about why net neutrality is important to them and why they support Chairman Markey’s recently introduced net neutrality bill (H.R. 5353). OK Go has relied heavily on the internet, especially YouTube, to popularize their music videos, and one of their videos, “Here it Goes Again,” won a Grammy in 2007. “This video certainly would not have gotten out if it weren’t for Net Neutrality,” Kulash said.

Hearing on Orphan Works

On Thursday, March 13, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held an important hearing on “Promoting the Use of Orphan Works: Balancing the Interests of Copyright Owners and Users.” The term orphan works refers to the large volume of works that are likely still protected by copyright although their owners cannot be located after a reasonable effort. This is not a new issue for us. Following a 2005 investigation on orphan works by the U.S. Copyright Office, they published a report and recommendations that led to the introduction of the Orphan Works Act of 2006 (H.R. 5439). AALL strongly supported H.R. 5439 and many of you helped get cosponsors by responding to our action alert. Unfortunately, that bill did not move because of concerns raised by textile manufacturers and photographers.

Both groups were represented by witnesses at yesterday’s hearing who raised their continued concerns with the 2006 bill. Speaking on our side in support of the need for orphan works legislation were Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters; Karen Coe, Associate Legal Counsel for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; and Allan Adler, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs for the Association of American Publishers. Testimony of all witnesses is available on the Committee website. It was clear from the hearing that the Subcommittee wants to move forward on a new bill while at the same time responding to concerns from the photographers and textile manufacturers. Stay tuned for next steps and, hopefully, the introduction of a new orphan works bill shortly.

Hearing on EPA’s Library Closures

Also on Thursday, the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing titled, “EPA Library Closures: Better Access for a Broader Audience?.” The hearing was a lively one, and Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to talk to stakeholders and the public before closing the libraries and its continued failure to engage stakeholders on its plan to reopen the libraries, as authorized by the FY 2008 appropriations omnibus bill. EPA began closing regional libraries and its Headquarters library in 2006.

Witnesses included John Stephenson (GAO), Charles Orzehoskie (American Federation of Government Employees), Francesca Grifo (Union of Concerned Scientists), Jim Rettig (President–Elect of the American Library Association), and Molly O’Neill (Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) and Chief Information Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency). Witness statements are available on the Committee website. AALL signed on to ALA’s statement.

The FY 2008 appropriations omnibus bill gave a $1 million order to the EPA to restore its library services across the country. The order included a direction to EPA to produce “a report on actions it will take to restore publicly available libraries to provide environmental information and data” to the Appropriations Committee by March 26. The report will include an explanation of EPA’s plan and progress for reopening the libraries.

AALL has been involved in this issue since February 2006, and we are pleased that at long last, the GAO report, “EPA Needs to Ensure That Best Practices and Procedures Are Followed When Making Further Changes to Its Library Network” has been released. We applaud its findings.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

 


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