Important Information Shelved as Federal Libraries Close

"Across the country, half a dozen federal libraries are closed or closing," including several run by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA libraries helped "toxicologists assess health effects of pesticides and chemicals," and "federal investigators track sources of fish kills and identify companies responsible." The EPA's compliance office warned that the closures "could weaken efforts to enforce environmental laws." Regarding the Chicago EPA library's closing, one activist who conducted research there while campaigning against a proposed sludge incinerator said, "If I had known ... I would have chained myself to the bookcase." Also closing are libraries run by the General Services Administration, with information on "real estate, telecommunications and government finance," and by the Energy Department, with "literature for government scientists and contractors." "Officials say the cutbacks have been driven by tight budgets, declining patronage and rising demand for online services." Critics "fear that some publications will never be digitized because of copyright restrictions or cost," and say the loss of knowledgeable reference librarians will greatly hamper research efforts.