GAO Criticizes EPA Library Reorganization

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sharply criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) handling of the reorganization of its library system in 2006 that included closing libraries and dispersing, disposing of, and digitizing library materials. The GAO found that EPA did not have a reorganization strategy in place when the process began, that it failed to engage in outreach with affected stakeholders and did not take adequate steps to ensure oversight of the process.

EPA’s primary rationale for the library network reorganization was to generate cost savings by creating a more coordinated library network and increasing the electronic delivery of services. However, the GAO found that the EPA could not financially justify the reorganization since it did not fully evaluate alternative models, and associated costs and benefits.

In 2006, EPA officials stated that they needed to act quickly to reorganize the library network in response the Bush administration proposed fiscal year 2007 funding reduction of $2 million for the program. However, Congress did not enact the proposed cuts, making EPA’s budget savings rationale irrelevant. In the current 2008 fiscal year budget, Congress provided $3 million for EPA to begin the process of restoring the library network.

The GAO recommended that the EPA continue a moratorium placed on the library reorganization that was put in place in January 2007 in response to pressure from Congress. GAO stated the moratorium should remain in effect until EPA addresses the GAO’s management recommendations included in the report.