Sunday, November 18, 2012

EPA Region 10 Library

This week's post is provided by the University of Washington chapter of the Special Libraries Association. Ann Pool, SLA-UW Distance Representative, wrote the text, and co-Vice Chair Violet Fox provided pictures.
The second SLA library crawl of the quarter took us to downtown Seattle. Our first stop was the EPA Region 10 Library on the 10th floor of the Park Place Building, overlooking Freeway Park. We first checked in at the Public Environmental Resource Center (PERC) where a wide variety of non-technical environmental publications are available free to the public. Liz Doyle, the librarian, met us there and gave us a tour of the library.
EPA Region 10 Library
The library has been open since the EPA was established in the early 1970s. Liz works with two assistants: Adam specializes in interlibrary loans, and Kara deals with serials and reference. The main patron base consists of about 600 EPA staff members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, including those in remote locations. It’s also open to the public. Liz tries to encourage people to come in to the library. Although electronic access has become the most frequent mode of library use, some people do like to come to the library for a quiet work environment.

The library’s technical systems may not be state of the art, but they serve their purposes well. Items are bar coded and checked out with cards issued to each patron. The library uses Inmagic’s DB/TextWorks catalog as well as an agency-wide union catalog. They also have a regional intranet with a library portal listing free and fee-based information. Patrons appreciate the simple interface.
EPA Region 10 Library
They’ll be moving down to the first floor soon, which will locate them next to the PERC and make them more visible to the public. As often happens with moves, many print documents will be weeded. Liz looks at demand patterns and the possibility of printing on demand when making weeding decisions.

While ready reference questions have declined substantially as people can look up simple questions on line, the library does get a good number of reference requests through their Ask a Librarian online form. Liz told us about a recent question where a staffer needed a new handbook on output-based emissions and was unable to find it. She located it quickly for the patron. Liz also enjoys training people on research locally and through webinars. She often answers small questions but is better able to convey the big picture of the research process through training sessions.

Liz’s prior work experience helped her get hired for her current position. She had worked at law firms after graduating from library school at the University of Michigan, so when the EPA was looking for someone with experience in legal research and cataloging she had the right combination of skills. It pays to learn new things!

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