The Environmental Protection Agency Library

As Vice President of my university’s American Library Association student chapter, my fellow executive board members and I are charged with putting together 3-4 events or activities per semester for the chapter.  One of the first activities we arranged was a tour of the Environmental Protection Agency Library in RTP.  In my selection and use of information sources course, we had guest speaker Susan Forbes, an alum of North Carolina Central University, talk to us about information sources such as Dialog and she extended an invitation for a group to visit the EPA Library where she currently works and we gladly took her up on it.

The EPA library has a network of around 20 libraries around the country and the one in RTP, if I remember correctly, was created from the Clean Air Act so it focuses mainly on research on air pollution.  It was a gorgeous campus with solar panels lining the road leading up to it, a hybrid shuttle service, and lots of windows, natural light, and outdoors-friendly atmosphere.  There’s also a generous amount of security, so I’m glad I arrived a bit early.

We had a small group of 8 from NCCU and 1 other who was from another federal library and wanted to meet with some of us graduate students.  We split up into 3 groups of 3 each and Susan, Tamika Barnes (EPA Library Director) and Thea Allen (EPA Interlibrary Loan/Reference Librarian) showed us the ropes.

First, my group went with Thea and we got an overview of the interlibrary loans their facility handles and its process.  We also got to walk through their shelves of books, journals (EPA and other governmental organizations), and microfiche (YES, they still use those pretty heavily!).  We also got to drain all the information we could from her about where she started and how she ended up at EPA.

Next, Susan showed us the resources they use at EPA, the kinds of reference questions they get and how they go about fulfilling those information needs.  It was at this point, near the end of our time with Susan, that there was an emergency evacuation of the high bay.  Luckily, we were nowhere near the high bay.  The risks of being near scientific research I suppose!

And lastly, we sat down and spoke with Tamika, who gave us some information about the administrative end of things and the year long internship program they have. It consists of rotations in every aspect of the library such as, interlibrary loan, reference and serials (I think I got them all) and it allows you a lot of autonomy and allows you to perfect your leadership skills because you do the work and they are just there to help if you need it.

To top it all off, our lovely hostesses had snacks for us and we all sat down and talked for a bit about various questions we had, mainly about finding jobs, and I got the current intern Jessica to tell us a bit about how she ended up interning there and the types of responsibilities she has.

Pro: It was an amazing experience and a great pleasure to meet and talk with Susan, Tamika, Thea and Jessica.

Con: Now I’m thinking that maybe I should add special libraries to my scope of interests.  Jessica mentioned that she got to create a display for Hispanic Heritage Month.  Who knew!  I just thought it was all science and journal articles.

Even though it’s not on the general path I plan to take, I will definitely be applying for their internship program.  I think it will give me experience in the practical areas of librarianship that, at the moment, I’m not able to get elsewhere.


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