EPA Librarians: More .shtml Than Shhh!

By Teri DeVoe

In the land of librarians, you, dear reader, are the center of the universe. We spend our days plotting how to better reach you through our Web channels, how to anticipate your information needs before you contact us, and how to quantify our value to you. You can make our day with a simple, “thank-you: that’s exactly what I needed!” or leave us grappling with Web design and access policies by telling us how hard it was to find a certain EPA document online.

Because our professional self worth is defined by our ability to meet your information needs, we have been challenged over the years to extend our reach beyond the physical library, to those places you regularly turn for information. Today that realm is increasingly online. EPA librarians have adapted by contributing to the Agency’s Information Architecture Workgroup and Searchmasters meetings. My coworkers lead the charge for services such as chat reference, webinar trainings and mobile applications. Behind the scenes these librarians catalog library materials and code EPA Web pages to make the Agency’s information more accessible. They know the secrets to combating information overload, and they hone these skills every day to make your world a little better.

No matter where the technological demands of the information universe take us as librarians, you will always remain at the heart of our work. And in today’s information landscape, this often presents a paradox. By working to improve your information-seeking experience online and make it as seamless as possible, the librarian of today risks becoming invisible. The days of the information gatekeeper are largely over, in which patrons had to interact with a librarian or other intermediary to obtain the information they needed. No wonder the image of the shushing librarian lives on despite the preponderance of my tech-savvy colleagues. They are simply more concrete in the cultural imagination.

For this reason, it is extremely gratifying to be recognized within the federal library community as the FLICC Library/Information Center of the Year. It brings EPA librarians into the spotlight for a moment, and attests to the amazing work that they do. Like all dedicated librarians, my EPA coworkers will continue to orbit around you, dear reader, but at this moment in time I am proud to say that our path shines a little brighter.

About the author: Teri DeVoe, EPA Library Network Coordinator, is a contractor librarian employed by ASRC Management Services. She works at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a “librarians’ librarian” to her colleagues throughout the country.