American Library Association President and Princeton Library Director Leslie Burger calls out the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the New York Times today for closing its libraries. The administration's rationale for the move has been to control the agency's budget, and indeed the proposed 2007 budget cuts $2 million earmarked for the libraries. Since the planned closings were announced in February, many, including EPA scientists, the primary users of the libraries, have hinted that the move is an effort to gut the power of the agency by supressing environmental research. See, for example this press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
To add fuel to their argument, critics point out that the EPA began to shutter the libraries even before Congress acted on next year's budget.
And EPA libraries aren't the only ones being closed. In today's LA Times article on government library closings Tim Reiterman describes researchers upset about US National Air and Space Administartion (NASA) and Department of Energy (DOE) library closings as well.
Government officials have claimed that the physcial libraries are less important than online access, but critics respond by reporting many reports and documents are simply being boxed up and stored away, or worse, destroyed. (Reminds me of the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark).
This example of the caprices of government funding for research availability lends credence to those who fear open access funding models for journals that depend on government agencies may not be sustainable through changes in political administrations.