Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog

11.07.2006

Library Closings Cause for Concern

By Shawn Healy
Last month, over lunch at a local watering hole, I was bothered by the revelation that all Environmental Protection Agency libraries would close in the near future, a product of budget cuts and an effort to digitize all agency documents. The news startled me because I read nothing about this development in the mainstream papers. If not for the tireless advocacy of Judith Krug, the 40-year veteran of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, I would probably still be oblivious to this development.

Moreover, the scant mention of these closings I have since encountered fail to get to the root of the problem. How can we be certain that the EPA will make all of its documents available over the Internet in a timely manner? What if I have difficulty navigating the site and locating the documents I seek? Will telephone operators have the competence of trained librarians? The answers, I speculate, are as follows: "we can't," "tough luck," and "absolutely not."

What if this trend trickles into other domains, jeopardizing public libraries more generally? Academic freedom is the loser in the case of the EPA and other attempts to close these worthy public institutions with talented, helpful librarians. Thankfully, a group of Senators has requested a delay in library closings allowing for public commentary. Let's hope their request is granted, and respond by raising our voices about an issue of universal importance.

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SHAWN HEALY

Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project


Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.



Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.


First Amendment journalism initiative


The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at