WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency plans to reopen five closed libraries to the public by this fall, the agency said in a report Thursday.
Three of the EPA's 10 regional libraries and two libraries at the agency's Washington headquarters were closed because of limited public use and resources being available online, EPA officials had said. The closings prompted criticism from lawmakers.
The EPA said in a report to Congress that it expects the closed agency libraries in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City, Mo., as well as at its Washington headquarters to be reopened by Sept. 30 and possibly earlier.
Congress added $1 million to the EPA's budget so that the libraries could be reopened. It also required the agency to provide the report on its library plans.
The libraries house scientific documents on health and the environment and are used by both agency employees and the public.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he welcomed the EPA promise to again make all its libraries available to the public, but he cautioned that "important questions about how these libraries will be staffed remain unanswered."
"The good news is the EPA is listening to Congress by agreeing to reopen its libraries and abandon its ill-conceived library closure plan," Dingell said in a statement. But he said he still is concerned that some of the libraries might only be opened on appointment.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, when confronted by lawmakers critical of the library consolidation last year, said that some libraries were closed because they had very few visitors. He said the information they housed was being put on the Internet.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.