New federal contract extends long-term partnership between SILS and EPA

March 10, 2021

The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) has been awarded a federal contract to continue operating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Research Triangle Park (RTP) Library through the year 2025.

The new contract extends a relationship between the School and the EPA that has lasted more than 45 years. Through this unique partnership, SILS employs a full-time staff of professionals to operate the EPA-RTP Library, as well as manage agency-wide subscriptions to journals and other information resources. The partnership also provides SILS master’s students with internship opportunities that include stipends and full-tuition support.

“SILS and the EPA-RTP Library have long been a model of how a public university and a government research organization can work together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes and optimal results for the people they serve,” said SILS Dean Gary Marchionini. “SILS operates the library at maximum efficiency, maintaining a staff of experienced librarians who provide exceptional service to the researchers and staff at the EPA. The internship program helps SILS attract outstanding students, and the hands-on, professional experience interns acquire has been the bedrock of successful careers.”

EPA-RTP Library building
An exterior view of the building where the EPA-RTP Library is housed.

More than 425 graduate students have interned at the EPA-RTP Library since the program began in 1975, and many have become leaders in the library and information science field and beyond.

The EPA-RTP Library hosts an extensive collection of materials with a particular focus on atmospheric and air pollution. Library staff manage a collection of approximately 2,000 journals, 7,000 books, 18,000 print documents, and 150,000 microfiche documents.  In addition, the EPA-RTP Library is one of three EPA repository libraries responsible for housing physical copies of EPA produced reports related to air quality and health.

The Library supports approximately 3,000 researchers and contractors at the RTP site and other EPA locations. Its outstanding service earned national recognition in 2010 and 2017 when it received the Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK) Small Library/Information Center of the Year Award. One of 25 libraries in the EPA National Library Network, the EPA-RTP Library is the only location to be staffed by university personnel.

The new contract between SILS and the EPA will enable the Library to devote additional resources to research impact services, an area that has been growing in demand over the last several years, said EPA-RTP Library Director Anthony Holderied.

“This contract gives us the opportunity to expand the scope and depth of our research impact services, so we can not only help individuals and teams track how their work is being utilized and applied, but also demonstrate the impact that the science produced by the EPA as a whole is having on the global research community,” Holderied said.

Accomplishing this goal will require enhanced technical services, including more thorough data visualization and analysis and the development of specialized applications, databases, and search processes to meet the specific research needs of the EPA, Holderied said.

Like many organizations, the EPA-RTP Library has been operating remotely for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Holderied said the Library’s five full-time staff members and its interns have worked tirelessly to ensure they have been meeting their patrons’ needs during this unusual time, and a recent review showed their efforts have been successful.  Highly complex research support requests were up about 20 percent last year and the Library served an additional 225 patrons in 2020 compared to the previous year.