SITE VISIT: Environmental Cyber-Library

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Science  11 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5396, pp. 1951
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5396.1951d

Navigating the Web's glut of environmental resources can be an exercise in frustration. One group that's trying to pull it all together is the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE), a nonprofit that is lobbying Congress to create a new environment institute. Not content to wait, the CNIE has already laid a cornerstone for the institute in cyberspace: an online “National Library for the Environment.”

One major offering is The Population and Environment Database, which includes introductions to topics like food security and greenhouse gases, as well as links to thousands of reports, maps, slide shows, and other products. The CNIE posts nearly 400 U.S. Library of Congress reports otherwise available only on paper. Library visitors can also reach environmental laws and treaties, chemicals-in-your-backyard databases, online environmental news, and over 300 electronic environmental journals. There's a Directory of Higher Education Environmental Programs written by Rice University and the CNIE. Also stored on the library's virtual shelves is a Yellow Pages with contact info for Congress members, think tanks, environmental agencies around the world, and more.

CNIE executive director Peter Saundry says this is only a “prototype” for a national library, done “on a shoestring budget.” But, he says, it shows “how valuable a major commitment of online information on the environment can be.”

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