So I received the latest newsletter via email from the library and in addition to the regular announcments of endless programming, therein contained an entry which made public notice of the fact that a Public Records Request Policy (PRRP) has been adopted by the Wilkinson Public Library Board of Trustees.
For the most part, it looked fairly straightforward – coming it at 9 paragraphs and 857 words by my text editor’s count. However, there did seem to be an omission in logical possibilities with respect to the last sentence of the following paragraph:
The custodian shall promptly review the request to determine the nature of the records sought, the time required to locate and make the records available, and whether there are questions concerning the release of any of the records or difficulty in providing the records within three working days. If the custodian believes that any of the requested records are not to be released under the Open Records Act, or determines that there are extenuating circumstances that will require more than three working days to produce the records, or otherwise believes that the request cannot be met within the specified time frames, the custodian shall promptly seek review by the Library’s attorney and shall also inform the Library Board of Trustees to ensure the request is being fulfilled as accurately as possible and in accordance with the Act. After consulting with the Library’s attorney, if the requested record can be released, the custodian shall contact the requester to provide information as to when and where the records can be inspected or copies provided.
What if, after consulting with the Library’s attorney, it is determined a requested record can’t be released? This is far from a loose end given we are dealing with a public taxing entity which provides services directly to the public.
While I believe the above point is important and ought to be addressed, the bigger issue I have is why the fuss about a PRRP, now?!? Perhaps there has been a recent uptick with respect to records requests recently – due to one or more issues of interest. Maybe it is a cost saving measure to insure library resources aren’t inadvertantly drained fulfilling such requests. Maybe it was simply a loose end which has been on the todo list for a long time.
Or maybe, just maybe, the Board is getting ready to slash programs and wants to be ready for the onslaught of disgruntled patrons (hope your sarcasm meter is turned on). I find it extremely interesting the Library Board spent it’s valueable time putting together such a policy when they have conceded there’s a significant budgetary issue which needs to be addressed in order for the library to move forward being economically solvent.
It seems to me the funds they’d save by placing the financial onus of PRR on the requestor probably pales in comparison to some real “red pen” slashing in the programming (and related staffing) arena. Moreover, I find it ironic, if not disheartening, the board is forcing potential tax payers (who fund the library) to obtain public information about the happenings, yet are quick to subsidize programming (and quasi day care) on the taxpayer’s dime. I see how the possible need to implement cost controls on PRRP as being legitimate, but I do find the related irony to be disheartening … especially since it comes across as “digging in” with respect to the divide which the Sunday closure has created within the community.