Administrative Read Reference

Public Libraries and the Law

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Records relating to the conduct of the business of public libraries are subject to inspection under the Freedom of Information Act [5 ILCS 140/1 et seq.]. However, "library circulation and other records identifying library users with specific material" are specifically excepted [5 ILCS 140/7]. This exception is consistent with the Library Records Confidentiality Act [75 ILCS 70/].

The underlying philosophy of the Freedom of Information Act is that all records maintained by public bodies are subject to disclosure unless specifically exempted. Specific categories of records that are exempt are detailed in the Act.

The Act also sets out specific procedures to be followed:

  • Requests must be made in writing.
  • Copies of records must be furnished within a set time frame.
  • If records are more than 50 pages, fees can be charged.
  • If request is denied, notice of denial must be given.
  • Copies of all requests and denials must be maintained by a designated agency FOIA Officer.
  • Libraries must display organizational chart, procedure for requesting records, and schedule of fees.

Open Meetings Act (OMA)

The Illinois Open Meetings Act [5 ILCS 120/1.01 et seq.] was enacted to protect the citizens’ right to know the actions and reasoning of public body decisions, since the purpose of a public body is to assist the people. The statute fosters open meetings and is construed against closed meetings. The Act is important to local government because it contains the rules and requirements for all meetings and notifications and for the manner of conducting meetings.

The Act applies to all library boards and any subsidiary bodies including but not limited to committees and subcommittees that are supported in part by tax revenues.

The Open Meetings Act defines a meeting as "any gathering of a majority of a quorum" of the members of a public body held for the purpose of meeting to discuss public business, regardless of what communication format is used.

The Act does delineate how a body can discuss topics in "closed sessions" but specific exceptions must be cited for such discussions, and boards must follow specific protocols when conducting closed sessions.