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Public Access to Library Records

The library strictly adheres to the state’s Public Records Act. Exemptions from disclosure established by federal or state law, including without limitation, Ohio Revised Code Section 149.432, must be applied, particularly where the laws are intended to protect the rights of third parties.

In accordance with the Ohio Revised Code and applicable judicial decisions, records are defined as any item that (i) contains information stored on a fixed medium (such as paper, electronic – including but not limited to email – and other formats); (ii) is created or received by, or sent under the jurisdiction of a public office and (iii) documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the office. All records of the library meeting this definition are public unless they, or parts of them, are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio law or federal law. Inquiries regarding pending litigation, matters involving a significant exposure to litigation, and certain personnel-related information are also exceptions.

As required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying. Record retention schedules shall be made readily available to the public. Records will be available for inspection and copying during regular business hours.

The Fiscal Officer, or the Library Director or Deputy Director if the Fiscal Officer is unavailable, is the designated public records manager to whom requests for public records should be directed.

Record Requests

Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the library to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the Fiscal Officer, or the Library Director or Deputy Director if the Fiscal Officer is unavailable, will contact the requester for clarification, and will assist the requester in revising the request by informing the requester of the manner in which the office keeps its records. When there are questions about whether the information requested can be released, the Library Director will consult with the County Prosecutor’s Office.

The requester does not have to make a request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or intended use of the record. This information will only be requested if the written request or disclosure of identity of the requester or the intended use of the record would benefit the requester by enhancing the ability of the library to identify, locate or deliver the requested public record. The requester will be informed that the written request or disclosure of identity of the requester or intended use of the records is not mandatory.

Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time. “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested; the proximity of the stored records; and the need for legal review of the records requested.

Each request will be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records.  Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If the request is in writing, the explanation must also be in writing.  If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released.

Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of photocopies. There is no charge for documents that are emailed.

Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies, in addition to any copying charges. The library may require that the requester pay fees and postage in advance.

Public Records Exceptions

Exemptions under this Policy include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • As exempted, by O.R.C. 149.432, library records or patron information, unless 1) an appropriate subpoena, search warrant or court order is received; 2) the request is from a law enforcement officer who is acting in the scope of the officer’s law enforcement duties and who is investigating a matter involving public safety in exigent circumstances, or 3) the individual who is the subject of the record or information consents.
  • As exempted, with exceptions, under O.R.C. 149.43 and federal or state law:
    • Attorney-client privileged information;
    • Confidential employee information including medical records, Social Security numbers, etc.;
    • Records that have been sealed pursuant to a statutorily authorized court order.

Approved by the Shaker Heights Public Library Board of Trustees 2/15/2011, 10/11/2011