Title: Public Records Act Policy
Effective Date: 01/07/2019
I. Policy Statement:
The Sonoma County Library is dedicated to providing information to the public which illuminates its operations and also protects against disclosure of confidential information. Accordingly, this policy addresses requests for records and information made by the public about the Library’s business and operations pursuant to the California Public Records Act, and does not address requests made for materials in the Library’s collections nor those made by government agencies for official purposes.
A. Circulation records:
Any information which identifies the patrons borrowing particular books and other materials from the Sonoma County Library.
B. Patron use records:
This term is defined as follows:
Any written or electronic record, that is used to identify the patron, including, but not limited to, a patron's name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address, that a Library patron provides in order to become eligible to borrow or use books and other materials.
Any written record or electronic transaction that identifies a patron's borrowing information or use of Library information resources, including, but not limited to, database search records, borrowing records, class records, and any other personally identifiable uses of library resources information requests, or inquiries.
This term does not apply to statistical reports of patron use nor to records of fines collected by the Library.
PRA is the acronym for the California Public Records Act, Government Code § 6251, et seq.
D. Public record or record:
Any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, or retained by the Library regardless of physical form or characteristics.
Any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.
A. PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUESTS – GENERALLY
Members of the public may request public records from the Library related to its administration and operations through the PRA. The PRA requires the Library to disclose to members of the public, upon request, those of its records which exist at the time of the request; it does not require the Library to create records which did not previously exist. The public may request to simply inspect the records or obtain copies of them, either in hard copy or electronic copy.
It is the policy of the Library to provide public access to the Library’s non-confidential public records during normal office hours at Library Headquarters, and to provide exact copies of those records upon request within a reasonable period of time.
B. PUBLIC RECORDS ACT EXEMPTIONS
California law requires the Library to maintain certain types of information as confidential, and the PRA exempts various types of confidential records from its disclosure requirements. The Library may deny a PRA request based on the exemptions contained in the PRA (see e.g., California Government Code sections 6254, 6255 and 6267) as well as other applicable laws protecting the confidentiality of personal information (see e.g., California Right of Privacy, Cal. Const. Art. I, § 1).
It is the policy of the Library to release public records pursuant to a PRA request unless such records contain information that is exempt from disclosure. If requested public records contain both releasable and exempt information, then staff shall redact or remove all exempt information prior to releasing the remainder of the records.
Specific PRA Exemptions
- Circulation Records:
Library circulation records, but excluding records of fines imposed on the borrower, per Government Code § 6254(j).
- Patron Use Records:
All patron use records, unless the request is made by the person to whom the records pertain, or by a person authorized in writing by the person to whom the records pertain to inspect the records, per Government Code § 6267 and 6254(k).
- Reference or Exhibition Materials:
All Library materials made or acquired and presented solely for reference or exhibition purposes, per Government Code § 6254(j).
- Drafts and Memoranda:
Preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained by the Library in the ordinary course of business, if the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure, per Government Code § 6254(a).
- Pending Litigation:
Records pertaining to pending litigation to which the Library is a party, until it has been finally resolved, per Government Code § 6254(b) (contact General Counsel to determine if exemption applies in a particular instance).
- Personnel Records:
Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, per Government Code § 6254(c).
- Employee Personal Information:
The home addresses, home telephone numbers, personal cell phone numbers, birth dates, and personal email addresses (unless used to conduct official Library business) are excluded from the definition of “public records” under the PRA, and thus are not subject to disclosure under the PRA, per Government Code § 6254.3.
Test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer examinations for employment, per Government Code § 6254(g).
- Confidential and Privileged Records:
Records that are confidential and protected from disclosure pursuant to federal or state law (such as attorney-client communications or deliberative process privileged documents), per Government Code § 6254(k).
- Collective Bargaining:
Records related to activities governed by Government Code Chapter 10 (commencing with § 3500) of Division 4, that reveal a local agency's deliberative processes, impressions, evaluations, opinions, recommendations, meeting minutes, research, work products, theories, or strategy, or that provide instruction, advice, or training to employees who do not have full collective bargaining and representation rights under that chapter, per Government Code § 6254(p)(2).
- Native American Sacred Records:
Records of Native American graves, cemeteries, and sacred places and records of Native American places, features, and objects described in Sections 5097.9 and 5097.993 of the Public Resources Code, per Cal. Gov't Code § 6254(r).
- Terrorist Vulnerability Analyses:
A document prepared by or for the Library that assesses its vulnerability to terrorist attack or other criminal acts intended to disrupt its operations and that is for distribution or consideration in a closed session, per Government Code § 6254(aa).
- Computer Programs:
Computer programs (i.e., software programs, as compared to computerized data) are excluded from the definition of “public records” under the PRA, and thus are not subject to disclosure under the PRA, per Government Code § 6254.9(b).
- Official Information Privilege:
The Official Information Privilege of Evidence Code § 1040 precludes disclosure of information acquired and maintained in confidence if the necessity for preserving the confidentiality of the information outweighs the necessity for disclosure in the interest of justice, making such records exempt under Government Code § 6254(k).
- Public Interest in Confidentiality Outweighs Disclosure:
A record is exempt if the facts of the particular case demonstrate that the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record, per GC § 6255(a).
Conditions for Release of Exempt Records or Information
The following exemptions apply to PRA requests that may protect information held by the Library from public disclosure. For many of these exemptions, there are exceptions that will require disclosure to a requesting person.
Exemptions from disclosure under the PRA include, but are not limited to, the following:
Records or information which are exempt from disclosure under the PRA may nevertheless be released to the public if doing so is consistent with the law, serves the mission or goals of the Library, and is expressly authorized by the Library Director.
Once exempt information is released to a member of the public in response to a PRA request, it must be released to all members of the public unless the law provides otherwise (e.g., release of circulation information relating solely to the requesting person does not make such information releasable to the public generally).
C. RESPONDING TO PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUESTS
Responding to a PRA request requires both a written response and disclosure of existing non-exempt public records. Written responses to PRA requests should be made within 10 calendar days of their receipt (see Government Code § 6253(a)). Disclosing the requested public records should be made either simultaneously or within a reasonable time thereafter, taking into consideration the nature of the request and the length of time in preparing the materials for review or copying.
Disclosure of non-exempt public records may be made by the following methods: (1) allow the requesting person to review the records at Library Headquarters; (2) place the records on the Library’s website and provide the link to the requesting person; (3) send the records by email in an electronic format; or (4) provide a hard copy of the records, either in person or through the mail or other delivery service.
The Library’s preferred method of disclosing requested public records is by email if such records exist in electronic format or can be readily converted to electronic format.
D. ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL FROM DENIAL OF PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST
If the Library denies all or a portion of a PRA request, the requesting person may appeal such denial to the Library Director within 10 calendar days of the date identified on the written PRA response. Failure to timely appeal such a denial shall be construed as consent to the denial and a waiver of rights.
The Library Director or designee shall respond to any appeal made under this provision in a writing within 10 calendar days of receipt, containing the reasons for such denial, which decision shall be final.
E. FEES FOR DISCLOSING COPIES OF PUBLIC RECORDS
Fees for Hard Copies
The Library will charge fees for providing hard copies of public records in the fee amounts set by the Library Commission for duplication of Library materials, representing the direct costs of the duplication.
In addition, should the requesting person ask for delivery of copies of the records, the Library shall charge the requesting person the postage or delivery costs actually (or expected) to be incurred as a prerequisite to sending the records.
Fees for Electronic Copies
No fee shall be charged for providing an electronic copy of a public record via email. If electronic copies are requested to be provided on a disk or flash drive, then the requesting person shall pay for the cost of the storage device.
If a requesting person asks the Library to provide information in an electronic format which does not already exist, and converting the information into the electronic format requires programming or other computer services, then the requesting person shall pay the cost of such services (see Government Code § 6253.9.). The fee to be charged the requesting person shall be the cost of performing the computer services as incurred by the Library, either through use of its own staff or through an outside vendor.
A. RECEIVING AND FORWARDING REQUESTS FOR PUBLIC RECORDS TO PRA COORDINATOR
PRA requests may be made orally or in writing, though staff may ask that a PRA request be made in writing to ensure its correct interpretation and processing. The Library will enable the public to make PRA requests online via the Library’s website, which the public is encouraged to utilize.
Under the PRA, the requesting person’s motive for making the request is irrelevant. Accordingly, staff shall not ask the requesting person’s purpose or motive in making a particular PRA request.
1. PRA Coordinator
Upon receipt of a PRA request, staff are directed to forward the request as soon as is practicable to the PRA Coordinator for response. The Director shall designate the staff person performing the services of the PRA Coordinator.
The PRA Coordinator shall be responsible for addressing PRA requests, including receiving PRA requests, tracking those requests, coordinating the identification and location of records sought in the request, gathering such records, and providing a response to the requesting person as well as access to the public records.
2. Processing Public Records Act Requests
Upon receipt of a PRA request, the PRA Coordinator should take the following actions.
- Log and Track the Request:
The PRA Coordinator shall log and track all PRA requests received by the Library in a format designed ensure proper compliance with the PRA as well as accountability.
The PRA Coordinator shall conduct an initial review of each PRA request to determine whether it is sufficiently certain to enable a response. If a PRA request is uncertain or ambiguous, the PRA Coordinator should either (i) contact the requesting person to ascertain the nature and scope of the request, or (ii) identify the presumed nature and scope of the request in the written response (to allow the requesting person to understand how the request was interpreted and to follow up on it if desired).
- Locate Documents:
The PRA Coordinator acts as the point person in locating and gathering together the non-exempt documents sought in the PRA request.
- Prepare PRA Response:
The PRA Coordinator will provide a written response to the person submitting the PRA request within 10 calendar days of its receipt (see Government Code § 6253(a)).
The written response should state which categories of records will be disclosed and which categories of records (or portions thereof) are exempt from disclosure. The PRA Coordinator may contact the Library’s General Counsel to determine the scope of any exemptions under the PRA and whether they apply in a particular instance. If requested records are deemed exempt and all or a portion of the PRA request will be denied, then the PRA response shall identify the grounds for the denial as well as the names and titles/positions of the persons responsible for the denial.
If the requested records are not provided simultaneously with the written PRA response, then the response shall also identify the date or time period in which such records will be provided.
- Additional Time for Response:
If unusual circumstances render it impracticable to respond to a PRA request within the 10-calendar-day requirement, then the PRA Coordinator should send a letter to the requesting person indicating that up to an additional 14 days may be needed to respond to the PRA request (per Government Code § 6253(c)). Unusual circumstances include:
The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.
The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request.
The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.
The need to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data.
- Disclose Records:
Generally, records to be provided in response to a PRA request shall be given in the format in which the Library holds the information. The PRA also contains certain requirements regarding the production of records in electronic format, as follows.
- Electronic Format:
Generally, if a requesting person asks for the information to be produced in an electronic format, then the Library should comply with the request if practicable. However, if doing so requires programming or computer services, then the requesting person shall pay the cost of such services (see Section III.E.2, above). In no event shall proprietary software be disclosed in response to a PRA request.
- Records on Website:
Requested records may be provided on the Library’s website, and the requesting person may be directed to the location on the Internet were the record is posted. If the requesting person is unable to access the Internet or reproduce a copy from the website, then the Library shall provide a hard copy of the record pursuant to the terms of this policy.
V. Applicable Law:
- Library Services Act, California Education Code §§ 18700-18767
- Cal. Const. Art. I, § 1 (Right of Privacy)
- Cal. Evidence Code § 1040
- Cal. Government Code § 6267
- Public Records Act, Cal. Government Code § 6251, et seq.
- American Civil Liberties Union v. Deukmejian (1982) 32 Cal.3d 440 (resources to disclose records outweigh benefits in disclosure)
- California First Amendment Coalition v. The Superior Court of Sacramento (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 159 (overly burdensome, harassing purpose)
VI. Revision History:
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