Sunshine laws involve the public's right to public meetings or to copies of public documents made by public entities such as public libraries.
Public libraries go out of their way to ensure open access to nearly anything (facilitating even child pornography despite the law, but I digress) so it should be a no-brainer that libraries will be the most compliant with sunshine laws.
Not so fast. Right during Sunshine Week, public libraries have come to the fore in the different ways they respond to sunshine laws and the different ways legal process addresses the issues. Here are publications that arose during or around Sunshine Week that illustrate public libraries may need remedial education on sunshine laws and the public's right to know:
- "Lisle Library Board Moves to 'Remedy' Earlier Vote," by Robert Sanchez, Daily Herald, 9 March 2017.
- "Library Spat Over: Complaint Tossed Against Rockingham Public Library," by Bob Audette, Brattleboro Reformer, 11 March 2017.
- "Prosecutor: Library Board Meeting Violated the Meetings Act," by John Paff, NJ Open Government Notes, 12 March 2017.
- "Union County Prosecutor's Office Told the Berkeley Heights Library Board of Trustees That It Violated the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA)," by Tom Maciejewski, Tom Maciejewski for Town Council of Berkeley Heights, 12 March 2017.
- "Orland Park Public Library Calls Police on Black Man Watching Young Girls," by Kevin DuJan, Illinois Leaks | "Edgar County Watchdogs," 14 March 2017.
The American Library Association's "United for Libraries, Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations" provides guidance to library boards on how to handle public meetings:
- "Effective Meetings for Library Boards of Trustees," by Sally Gardner Reed, Executive Director, United for Libraries, November 2012.
Let's hope someone at ALA will have read this and that it prompts an improvement in the information ALA provides to libraries nationwide. The public's right to know is just as important in public libraries as it is in other public institutions. Libraries, of all places, should know that.
Perhaps the ALA's poor guidance to libraries is the cause of massive sunshine law failures that caused a library in Orland Park, IL, to spend over a quarter million dollars and even raise taxes to defend against multiple open meeting and public record request violations that it lost again and again for years. All to cover up the crime of child pornography viewing on unfiltered Internet computers. It was ultimately exposed. Had the library complied with the law the first time, that huge public waste of time and resources and even the tax increase would never have happened. The library and ALA even stooped to homophobia to attempt to hide the child pornography and scare off the whistleblowers, one of whom was gay. ALA has not even incorporated this debacle into its guidance for libraries, except for how steps could be taken to block future whistleblowers.
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- "Shut Up! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment," by Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan, 2016.
So stay tuned!
Case I filed against #NJ #library @wmlnj violating open meetings law. @njstatelibrary @GovChristie #alamw16 #opengov pic.twitter.com/qh838H0QUJ— Dan Kleinman (@SafeLibraries) January 9, 2016
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