Information Sharing – FOIL, Public Access to Records, and Records Retention

by Tim Gavin

A category search for “Lending Rules and Procedures” through our policy database, or for “Collection Development and Weeding,” will result in several hundred policies to help users learn how libraries handle these important issues. However, if you do a category search for “Records Retention” or “Public Access to Library Information and Records” the number of results are much less impressive.

Because libraries are centers for sharing information with the public, a library’s collection of information extends beyond the stacks. There are collections of patron records, receipts, emails, invoices, and personnel files (the list goes on and on) that trustees and staff must know how to handle.

While it is important for a trustee or staff member to be able to quote a policy to defend a library’s position to a patron about why he/she is being denied a DVD or book , or why certain materials were weeded and not others, it is equally important to have clear “information sharing policies” supported by a firm records retention schedule so that this other collection of information is weeded, preserved, or shared consistently and according to an established guide that will support a library’s position if a decision or action is ever challenged.

I know that there are libraries in the State that have FOIL, Records Retention, and Public Access policies in place that have not, yet, sent them in to share with the rest of the NYS trustee community — but this is not the only reason for the small number of these policies in our database. Many trustees simply do not know where to begin when it comes to drafting these policies. This is why it is so important that your library shares all policies with LTA so they can be incorporated into the database to share with the rest of the trustee community.

If your library has yet to submit policies for entry into the database, please do so today. Trustees are yearning for more policy information.

How to send policies:
Fax: 518-288-3571
Mail: please contact me by email or call me at: 518-288-3571. (If your policies are only in hardcopy, we will convert them to digital files and send them back to you at no charge.)

Are you a policy chair or trustee who has used the LTA policy database to help your library? Are there any topics about which you are not finding enough information? Do you have any stories regarding policy development from which others trustees could learn? Please share your success stories and lessons learned with me. I would like to include them in future updates to share with your peers.