New Freedom of Information Act in Effect

On January 1, several changes in FOIA took effect.  This past Sunday, the Peoria Journal Star’s front page article,  “New Illinois FOIA charged with stressing “transparency” talked about some of the FOIA changes and cited PJS’s  first use of a FOIA request.  Reading this article will give you an idea of the far reaching changes and the possible ramifications for your organization.

If your library has not already done so, you need to update your FOIA policy and post it on your website.  To see a sample policy that will help you in this process, consult the new Administrative Ready Reference located in WebJunction.  Click on “Policy Model”, then on “Legal Requirements” and then “Illinois Freedom of Information Act (on or after 1/1/2010”.  There is a sample policy in Word that can be easily adapted to your needs.

Then to fully understand the changes, access the Illinois Attorney General’s website, specifically on the Ensuring Open and Honest Government page, your library board needs to read and discuss the new act as well as the sections on “Educational Materials”, “Advisory Opinions”, “Mediate Disputes”, “Requests for Review”, “Binding Opinions”, and “Electronic Training”.  The board needs to appoint their FOIA officer, generally the director, who must take the online electronic training of FOIA before June 30.  That electronic training opens this Friday, January 15.

Some of the other changes include a decreased response time required, reduces the number and types of public record exemptions open to FOIA requests, and establishes civil penalties on the public body for failure to comply with the FOIA rules.  It is extremely important that all public libraries familiarize themselves with the law and implement the necessary policies, procedures, and training as soon as possible.


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