Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Guest Columnist – Barbara Petersen

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Barbara Petersen 1FAFAs Winter Park discusses the library services of the future, many opportunities come to mind.

Informed Citizens Are Key to Civic Wellbeing

The Florida First Amendment Foundation (FAF) believes the library has an important opportunity to partner with local government to enhance access to public information and to more efficiently manage public records requests.

Library Supports Citizens’ Need for Public Information

We believe there is a natural synergy between the Winter Park library and the Winter Park municipal government. Libraries are known to be apolitical and non-bureaucratic. Highly skilled in information management, the library is uniquely suited to assume more responsibility to support the public information needs of the community under Florida’s open government laws, known in the vernacular as our Sunshine Laws.

Library is Ideal Repository of Public Documents

The 21st-century library can be a digital community center which helps foster an informed and engaged community. The library of the future can add tremendous value by increasing access, adding credibility and generating valuable public information that contributes to the civic understanding and institutional memory of a community like Winter Park.

Working with organizations like the First Amendment Foundation, the Winter Park library could serve as custodian of public documents and answer public records requests. The library could catalog and hold public records in a cloud-based repository accessible by the entire community.

Investigative reporters, community-based organizations, and business entities would be encouraged to deposit information into the repository that they’ve obtained through the public records requests.

Cloud-Based Repository Most Efficient

A citizen’s request for public records through a central library repository removes layers of bureaucracy, reduces the escalating costs of accessing public records and leads to a more informed and engaged citizenry.

The Florida First Amendment Foundation would willingly join this partnership. Through Winter Park’s leadership, this could become a national model. What a wonderful value-added component to a library’s 21st- century services.

Editor’s Note: Barbara Petersen is President of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, which works to preserve and protect open government laws (www.floridafaf.org). She is past Chair of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and served as Chair of the Commission on Open Government. Petersen is based in Tallahassee.

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