No, at least not in New Jersey, according to the NJ Government Records Council. Using the state's public records act, Barbara Schwarz asked Rutgers University for records on Barbara Schwarz/Barbara Schwartz, Mark C. Rathburn aka Mark De Rothschild, Scientology or Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, and former President Dwight David Eisenhower.
When she was turned down, she filed a complaint with the Government Records Council (GRC). On March 10, 2005, the GRC ruled that the library's "inventory" does not fall within the scope of a government record pursuant to the state open records act.
The GRC made a clear distinction between a library's public records and its inventory. A library does not use its inventory in the course of doing business. Instead, it provides open access to it, the very "heart" of library service.
The complainant has 45 days from the date of the decision to appeal.
To read the decision ...
Complaint No. 2004-183
At its March 10, 2005 public meeting, the Government Records Council (“Council”) considered the March 2, 2005 Findings and Recommendations of the Executive Director and all related documentation submitted by the parties. The Council voted unanimously to adopt the entirety of said findings and recommendations. The Council, therefore, dismisses the case on the basis of:
- The library inventory is not considered part of the body of administrative records and therefore, is not within the scope of the Open Public Records Act.
- The Custodian certified that no government records responsive to the request were found pursuant to the Open Public Records Act.
This is the final administrative determination in this matter. Any further review should be pursued in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey within forty-five (45) days. Information about the appeals process can be obtained from the Appellate Division Clerk’s Office, Hughes Justice Complex, 25 W. Market St., PO Box 006, Trenton, NJ 08625-0006.
Final Decision Rendered by the
Government Records Council
On The 10th Day of March, 2005
Vincent P. Maltese, Chairman
Government Records Council
I attest the foregoing is a true and accurate record of the Government Records Council.
Government Records Council
Findings and Recommendations of the Executive Director
Barbara Schwarz GRC Complaint No. 2004-183
Custodian of Records
- Any records on Barbara Schwarz/Barbara Schwartz
- Any records on Mark C. Rathburn aka Mark De Rothschild
- Any records on Scientology or Church of Scientology
- Any records on L. Ron Hubbard
- Any records on former President Dwight David Eisenhower
Request Made: October 2004
Response Made: October 6, 2004 and October 25, 2004
Custodian: Kate Cahill
GRC Complaint filed: 11/01/2004
November 1, 2004
Complainant’s Denial of Access Complaint disputing the fact that she was denied access to the records requested.
December 22, 2004
In the Statement of Information (SOI) the Custodian states that they have no records responsive to the request and the request was denied based on the fact that the mailing address of the requestor indicates that she is not a citizen of the State of New Jersey.
January 10, 2005
Complainant’s e-mail to the GRC disputing the Custodian’s SOI, in which she states that she should not be denied on the basis that she is not a New Jersey Citizen as well as stating that it is highly unlikely that Rutgers University does not have records responsive to her request.
January 14, 2005
Custodian’s e-mail to the Complainant stating that the response to her request was referring to a copy of their internal records. The Custodian also states that their libraries are open to the public and an OPRA request is not required to obtain this information.
WHETHER library inventory falls within the scope of a government record pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, et seq.
Library materials, or stated another way, a library’s inventory, does not fall within the scope a government record as established by the Open Public Records Act [OPRA]. The inventory, or the library’s goods and services is defined in Title 18 to include “…textbooks, copyrighted materials… including but not limited to books, periodicals, newspapers, documents, pamphlets, photographs, reproductions, microfilms, pictorial or graphic works… [and/or] other printed or published matter….” N.J.S.A. 18A:18A-2
Alternatively, the OPRA defines a government record as “…any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data processed or image processed document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound-recording or in a similar device, or any copy thereof, that has been made, maintained or kept on file in the course of his or its official business by any officer, …” N.J.S.A.47:1A-1.1 [emphasis added]
The character and nature of books and other printed materials are common characteristics shared by government records and library materials; nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between these groups. A government record may be printed material, however, as an essential component of that inherent characterization, the material must be utilized or relied upon by the government agency in the course of carrying out the duties and services they provide to the public. Libraries do not use their inventories in the course of doing business. A library does provide open access to library materials, a concept that lies at the very heart of the service a library provides.
Furthermore, while a library grants access to the material it houses (or when appropriate, borrowing rights), the library, or its custodian is not responsible for performing research tasks and gathering materials within the library’s inventory.
The legislature further clarified this issue when it defined a “library record” as “…any document or record, however maintained, the primary purpose of which is to provide for control of the circulation or other public use of library materials.” N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.1. This definition stands on its own to differentiate “library records” from “library materials.” The mere notion that the legislature considered and articulated this distinction when drafting Title 18 is illustrative of the position that materials and records were intended to be distinct. Additionally, N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.2 establishes that “[l]ibrary records which contain the names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of libraries are confidential and shall not be disclosed except in [certain enumerated] circumstances.”
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that a custodian for a public library has a responsibility to search through administrative records when faced with an OPRA request. The libraries inventory shall not be considered part of the body of administrative records. Should a requestor require materials from the library’s inventory, that requestor is in the best position to utilize the resources of that library and should they find success, use the commonly available copy equipment at the library facility to copy what they wish to retain.
Whether Rutgers University has records responsive to the request pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, et seq.
Based on the Custodian stating that there were no records found responsive to the request, the Complaint should be dismissed.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The Executive Director respectfully recommends that the Council dismiss this case on the basis that:
- Library inventory should not be considered part of the body of administrative records.
- The Custodian stating that there were no records found responsive to the request.
Paul F. Dice
Government Records Council
March 2, 2005
 "Library" means a library maintained by any State or local governmental agency, school, college, or industrial, commercial or other special group, association or agency, whether public or private. N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.1.