Virginia Attorney General


NOTE: In 2004, section 2.2-3705 of the Code of Virginia was recodified as 2.2-3705.7.


02-002

ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNMENT: VIRGINIA FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.

Records’ custodian has discretion to determine whether to release to minor’s parent library records for purpose of identifying books checked out by minor that are overdue.

The Honorable Robert G. Marshall
Member, House of Delegates
February 25, 2002

You request an interpretation of § 2.2-3705(A)(10) of the Code of Virginia, a portion of The Virginia Freedom of Information Act,(1) regarding disclosure of library records.(2)

Though you request that no fact be determinative of this opinion, you relate, as an example, that a minor has a library card separate from his parent, (3) and that liability for fines incurred by the minor lies with the parent. You ask whether the library may allow the parent access to library records for the purpose of identifying and locating books checked out by the minor that are overdue.

Section 2.2-3700(B) of The Virginia Freedom of Information Act "ensures the people of the Commonwealth ready access to records in the custody of public officials." Section 2.2-3705(A) excludes certain records from the mandatory disclosure requirements of the Act, but also provides that the records "may be disclosed by the custodian in his discretion, except where such disclosure is prohibited by law." Section 2.2-3705(A)(10) specifically excludes "[l]ibrary records that can be used to identify both (i) any library patron who has borrowed material from a library and (ii) the material such patron borrowed."

Section 2.2-3700(B) also provides that "[t]he provisions of [The Virginia Freedom of Information Act] shall be liberally construed." Further, § 2.2-3700(B) requires that "[a]ny exemption from public access to records … shall be narrowly construed and no record shall be withheld … to the public unless specifically made exempt pursuant to the [Act] or other specific provision of law."

You relate that the parent desires access to library records to determine the books checked out by the minor that are overdue. The library records at issue are excluded from the mandatory disclosure requirements of the Act by the precise language of § 2.2-3705(A)(10). (4) Records excluded from the mandatory disclosure provisions of the Act, however, may be disclosed unless "such disclosure is prohibited by law."(5) I am aware of no other law which prohibits the release of library records. Therefore, pursuant to § 2.2-3705(A), it is within the discretion of the records’ custodian whether to release the library records at issue to the minor’s parent.

1 Va. Code Ann. tit. 2.2, ch. 37, §§ 2.2-3700 to 2.2-3714 (LexisNexis Repl. Vol. 2001).

2 You inquire regarding § 2.1-342.01, which has been recodified at § 2.2-3705. See 2001 Va. Acts ch. 844, at 1194, 1396-1410 (revising and recodifying Virginia Freedom of Information Act).

3 Where the singular term "parent" is used in this opinion, it shall also include the plural of that term.

4 See, e.g., 1989 Op. Va. Att’y Gen. 17, 19 (concluding that Virginia Freedom of Information Act does not require college librarian to disclose books borrowed from library).

5 Section 2.2-3705(A).



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