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April 9, 1993

 

Mr. William H. Merle
17 Winston Road
Centereach, N.Y. 11720

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to
issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is
based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence,
unless otherwise indicated.

Dear Mr. Merle:

I have received your letter of March 23 in which you requested
an advisory opinion concerning the Freedom of Information Law.

Your inquiry concerns fees assessed by the Middle Country
Library for copies of records. In short, following the inspection
of records sought under the Freedom of Information Law and a
request to photocopy the records, you wrote that you were not
permitted to copy them on a public copy machine; rather, copies
would be made on a different machine. A photocopy made on a public
machine costs ten cent for copies of the records in question;
however, the fee on the other machine would be twenty-five cents
per photocopy.

You have asked for my opinion on the matter. In this regard,
I offer the following comments.

During our discussion of the matter, there appeared to have
been no rationale for precluding you from bringing records to a
public photocopy machine and duplicating the records for ten cents
per copy. However, having discussed the situation with Ms.
Feinberg, the Director of the Library, it appears that there is a
valid basis for the Library's policy.

According to Ms. Feinberg, the public machines can be used by
patrons to copy library materials. She indicated that the records
that you requested are not library materials but rather are records
involving the administration of the Library that are kept at a
location separate and apart from Library materials. She added that
many of the records sought are original documents and that staff
must insure that custody of those documents is maintained. In that
circumstance, rather than permitting an individual to bring the
records to a copy machine in a different section and floor of the
Library, to ensure continual custody of the records, they are
copied by staff at the photocopy machine in offices used for
administrative purposes.

In short, I believe that a rational distinction may be made
between the treatment of library materials intended to be used,
borrowed or copied by patrons, and those records involving the
administrative functions of the library that are located separate
from library materials. Based upon that distinction, it is my view
that the Library may validly choose to prepare photocopies of its
administrative records and charge at the rate of up to 25¢ per
photocopy.

I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any
further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

RJF:pb

cc: Sandy Feinberg, Director