Librarians Celebrate Sunshine Week, Support Open Government Legislation

Contact: Andy Bridges
Communications Specialist
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2007

Librarians Celebrate Sunshine Week, Support Open Government Legislation

WASHINGTON — This week, the American Library Association (ALA) celebrates Sunshine Week 2007, a weeklong recognition of the importance of open government and freedom of information.

To kick off Sunshine Week, on Monday, March 12, ALA is co-hosting “Closed Doors; Open Democracies?” a national dialogue featuring a panel of experts who will address, among many topics, the impact of government suppression and manipulation of scientific information on public health and safety. The event is organized by and is being held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

March 16 will be the National Freedom of Information (FOI) Day Conference, also held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The event - “Access: Oversight & Priorities” - is sponsored by the First Amendment Center in cooperation with ALA. The National FOI Day Conference brings together access advocates, government officials, lawyers, librarians, journalists, educators and others to discuss the latest issues and developments in sunshine in the Government. Featured speakers include Archivist of the United States Dr. Allen Weinstein and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA).

During this annual event on or near March 16, the birthday of James Madison, ALA President Leslie Burger will present the James Madison Award and the Eileen Cooke State & Local Madison Award to recognize those who have championed, protected, and promoted public access to government information and the public's right to know.

“ALA has a long-standing commitment to open public access to information created by our government in order to ensure accountability and informed public participation,” said ALA President Leslie Burger. “These records belong to the people.”

Meanwhile, ALA applauds Congress for considering two bills on the House floor that represent an important step toward open government, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for introducing a FOIA bill.

H.R. 1309, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Amendments of 2007, introduced by Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO) and co-sponsored by Rep. Todd R. Platts (R-PA) and Rep. Waxman includes reforms to reduce backlogs and delays in responding to FOIA requests and remove recent restrictions, such as those imposed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001, that have undermined the FOIA.

H.R. 1255, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007, sponsored by Rep. Waxman and 14 co-sponsors would revoke one of President's Bush's executive orders and other restrictions on access to presidential records imposed in 2001. On March 1, 2007, Rep. Waxman stated the Presidential Records Act is “…one of the nation's most important open-government laws” and that because of changes imposed by the current Administration, it has been turned into the 'Presidential Secrecy Act.'”