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Brookhart v. Reaman.

2023 COA 93. No. 22CA1119. Colorado Open Records Act—Allowance or Denial of Inspection—Library Records Disclosing the Identity of a User—Privacy of User Records.

October 5, 2023

Four individuals (the requesters) asked the Gunnison County Library District (the library district) to remove Gender Queer: A Memoir from the Gunnison County Public Library’s shelves or, alternatively, to limit access to the book to adults. The requesters used the library district’s “Request for Reconsideration of Materials” form (the reconsideration form) to submit their requests and included their identifying information in the reconsideration forms. Reaman, in his capacity as the Crested Butte News editor, submitted a request under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) to the library district to obtain unredacted copies of the requesters’ reconsideration forms. To obtain guidance on how it should respond to Reaman’s CORA request, the library district filed this case in district court, naming Brookhart, its executive director and custodian of records, as the named plaintiff. The district court entered an order holding that Reaman was entitled to obtain the requesters’ reconsideration forms, but only with the requesters’ identifying information redacted. 

On appeal, Reaman argued that the district court erred by ordering Brookhart to redact the requesters’ personal identifying information before producing the reconsideration forms because a person who seeks to remove or restrict access to a book from a public library’s collection is not a library “user” for purposes of CRS § 24-72-204(3)(a)(VII). He thus maintained that CORA does not protect the requesters’ identifying information from disclosure and that he is entitled to obtain unredacted copies of the requesters’ reconsideration forms. It is undisputed that the reconsideration forms are public records under CORA and are thus open for inspection except as otherwise provided by law. Under the plain language of CRS § 24-90-119(1), the identifying information of a person who requested or obtained a specific library service may not be disclosed. A person’s identifying information that is protected under CRS § 24-90-119(1) is exempt from disclosure under CORA pursuant to CRS § 24-72-204(3)(a)(VII), which unequivocally provides that a library “user” is a person who satisfies the requirements of CRS § 24-90-119 by requesting or obtaining specific materials or services or otherwise using the library. Applying these statutes, the court of appeals concluded that the library district provides a service to members of the public who use the library district’s reconsideration form to question an item in the library’s collection. Thus, the requesters are “users,” and the portions of the reconsideration forms containing the requesters’ identifying information are exempt from disclosure under CRS § 24-72-204(3)(a)(VII). Brookhart is therefore barred from disclosing the requesters’ identifying information to Reaman. 

The order was affirmed. 

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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