Book records open under state FOI law

NEW YORK ‘ An appeals court ruled in November that the State University of New York at Albany must share its faculty’s course book lists with Mary Jane Books, an off-campus store that competes with the university-affiliated Barnes & Noble.

The unanimous decision by the Appellate Division of New York’s Supreme Court grants the public access to the lists. The court based its decision on New York’s Freedom of Information Law, determining the lists met the definition of ‘records’ under the law.

SUNY, which does not maintain a central book list, argued that it did not have to collect individual lists from professors.

‘We agree with petitioner that the individual course book lists herein sought were prepared by faculty members and not Barnes & Noble and, therefore, are disclosable under Freedom of Information Law,’ the ruling states.

The decision in Mohawk Book Co. Ltd. v. State University of New York, 732 N.Y.S. 2d 272 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dept. 2001), is the result of a three-year effort by Mary Jane Books to obtain lists of books professors used in their classes. The store had received more than a third of the faculty’s book lists, but could not obtain the rest. When SUNY denied freedom of information requests, Mary Jane Books, owned by Mohawk, took the matter to court.

SUNY officials are evaluating whether to file an appeal with the court of appeals, the state’s highest court.