"North Dakota has “sunshine laws,” which make all government records and meetings open to the public unless a specific law authorizes a record to be withheld or a meeting to be closed.
These laws apply to all state and local government agencies, rural fire and ambulance districts, public schools, private businesses or non-profit organizations that are supported by or expending public funds, and contractors, if the contractor is providing services in place of a public entity rather than to that entity.
[...] Anyone has the right to attend meetings of a public entity or to access and obtain copies of the entity’s records, regardless of where they live." - ND Attorney General's Website
Anyone has the right to view or get a copy of public records, regardless of the reason or where they live. A request for public records can be made in any available medium. Generally, a public entity cannot ask why the records are requested, ask for identification, or require a request be made in writing (or in-person). However, a request must reasonably identify existing records. If a request is unclear, the entity may require written clarification but cannot ask the requester’s motive or identity. The entity can delay taking action until receiving written clarification.
The public entity must respond to a record request within a reasonable time, by either providing the record or explaining the legal authority for denying all or part of the request. What is “reasonable” depends on a number of factors, including the scope and type of records requested.
A public entity may only deny access to or a copy of a record for which there is a specific statute closing all or part of the information. A statute may declare certain records to be exempt or confidential.
If a record is exempt, a public entity has the discretion to release or withhold it. If a record is confidential, it either cannot be released or the confidential information within the record first must be redacted.
For more information on open records such as charging for services, denying a request, what records are exempt or confidential, and more, read the resources compiled and put forth by the Attorney General's office below:
There are 2 exceptions to open records laws made for libraries:
Any record maintained or received by a library receiving public funds, which provides a library patron's name or information sufficient to identify a patron together with the subject about which the patron requested information, is considered private and is excepted from the public records disclosure requirements of section 44-04-18. These records may be released when required pursuant to a court order or a subpoena.
A public library, archive, or museum may designate a donated record as an exempt record if the donor of the record requests as a condition of the donation that the record not be released to the public for a specific amount of time, which may not exceed twenty years beyond the death of the donor.
The North Dakota Association of Counties and League of Cities compiled retention and disposal guidelines for all county and city offices in the state, including libraries. Information including deadlines, how to transfer records to the State Archives, and more can be found on their websites:
While there is not a state-prescribed records retention schedule for libraries, the following are things NDSL recommends your library to retain indefinitely due to North Dakota’s open records and meeting laws:
Documents you should to retain for operational purposes:
Financial records you’ll need to retain for audit purposes, if applicable (typically back 3+ years prior to the current fiscal year):
The following should be purged in accordance with NDCC §40-38-12:
According to the ND Constitution art. XI §5, "Unless otherwise provided by law, all meetings of public [...] boards [...] supported in whole or in part by public funds, or expending public funds, shall be open to the public."
A meeting, as defined by the Attorney General's Office is "any gathering of a quorum of the members of a governing body of a public entity regarding public business, and includes committees and subcommittees, informal gatherings or work sessions, and discussions where a quorum of members are participating by phone or any other electronic communication (either at the same time or in a series of individual contacts)."
Emails or text messages between members of a committee or subcommittee regarding public business may constitute a meeting and violate open meeting laws. Training seminars and purely social gatherings attended by a quorum of a public entity are not meetings, however, as soon as the members discuss any public business, it becomes a “meeting.”
Additional guidelines surrounding open meetings include the need for public notice, the requirement to record meeting minutes, access to the public, and further noticing and agenda requirements for special meetings and closed sessions. Please read resources compiled and put forth by the Attorney General's office below:
To help keep meetings on track, your board may choose to use a parliamentary procedure such as Robert's Rules of Order. Parliamentary procedures help meetings follow an established agenda, keep track of motions and decisions made, and create minutes as records for the meeting.