Today, OIP published guidance on the importance of quality requester services. This new guidance, “The Importance of Quality Requester Services: Roles and Responsibilities of FOIA Requester Service Centers and FOIA Public Liaisons,” highlights the vital role that FOIA Requester Servicer Centers and FOIA Public Liaisons play in providing helpful and timely explanations of the FOIA process to members of the public.
DOJ has long emphasized the importance of agencies working with FOIA requesters in a spirit of cooperation. In that spirit, today’s guidance details specific roles and responsibilities for FOIA Requester Service Centers and FOIA Public Liaisons, two established ways agencies interact with the public during the FOIA request process.
FOIA Requester Service Centers typically serve as the first point of contact at agencies for any requester (or potential requester) who has a question about their specific request or how the FOIA works in general. The FOIA Requester Service Centers are intended to be a helpful source of information about the FOIA and how it is administered at each agency. By contrast, the FOIA Public Liaison is a supervisory official who can work with requesters following an initial response from the Requester Service Center. Additionally, FOIA Public Liaisons are “responsible for assisting in reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of requests’ current status, and assisting in the resolution of disputes.” 5 U.S.C § 552(l) (2012 & Supp. IV 2016).
The guidance also focuses on the underlying theme of the work performed by both FOIA Requester Service Centers and FOIA Public Liaisons -- good communication. Engaging with FOIA requesters effectively can greatly improve FOIA administration. OIP has issued multiple guidance articles addressing good communication with FOIA requesters (2010 guidance, 2013 guidance, 2014 guidance), which collectively emphasize that communication with requesters should be courteous, appropriate, service-oriented, easy, prompt, helpful, and cooperative.
The full text of the guidance, along with all other guidance issued by OIP, is available on our guidance page. If you have any questions regarding this new guidance, please contact OIP’s FOIA Counselor Service at (202) 514-FOIA (3642).