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What You Will Find in FOIA Reading Rooms

Under subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA, agencies must make four distinct categories of records affirmatively available for "public inspection and copying." These so-called "reading room" records consist of: (1) "final opinions [and] . . . orders" rendered in the adjudication of administrative cases; (2) specific agency policy statements; (3) certain administrative staff manuals; and, (4) as of March 31, 1997, records disclosed in response to a FOIA request that "the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records." For any "reading room" record created by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on or after November 1, 1996, the FOIA now requires that it be made available electronically as well as in paper format. DOJ accomplishes this electronic availability through this FOIA website. DOJ components also maintain conventional reading rooms, where paper copies of all subsection (a)(2) documents are available for inspection and copying. The location of each component’s conventional reading room is indicated on its FOIA page. It should be noted that not all components will create records in each "reading room" category. Also, while the FOIA requires that DOJ make only the above four categories of records available in its reading rooms, each component may at its discretion include other types of records.

Updated July 23, 2014