Why do we call it a “request”? Why not an “order”?

Mark Weiler, a doctoral candidate at Simon Fraser University, sent us an e-mail the other day asking why  public records requests are called “requests.” Why do we refer to “requesters”? That’s a great point!

After all, when we go to a library to pick up a book that we are entitled to, we wouldn’t “request” the book. We wouldn’t ask a librarian, “May I please check out this book?” and then await an answer. We talk about checking out books, or “taking” them from the library, because we all assume that our taxes paid for the books and they are public for anyone to check out. So if public records are paid for and are legally disclosable, why do we have to “request” them? Certainly, some records are not disclosable for necessary reasons (national security, privacy, etc.), but that does not change the nature of acquiring records. Calling them “requests” is polite, but it also implies the idea of citizen submission to the government, but isn’t our government accountable to the people? Aren’t the people in charge?

So what’s a better term? FOI order? FOI directive? Should we refer to “patrons” instead of “requesters”? I like the sound of, “the citizen submitted a records order to the school district for expenses related to the new high school construction,” better than, “the citizen submitted a records request to the school district asking for expenses related to the new high school construction.” Any  thoughts or suggestions on wording?

One Response

  1. I think calling it an order is a great idea, or even a demand. It would remind the bureaucrats whose information it really is.

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