March 16th is uncommonly known as Freedom of Information Day. It’s a day celebrating the birthday of James Madison, who is also known as the Father of the Constitution. An advocate for openness in government, Madison helped draft the United States Constitution and United States Bill of Rights, and was a strong voice in ensuring the government of his time would not keep secrets from its citizens. The American Library Association and a coalition of other organizations celebrate Freedom of Information (FOI) Day in conjunction with Madison’s birthday, March 16, 1751.
The Freedom of Information Act, passed on July 4th, 1966 and enacted a year later, declared that all citizens have the right to get information from federal agency records that are not protected by one of nine exemptions or law enforcement exclusions. This law, now 50 years old, was the culmination of James Madison’s beliefs and, therefore, is celebrated on or near his birthday.
Looking for something to help celebrate FOI Day? The Library has books and movies on freedom of information and government transparency including the 2015 movie Truth, directed by James Vanderbilt and starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, which is based on actual events about a CBS News team trying to expose records of documents the government was attempting to hide. If you’re looking for a book, The Sunshine Laws: Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Acts by Terrence M. Barnicle is filled with information on what the Freedom of Information Act provides for citizens and how are rights to information can be protected.