[Michlib-l] serving the incarcerated from a public library question

Kelli Perkins kperkins at herrickdl.org
Wed Jul 9 14:55:02 EDT 2014

Have always done it for the 23 years I've been librarianing here. I don't think the source of the question is salient unless there is some law we're not aware of  that speaks to what information a prisoner is privileged to obtain. All questions from outside our cardholders are treated with respect, but limited to what is reasonable based on the limits of time and resources, understanding precedence is given to our taxpayers. We have less and less of the prison letters as time wears on, but they're always interesting!

Kelli Perkins
Head of Reference Services
Herrick District Library
300 S River Ave, Holland MI 49423
kperkins at herrickdl.org

Listening: "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King
Reading: "The Kraken Project" by Douglas Preston

From: michlib-l-bounces at mcls.org <michlib-l-bounces at mcls.org> on behalf of Cathy Sullivan Seblonka <cathys at pwpl.info>
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2014 2:11 PM
To: michlib-l at mcls.org
Subject: [Michlib-l] serving the incarcerated from a public library question

Hello, everyone.

How do you handle requests mailed to your reference department from
prisoners incarcerated in Michigan prisons whether the prison is within
your service area or not?

When a prisoner asks for books we write a letter to the prisoner and
suggest they use their prison's interlibrary loan system. We have been
answering reference questions such as what is the address of a particular
publisher, will you please send me a copy of a picture of a circus, etc.,
via return letter. Someone working at a Michigan prison is now questioning
us as to whether the public library should answer reference questions from

Does your library have a policy about this? What do you do when you
receive reference requests from prisoners? I suspect prison librarians are
overworked and cannot answer all the questions they must get.

Thanks for thinking about this and sending suggestions and comments.


Cathy Sullivan Seblonka
Collection Development/Reference Librarian
Peter White Public Library
217 N. Front St.
Marquette, MI 49855
cathys at pwpl.info
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