Reference by Mail

Reference by Mail

A Service for Library Users Who Are Incarcerated

Sacramento Public Library Reference by Mail Service staff are happy to answer your reference questions. In order to offer you the best service possible, we ask that you follow these Rules and Guidelines.

Sacramento Public Library
Attn: Reference by Mail
828 I Street, Sacramento CA 95814

1. Due to the number of letters we receive, we can only answer two letters per sender, per month, with no more than three questions answered per letter. Additional letters will not be opened or returned, and additional questions will not be answered. With limited staff responding to requests, you may experience a delay in receiving a reply; we appreciate your patience and ask that you not send the same request more than once.

2. We can send you up to ten double-sided pages of information at a time. As a result, we may not be able to send all of the information you request. Library services are free, and you do not need to provide postage. Please do not send original documents you want returned. Nothing you send to the library will be returned to you without prior approval/arrangement.

3. If any part of your letter requests prohibited information or is otherwise in violation of these Rules and Guidelines, the entire letter will not be answered or returned. Three requests for prohibited information (or three violations of the Rules and Guidelines) will result in being restricted from receiving replies from the Sacramento Public Library Reference by Mail Service for a minimum of three months. Continued requests of this nature will result in longer periods of restriction, up to and including permanent ban.

4. We will not contact a third party for you nor will we send any mail or correspondence on your behalf. We will not act as a personal correspondent (pen pal) for any individual, nor can we contact a pen pal service on anyone’s behalf. We can provide a list of pen pal organizations upon request.

5. We will not send legal or medical advice or opinions of any kind. We will provide standard definitions of legal words and phrases, documented information on codes, regulations, Supreme Court decisions, etc., when requested by specific name or code number only. We will provide basic overviews of medical diagnoses (symptoms, tests, treatments, etc.) when requested by specific name only.

6. We will not send any adult materials, including images, text, or the name of companies that produce adult materials. We will not use specific qualifiers for image searches (such as sexy or bikini). We will not send images of celebrities under 18 years old. We will not retrieve information or images from social media accounts.

7. We will not send information promoting or portraying violence or the use of weapons, including lists or images of weapons or ammunition, or any information pertaining to acquiring weapons; directions or maps (except for maps of constellations or fictional worlds); information about fictional or coded languages (ex: Klingon, Elvish, etc.)

8. We are unable to send books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Please contact the Prisoners Literature Project with book requests. Prisoners Literature Project, ℅ Bound Together Books, 1369 Haight St. San Francisco, CA 94117

9. We will not send contact information for private individuals, nor do we perform internet searches about private individuals. Contact information for celebrities, politicians, and other public figures may be requested.

10. We will not perform searches for the patron about themselves or other inmates. If searching for information on a crime reveals the patron was convicted, we will not send this information or relevant images.

11. Regarding materials for which copyright is a concern, we will send copied pages, with a limit of one set of printed of copyrighted material, up to a maximum of 10 double-sided pages, or one copy per image. Please be advised that these materials are intended to be used for Fair Use purposes only and anything beyond that use is up to the requestor to clear with the copyright holder. The law states:
Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be ‘‘used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.’’ If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of ‘‘fair use,’’ that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law. (c) Form and manner of use. (1) A Display Warning of Copyright shall be printed on heavy paper or other durable material in type at least 18 points in size, and shall be displayed prominently, in such manner and location as to be clearly visible, legible, and comprehensible to a casual observer within the immediate vicinity of the place where orders are accepted. (2) An Order Warning of Copyright shall be printed within a box located prominently on the order form itself, either on the front side of the form or immediately adjacent to the space calling for the name or signature of the person using the form. The notice shall be printed in type size no smaller than that used predominantly throughout the form, and in no case shall the type size be smaller than 8 points. The notice shall be printed in such manner as to be clearly legible, comprehensible, and readily apparent to a casual reader of the form.