INTERVIEW: a library can be a Speechie’s best friend.

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The most asked question by anybody in Forensics is “where can I find a piece?” Perhaps the tune changes to “where can I find support” if you are involved in a speaking event that requires factual information. Nevertheless, speechies everywhere are always searching for a venue of knowledge. I have heard a lot of people mention on-line sources to search through, but I am going to offer an old-school solution:


It’s free (basically, copying material has a price) and offers an almost limitless supply of material to sift through. A library is a literary goldmine which is rarely tapped into in this computer driven age. I do not know if it is because people feel daunted by a library’s google-less search engine or if it is because they are too lazy to leave their house and go outside into the real world. Whatever the cause, libraries are sadly left alone in the search for material.

In an effort to prove that libraries are not the stuff of nightmares, I asked a friend of mine a few questions about how to use a library and some services they offer. Tracy Gossage, an aspiring librarian, gave some valuable information on all things library-related—while offering some humor.

FC: From your experience with libraries, how vast is the average dramatic/script section of a typical library? And the non-fiction; HUGE, correct?

Tracy: Typically the dramatic/script section is going to be about three shelving units long so my rough estimate would be about 1200 books in the sections. Non-fiction will often be just as large as fiction if not more daunting to navigate for a patron.

FC: If I were to come to browse at short stories, non-fiction, or scripts, how simple is it for me to navigate alone?

Tracy: It is simple given an expansive understanding of the Dewey Decimal system. Without that knowledge all hope is not lost. The sections are all clearly marked and relatively easy to find given a short jaunt around the perimeter of the stacks. If not, everyone working at a library is always identifiable and won’t shush you and walk away if you ask a question.

FC: Do most libraries have a section designated only for plays/scripts and short story collections?

Tracy: Yes and no. The plays and shorts stories are in the beginning of the 800’s but that section probably won’t be highlighted anymore than the cooking books or mathematical textbooks. But just head to the 800’s and you will find a good supply of play and short story collections.

FC: If I know the title or name of an author, how would I go about getting information on where to find the material? Do I have to use those index cards (how do I use those?) or are computers/librarian assistance available?

Tracy: Almost all libraries have moved to computer databases so whenever you walk into a library almost every standalone computer is there to assist you in finding what you need. Sometimes the database can be confusing to read because it will use abbreviations (i.e. BO-CD would indicate the material is only available as a book on tape) and in that case you could always write down the information and show it to someone who works there.

The reference desk is there to help you locate what you need but even the staff shelving materials can help you find materials if you know the author or title.

FC: Have a majority of libraries switched to on-line cataloging with material descriptions and the ability to reserve a work?

Tracy: Yes.

FC: Copying? On average how much is it to copy a page of text?

Tracy: Typically it will be a dime a page.

FC: What sort of computer technologies are available at the average library? Can I get onto the internet, write, print, etc?

Tracy: Yes but each library will have different rules. Some libraries need you to be a member of that library (meaning you can’t use just any library card to access the internet). Almost all libraries have free Wi-Fi as well.

FC: How easy is it to get a library card--and do I need one to browse/photocopy in the library?

Tracy: Browsing and making photocopies is always free as long as you aren’t being a creeper. Getting a library card is as easy as showing proof of residency in the township your library serves. If for some reason you loath that library, many libraries form systems where you can check out books from any library in that system. Or you can easily request materials from other libraries often free of charge.

FC: As you work on the inside, what are some pointers you can give about how to use a library better?

Tracy: It is extremely simple to go on your library’s website and figure out if the library actually has a material you want. Too many people assume because something is a classic the library will have it which isn’t always the case due to budget considerations or if it is already checked out.

Also, as a patron you are more than welcome to have the library hold materials for you or request them from other libraries. Seriously, some people have a mini library waiting for them when they come in. Of course I would never underwrite browsing at your leisure but for popular or rare materials take advantage of placing holds and requesting materials. Seriously, if you don’t request materials I have to organize shelves so keep the requests coming.

FC: Is there any type of protocol a newcomer to a library should be aware of? Fees, rules of conduct, where to place books when done with them, etc?

Tracy: Don’t be a creeper. Don’t fall asleep and start snoring super loud because some librarians will interpret that behavior as indication you are homeless and kick you out. You can’t eat in the stacks. And there are usually carts placed around the perimeter of the stacks for you to put unwanted materials. Or hand them to the staff. Believe it or not it is much less frustrating to be handed unwanted materials than to find things like the movie “Hostel” tossed in the children’s picture books section. And yes that has happened.

FC: Anything else you think would be important to a speech/debate/theatre person coming in to find material? Common things you notice people doing wrong while you are at work?

Tracy: Not really too much else to contribute. A lot of people just wander aimlessly in non-fiction rather than asking for help. But everyone should feel comfortable just asking because the reference desk is literally there to assist you with finding materials. And because theatre materials can be scattered in different areas of non-fiction depending on what you are looking for sometimes it is better just to ask.

Thanks again to Tracy Gossage for answering questions for The Forensics Community.

If a member of the Community has a question for Tracy, please contact me so I can ask Tracy and get an answer back to you.

A couple of years ago, I worked on a very extensive project that required many hours in the main branch of my local library, as well as university libraries. It was an interesting experience for me, because I have become so dependent on the computer as a main resource.

As a writer and researcher, I love sitting in a library, surrounded by books, an empty legal pad, and sharpened pencils. I get the feeling that I can find out just about anything if I find the right book. It's a powerful feeling.

An interview was a great choice for this post; reading it, I felt as if I had an inside look into all that a library has to offer.

Great post!

Thank you! This is one of the best compliments I have received in some time. I'm glad this spoke to you.

And I'll tell my friend you enjoyed it as well. As much of a joker she is, she takes her library work seriously and will appreciate that you took something from this.

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