by Claire Rojstaczer and Jane` Caulton
The winners of the 2015 awards for Network Library of the Year and Network Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year exemplify the ways libraries can partner with outside organizations and leverage existing technology to improve and expand service to braille and talking-book readers.
The Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library (ITBBL) of Indianapolis and the Kent District Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (KDL) of Wyoming, Michigan, were honored at a luncheon on Friday, June 10, at the Library of Congress Jefferson Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
After a brief greeting by Karen Keninger, NLS director, the event opened with a presentation of the flags of the United States and its armed forces by a military color guard. Jane McAuliffe, director of the Library of Congress National and International Outreach service unit, then offered opening remarks, commending NLS and its network libraries. “It is a pleasure to be here celebrating something so important,” she said, before inviting attendees to partake of the three-course luncheon.
Once the crumbs had been cleared away, Keninger presented each library with a certificate and a $1,000 cash prize. “Library service is only as good as the people who run it,” she said. “NLS could not accomplish what it does without the network of cooperating libraries.”
“It’s a great honor,” regional librarian Maggie Ansty said while accepting the Network Library of the Year Award on behalf of the ITBBL.
Among the noteworthy services it provides, ITBBL was recognized for its extensive use of the talking-book duplication-on-demand service provided by its multistate center. Only one out of five ITBBL patrons uses BARD, so duplication-on-demand—downloading a book requested by a patron onto a cartridge—is the only way some patrons can access titles that are exclusively available on BARD. ITBBL ordered an average of 300 books a month in 2015 and plans to expand the program.
The library also began adding locally produced books to BARD and collaborated with the Indiana State Library Foundation to offer grants that allowed patrons to purchase assistive technology and paid for expansion of the work space for a group of General Electric retirees who repair digital talking-book machines. The added space has enabled the volunteers to extend their service to network libraries in other states.
Representing the Kent District Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (KDL), the winner of the first Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year Award, head librarian Michelle Roossien thanked NLS for the recognition. “We work hard,” she said. “Every regional and subregional library does.” She expressed love for her job, noting that “I get to work with people who are passionate about reading.”
KDL has also responded enthusiastically to Keninger’s mandate that libraries promote braille. “I took it as a personal challenge,” Roossien said. For National Braille Month, she presented her Braille and Blindness Awareness Program to 730 elementary students. KDL then repurposed that material to create a permanent Storytime kit to teach sighted children about blindness, accessibility, and the importance of braille. The kit can be used by all of KDL’s 18 branch libraries.
The gathering also included representatives from NLS consumer groups and network libraries throughout the country, who together make up the Network Library Award committee. Richard Smith, chief of the NLS Network Division, highlighted their contributions in his closing remarks. “Since the beginning of the Network Library Awards, winners have been decided by their peers, not by NLS,” he noted. “They are the ones who best understand what it means to provide exemplary service.”
In 2015, KDL acquired new adaptive technology for patrons to use on-site, including a desktop embosser, screen-magnification software, and a text-to-speech scanner. It also expanded its by-mail circulation to include large-print books and increased its described-DVD collection by nearly 40 percent.
Photo gallery: 2015 Network Library of the Year Awards
TBT order forms will again ship with magazine cartridges
Beginning with the September–October 2016 issue, subscribers to the audio version of Talking Book Topics (TBT) will receive their order forms in the same package with the magazine cartridge.
Longtime subscribers may remember that the order form used to come in the same package as the cassette magazine. That changed in August 2012 with the launch of the Magazines on Cartridge program, when cartridges and order forms started to be mailed out separately.
However, the change wasn’t well received by subscribers; many said they didn’t receive their order forms or misplaced them before their TBT cartridge arrived. (If you need an order form from a previous issue of TBT, contact your local cooperating library.)
“We heard our subscribers, so to better accommodate their needs, we are returning to mailing out the order form and magazine cartridge together,” said Karen Keninger, NLS director.
National conference: Librarians consider a revolutionary future for braille and talking book services
by Jane Caulton
Gateway to Knowledge was the theme of the 2016 National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals—a hat tip not only to its San Francisco setting but to its emphasis on training.
Each day of the conference, which ran Sunday, April 3, through Thursday, April 7, opened with hands-on training sessions on tools and topics most useful to the librarians and staffs of the NLS network of cooperating libraries.
Sessions included using the BARD online service and the BARD Mobile apps for smart devices, the Magazine on Cartridge program, best practices for managing a recording studio, reader advisory tools and strategies, and a full-day workshop on grant writing.
“The training was the best, and I’ll be able to put it to use immediately,” said Keri Wilkins, director of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
Joanna Fraguli, deputy director of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Disability, welcomed the group and urged librarians to “keep pushing for accessibility.” She said the work of libraries serving people who have special needs helps to identify possibilities and create opportunities for these populations.
Josh Miele, associate director of the Smith-Kettlewell Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Blindness and Low Vision of San Francisco, followed suit, noting “the mission of libraries is to ensure information access for all.”
“The digital era has expanded the need for new types of information,” Miele said. Blind people need access to videos, he explained, because “video is a medium for communicating complex ideas” that will help children who are blind develop skills in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“The next revolution is placing the reading machine in the hands of blind people,” advised Jim Fruchterman, founder and chief executive officer of Benetech and Bookshare, referring to the push for braille displays and accessible ebooks. He called the right to read a human right and noted that books will become more accessible as ebooks evolve. “The cheapest and most economical way to accessibility is when [a book is] born accessible,” he said.
Will Reed, Ohio regional librarian, and Danielle Miller, Washington State regional librarian, led a discussion on the status of the Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service for the Library of Congress Network of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. They explained that the goal for the new guidelines is to give libraries agility to allow for changes in service over the next five to seven years. “We want to change the tone and eliminate repetition,” Reed said. Miller added, “The standards are what we expect from ourselves as network libraries. They are not directions from NLS.”
A constant theme of the conference was change, and the presentations by Michael Martys, NLS Automation officer, and Michael Katzmann, NLS Materials and Development chief, emphasized expectations for the future of delivery systems. “In five years,” Martys predicted, “patrons will enroll, receive a player, sign up for automatic delivery, turn on the machine and hear, ‘Hello, Sally. You may now read . . .’ When she is ready, Sally will call her reader advisor for a new magazine and receive it in five minutes on her player.”
Katzmann explained that “NLS is striving to provide better service, more materials, more options, and popular devices. What that means for libraries is less loss, less inventory, and more focus on patrons.”
Network libraries no longer have to wait for deliveries of public education materials from the multistate centers. In November, the latest Network Library Toolkit was delivered to the network via a link in an email message. Jane Caulton, head of the Publication and Media Section, presented the toolkit, which is in the Media Services section of the Network Library Services website.
The kit includes a guidebook for using the materials through which library staff can link to templates and is accompanied by a webinar featuring hands-on demonstrations. Content includes information sheets on NLS for specific audiences, a PowerPoint presentation, sample email and newsletter articles, and more. Most can be customized by libraries. An accessible list of links to the files is also provided. Also included is an event planning guide with evaluation and follow-up forms.
During the next three to five years, NLS looks forward to releasing BARD Express to improve the efficiency of the online download service, introducing duplication on demand to allow libraries to immediately respond to patron needs, seeking approval to provide refreshable braille displays to patrons, and acquiring eText to allow patrons to use text-to-speech to read books not selected for recording. Longer-term, NLS hopes to launch a new talking-book player with wireless capabilities.
by Paula Bahmani
In April 2015, Deborah Stroup of the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library in Missouri approved the 1,000th network-produced audiobook on the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site. Just one year later, Edward Stofferahn, electronic technician from the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, Communications Center, approved the 2,000th book: Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil (DBC02769) by Lisa Westberg Peters.
“I had no idea BARD had reached the 2,000th [network-produced] title milestone,” Stofferahn said. “We have put great effort in contributing material to BARD.”
Fractured Land is a nonfiction title about an environmentalist who stands to inherit mineral rights and royalties on fracked oil wells in North Dakota and must decide between financial security and her ideals. The Communications Center selected the title because it was written by a Minnesota author and was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
“Though we don’t record everything that is written by Minnesota authors or published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, we do look seriously at both of those since they are less likely to be recorded by NLS,” said Stuart Holland, Radio Talking Book manager.
The program records a wide variety of books for the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, almost 200 of which have found their way into the NLS talking-book program.
“Books we submit to BARD have been recorded by our wonderful volunteer readers, coordinated, processed, and broadcast by our staff, then selected and modified for addition to BARD,” Stofferahn said.
Massachusetts. The Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library recently recorded its 1,000th talking book: The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway System (DBC03769) by Doug Most. “It’s a great milestone,” studio manager Todd Smith said. “We’re proud to have provided so many high-quality digital books for our patrons in Massachusetts and all over the country.” Longtime narrator Bart Morse recorded the book, his 30th for Perkins. It’s a mission that hits close to home for Morse, whose mother lost her vision later in life. “She was a big user of recorded books,” he said, adding, “I think she would have appreciated the switch to digital versus the (older cassette) tapes.”
Alabama. Teresa Lacy, director of the Alabama Instructional Resource Center for the Blind for 28 years, received the Division on Visual Impairments and Deafblindness Exemplary Advocate Award on April 14 at the Council for Exceptional Children’s annual convention in St. Louis. The award is presented annually to recognize leadership and commitment to the field of education and rehabilitation of students with visual impairments and deafblindness.
Stephen Prine, assistant chief of the NLS Network Division, and Chris Corrigan, an NLS digital reference librarian, have been honored by the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Prine received ASCLA’s 2016 Francis Joseph Campbell Award, and Corrigan received the 2016 Cathleen Bourdon Service Award.
The Francis Joseph Campbell Award is presented each year to an individual or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of library service to people with physical impairments. “Steve’s work with NLS has made a lasting contribution to the field of library services to readers with a visual or physical impairment,” Network Division Chief Richard Smith said. “And his good grace, wonderful sense of humor, and joy in his work have made knowing him as a person my pleasure.”
The Cathleen Bourdon Service Award is presented to an ASCLA member for outstanding service and leadership to the division. “Chris has done a wonderful job enhancing the stature, strength, and reputation of ASCLA,” Smith said. “His capable and thoughtful contributions to the field will also have a lasting effect on NLS and the network libraries.”
The two were to receive their awards during the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, on June 25.