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NLS Press Release

District of Columbia and Florida Libraries Honored for Exemplary Service to Blind and Disabled Readers


For immediate release
June 6, 2013
Contact: Jane Caulton
(202) 707-0521 or jcau@loc.gov

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, presented awards to libraries in the District of Columbia and Florida for outstanding service to blind and disabled readers during a luncheon ceremony today, June 6, in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (DCLBPH), also known as the D.C. Public Library Adaptive Services Division, received the ninth annual Network Library of the Year Award. The Brevard County Talking Books Library (BCTBL), a subregional library of the Florida Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library Services network, received the seventh annual Network Subregional Library of the Year Award. Both awards carry a $1,000 cash prize, a framed certificate for each library and its parent agency, and a perpetual plaque.

"Even in difficult budget times, the dedicated staffs of these libraries have found new and creative ways to make a positive difference in the lives of blind and disabled people in the District of Columbia and Brevard County, Florida," said NLS director Karen Keninger. "They are outstanding examples of the service the NLS network of libraries throughout the United States has provided for more than 80 years."

The DCLBPH is located in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington. In 2012 the library served 856 individual patrons, institutions, and organizations; circulated 32,219 braille and talking books and other items; and had 200 volunteers who contributed 3,253 service hours.

"The D.C. Public Library works hard to be a model for serving visually impaired, physically disabled, and deaf users," said Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian of the District of Columbia. "For years we have heard library users talk about how the staff and technology in our Adaptive Services Division have improved the quality of their lives. We are very proud to receive this honor because we take our commitment to serving all library users seriously."

The DCLBPH acts as an accessibility information resource, provides staff training, and makes adaptive technology available in 25 neighborhood libraries throughout the District of Columbia. Several times a year the library hosts visitors from national and international organizations who come to Washington to learn about these programs. Adaptive Services chief and DCLBPH director Venetia V. Demson is the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for the D.C. public library system, arranging real-time captioning services and American Sign Language interpretation for library programs and producing braille and large-print agendas.

The library hosts a monthly Braille Book Club for Kids and American Sign Language Story Hour. In partnership with D.C. Public Schools, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, D.C. Rehabilitation Services, and local chapters of the National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind, the library created an after-school program that gave blind and low-vision high school students the opportunity to explore careers and community resources, learn about adaptive technology, and more.

Also, in partnership with the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington, the library began a monthly support group for older adults with low vision called Independence through Arts and Culture. Artists, musicians, and other creative people share their stories demonstrating how those with low vision can enjoy and appreciate art.

"The value of the Adaptive Services Division is not limited to the technology they provide," said patron Aziza Baccouche, who has been legally blind since childhood. "I go there because I enjoy a welcoming environment, interesting programs, socializing with other members of the community, and much more."

The Brevard County Talking Books Library (BCTBL) is located in the Brevard County Public Library in Cocoa, Florida. It has a full-time staff of one—manager Debra Martin—a part-time support staff member, and a committed group of more than 25 volunteers. In 2012 the library served nearly 1,600 residents and institutions in Brevard County and circulated about 120,000 braille and talking books.

The library hosts adult reading programs, assistive technology resource fairs, and film and book discussion programs. BCTBL maintains partnerships with more than 150 agencies and keeps patrons and supporters informed through Twitter and Facebook.

"BCTBL's volunteers are integral to the daily operation of the library and without doubt are one of the main reasons the library has flourished," Martin said. "Our network of partnerships also has proven to be vital to increasing awareness of the program and boosting new patron registration."

NLS created the Network Library Awards to recognize outstanding accomplishments of libraries serving blind and disabled individuals across the country and in U.S. territories. A committee of librarians and consumer organization representatives chose finalists from among the nominated libraries based on mission support (defined by the American Library Association Revised Standards and Guidelines for Service), creativity and innovation in providing service, and record of reader satisfaction. The four NLS network regional conference chairs recommended the final selections to the NLS director.

NLS administers the braille and talking-book program, a free library service available to U.S. residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or disability makes reading a regular printed page difficult. Through its national network of regional libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in digital audio and braille formats, as well as digital audio equipment, directly to enrollees at no cost. Selected materials are also available online for download, and music instructional materials are available in large print, braille, and recorded formats. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/nls/ or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2013-06-28