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Home > Reference > Factsheets > Books for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals 2011
|From a beginning of 19 libraries, the network has expanded to 56 regional and 56 subregional libraries
serving the U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
The NLS International Union Catalog currently contains more than 341,982 titles (64 million copies). The average audiobook reader borrows or downloads 40 recorded books and magazines a year. Braille readers average 22 books and magazines a year.
|A free national library program of braille and recorded materials for blind and physically handicapped persons is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. Under a special provision of the U.S. copyright law and with the permission of authors and publishers of works not covered by the provision, NLS selects books and magazines for full-length production in braille and recorded formats. Established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, and again in 1966 to include individuals with other physical impairments that prevent the reading of regular print. Recorded formats include both digital cartridges and analog cassettes. Reading materials are distributed to a cooperating network of regional and subregional libraries, from which they are circulated to eligible borrowers. The materials and playback equipment are sent to borrowers and returned to libraries by postage-free mail. Digital talking books and magazines are available for download from the Internet through the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service and electronic braille books, magazines, and music scores and materials are available for downloading from the online Web-Braille service.|
The NLS program is funded annually by Congress. The fiscal year 2010 appropriation is $70,182,000. (NLS was granted a budget increase of $12.5 million each year from FY 2008–2013, for a total of $75 million over these six years, to expedite the transition of the audiobook program from analog to digital.)
Through an appropriation to the U.S. Postal Service, books and materials are mailed as "Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped." The combined annual expenditures for the program are approximately $182 million. Cooperating network libraries receive funding from state, local, and federal sources.
Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may receive service.
Books are selected on the basis of their appeal across a wide range of interests. Bestsellers, biographies, fiction, and how-to books are in great demand. Some titles are produced in Spanish. Registered borrowers learn of new books added to the collection through two bimonthly publications, Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review. The NLS book collection and resources of cooperating agencies are listed in the NLS International Union Catalog, searchable online at www.loc.gov/nls.
|About 68 percent of the NLS annual appropriation is spent on books, equipment, and related materials. The remaining 32 percent goes to support services.||
Magazines are selected for the program in response to demonstrated reader interest. More than forty audio and thirty braille magazine titles are offered. Readers may request audio subscriptions to such titles as People, National Geographic, and Consumer Reports or braille subscriptions to periodicals like Ladies Home Journal, ESPN: The Magazine, and The New York Times Large Print Weekly. Current issues are mailed to readers at the same time the print issues appear or shortly thereafter. More than forty audio magazines are available for download on BARD.
|The NLS music collection, the largest of its kind in the world, contains more than 23,202 titles.||
Music Scores and Books
Individuals who are interested in music materials may receive them directly from the NLS Music Section. The collection consists of scores in braille and large print; textbooks and books about music in braille and large print; music appreciation cassettes, including interviews and opera lectures; and self-instruction cassettes for voice, piano, organ, keyboard, guitar, recorder, accordion, banjo, harmonica, and other instruments. Braille scores and books are also available on the Internet through Web-Braille. In addition, NLS compiles and produces three music publications in accessible formats: Musical Mainstream; Contemporary Sound Track: A Review of Pop, Jazz, Rock, and Country; and Popular Music Lead Sheets. The music section may be reached at www.loc.gov/nls/music or 800-424-8567.
Equipment and Accessories
Playback equipment is loaned free of charge for use with audio reading material recorded on cartridges. Digital talking-book machines play digitally recorded books on cartridges. Cassette machines are designed for books and magazines recorded at 15/16 ips and the standard speed of 1-7/8 ips on 2 and 4 tracks.
Accessories for the digital talking-book machines include an adapter to facilitate the use of commercial USB flash drives and an adapter for using NLS headphones. Cassette-book machines have several accessories available for readers with limited mobility and dexterity, including breath switches, extension levers, pillow speakers, and remote-control units. A solar-panel charger for cassette-book machine batteries is also available. Readers with significant hearing loss may request amplifiers for both digital talking-book players and cassette-book machines. The factsheet Playback Machines and Accessories Provided on Free Loan to Eligible Individuals and Institutions provides detailed instructions on obtaining NLS equipment.
|Pioneers, GE Volunteers, and others repaired 86,171 cassette machines in 2010.||
Volunteers contribute important services to the NLS program in the areas of braille transcription and proofreading, audiobook production, and machine repair. Free correspondence courses leading to certification in braille transcribing (literary, music, and mathematics) and braille proofreading are offered. Training in audiobook production is available on request to local recording groups. National volunteer groups also assist network libraries in repairing playback equipment.
NLS and network libraries respond to questions on various aspects of blindness and physical handicaps. This service is available without charge to individuals, organizations, and libraries. Publications of interest to people with handicaps, service providers, and the general public are available free upon request.
The consumer relations officer maintains regular contact with consumer groups and individual users of the program to identify and resolve service problems and to assure that users’ needs are met.
For Further Information
Ask your local public librarian for more information about the program and how to apply for service. Information and applications are also available on the Internet at www.loc.gov/nls.
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Please complete the mailing address information and check the items you would like to receive. Several of the publications listed below are available in more than one format. Many of these publications are also available online at www.loc.gov/nls.
Applications for Free Library Service
Bibliographies (Print publications on special topics)
Braille (Information and samples)
Older material (Revision in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)
Catalogs (Braille and recorded books)
Older catalogs (Revisions in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)
Circulars (Information on special topics)
Older circulars (Revisions in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)
Older directory (Revision in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)
Facts (Information on special topics)
Older factsheets (Revisions in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)
Magazines and Newsletters (Sample print copies)
For faster service, fax this form to (202) 707-0712, e-mail email@example.com, call (202) 707-5100, or visit www.loc.gov to request publications. Since mid-October 2001, security examinations have slowed delivery by the United States Postal Service. Though substantial delays may result, this form also may be mailed to:
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542-0001
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Posted on 2011-05-13