Contact: Jane Caulton (202) 707-0521

February 4, 2011

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Completes Its Digital Transition

Two years after starting to produce talking books on digital cartridges, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, has completed its analog-to-digital transition.

Since 1931, NLS has administered a free library service that provides talking books and braille books to U.S. residents and American citizens abroad with low vision, blindness or physical handicap that makes reading a regular printed page difficult. In its early years, NLS produced talking books on long-playing 33-1/3 rpm records. Later, slower-speed, smaller and lighter records were developed. In 1959, talking books recorded on open-reel magnetic tape began circulating, and a decade later the first books on cassette tapes were produced.

During the past 40 years, NLS has produced 57,245 talking-book titles on cassette tapes and distributed more than 49 million copies of those books to its national network of libraries. The last one was shipped to cooperating libraries in January 2011: "American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes," which includes essays, anecdotes and more from authors such as Walt Whitman, David Sedaris and Anthony Bourdain. The cassettes were duplicated by the National Audio Company of Springfield, Mo.

NLS distributed its first title on digital cartridge—"Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan" by the popular personal-finance adviser—in mid-2009. The NLS collection currently includes 2.5 million copies of more than 4,000 titles on digital cartridge. From now on, all new NLS audiobook titles will be produced on digital cartridges. These titles will also be available on the Internet through the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service, which currently offers more than 20,000 digital talking-book titles and 1,800 issues of digital talking magazines.

"An era is ending, but another has begun," said NLS director Kurt Cylke. "Digital talking books and players offer the highest-quality sound, have added features for patrons’ convenience and are easy to use. And with BARD, patrons have instant access to thousands of books in the NLS collection."

NLS will observe its 80th anniversary on March 3, 2011. Through its national network of regional libraries, NLS provides books and magazines in digital audio and in braille as well as digital audio equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. 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).

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 142 million items in various languages, disciplines, and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

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PR 11-027
02/04/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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