The Library of Congress moved one step closer to being able to produce digital talking books for users of its National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) with the recent installation of a new state-of-the-art digital recording facility. A major step in the development of digital talking books, the new studio follows installation of a digital duplication system at the Library's facility in Cincinnati earlier this year.
"These initiatives represent the Library's long-term commitment to develop digital technology for blind and physically handicapped individuals," said NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The new digital recording and duplication facilities will permit NLS to develop specifications for a digital mastering and duplication system. The results of this prototype effort -- and a second system to obtain experience with alternative mastering systems -- will be the technical specifications that will be used to produce digital talking books and magazines."
Wells B. Kormann, chief of the NLS Materials Development Division, who chairs the Library's Digital Audio Development Committee, noted that, "while these efforts are important in digital technology development, there remains much work to be done in determining how and with what delivery mechanism digital talking books will eventually become available to users. Having digital recording and duplication standards in place within the next several years will allow NLS to build a digital archives of talking books and magazines. This will be important when we are able to offer patrons access to digital recordings in the future."
The experimental digital audio mastering equipment selected is called a Digidesign Pro Tools 24. "This system, which operates on a personal computer, was custom-engineered and assembled and installed in the NLS recording studio," said John Cookson, head of the NLS Engineering Section.
"At present there is no standard digital audio mastering system that meets talking-book performance requirements for producing digital original master recordings," said Billy R. West, audio book production specialist.
A contract for the equipment, installation, custom wiring and fabrication of the recording studio was recently awarded to Washington Professional Systems. The goal is to complete mastering of the first experimental digital talking book by early spring 2000.
In October 1999, NLS announced a milestone for its braille readers when the first digital braille book was accessed on the Internet (see Information Bulletin, December 1999). The technological breakthrough signaled a successful two-year effort to develop an Internet distribution system for braille books in the collection. More than 2,700 braille books created by the Library are now available for download or online use by eligible individuals, libraries and schools with braille embossers, refreshable braille displays and other braille-aware devices.
For further information contact: Robert E. Fistick, Head, Publications and Media Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, 1291 Taylor St. N.W., Washington, DC 20542; telephone: (202) 707-9279; e-mail: [email protected].