Provision of educational reading services to people with print disabilities, including elementary, secondary and college-level students, will be the focus of a major study announced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress.
The study, estimated to take one year to complete, will examine the current range of agencies and individuals who provide these students with materials in alternative formats. It will determine ways that NLS and its network of cooperating libraries might serve eligible students.
According to the Oct. 27, 1997, issue of Newsweek magazine, "In an astonishing estimate, some researchers now say that as many as 20 percent of schoolchildren may have a neurological deficit, ranging from mild to severe, that makes it hard for them to read and write." Thus, more than 13 million of the estimated 67 million students in the United States could be eligible for Library of Congress services.
In announcing this study of both the informational and educational reading needs of this segment of the population, Frank Kurt Cylke, director of NLS, said, "The largest single organization now serving this group provides materials to only about 39,000 individuals. While other groups and many individuals also provide materials to thousands more, there may be a need for central coordination of their efforts."
"NLS, with its cooperative network of 140 lending libraries throughout the United States, has matured in its 66 years of existence to a level of sophistication where together we believe we can extend our national program to cover educational needs of the eligible population," Mr. Cylke said. "In addition, the Library is currently embarked on the development of a national digital talking-book technical standard through the National Information Standards Organization. We will ensure that this standard will meet future scholastic and academic needs as well."
The NLS network functions as the largest -- and frequently sole source -- of public library materials and services for the population who cannot readily use the print materials of local libraries. The network annually circulates more than 23 million books and magazines in braille and recorded formats to a readership in excess of 776,000 eligible U.S. adults and children. The great majority of the network of cooperating libraries operate within state library systems that are committed to serving the informational, educational and recreational needs of individual readers.
"NLS embraces the vision 'that all may read' and participate in the Library's commitment to support lifelong reading. As NLS steps into the next millennium, it is our obligation to review and improve services to all the populations we serve," Mr. Cylke said.
Suggestions and comments are welcome. They may be addressed to the survey project coordinator, Michael M. Moodie, Research and Development Officer, NLS, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542. Mr. Moodie may also be reached by telephone at (202) 707-5108 or by fax at (202) 707-0712. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.