The following information is reprinted from NLS Flash, a newsletter created to bring current information on NLS progress in digital technology to patrons, library staff, and other interested individuals.
Volume 5 Issue 1
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, has entered the first phase of the rollout of digital talking books! This spring, NLS will administer a much-anticipated national prelaunch test of the digital talking-book system to make certain there are no unforeseen challenges before mass production begins. This prelaunch will enable NLS and network staff to evaluate players, book cartridges, and mailing containers in normal usage mode. Input from network libraries, machine-lending agencies, and patrons will help to ensure a smooth and successful digital transition.
Slated for April, the prelaunch testing will begin when NLS distributes 5,000 digital talking-book players to eight regional libraries across the country and to JBI International (formerly Jewish Braille Institute). The libraries will then send the machines to selected patrons for use in their homes.
The selected libraries will distribute the players and book cartridges to their most active readers. Patron and library staff participation in the prelaunch test will allow the players and books to be used in a wide variety of settings. This real-world use of the system will help further identify any serious latent problems.
All other regional and subregional libraries, four machine-lending agencies, and three consumer organizations will each receive one standard player and one advanced player for testing.
The NLS Collection Development Section identified 54 digital talking-book (DB) titles—fiction and nonfiction—for patrons to read using the digital talking-book machines during the prelaunch test. Each of the eight libraries participating in the test will receive multiple copies of all 54 titles, and all other network libraries will receive one DB title, one blank cartridge, a patch cord for downloading books, and at a later point, two copies of each of the 54 titles. The prelaunch test will also allow NLS to evaluate the mailing containers and tracking systems, which will help ensure an effective distribution and collection process. The expanded NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) will also be tested during the final weeks of the prelaunch.
Feedback from prelaunch testing will be handled by an independent expert consultant, who has developed a process for reporting and collecting data on any issues that may arise concerning the players, cartridges, or mailing containers. The consultant will analyze the data to identify any trends or patterns that should be investigated prior to mass production.
NLS will determine whether any modifications will be required before instructing Shinano Kenshi Corporation of Japan, the contractor hired to manufacture the digital talking-book players, to begin full production. The players will be produced at an initial rate of 26,000 players per month for four months and then 20,000 per month.
Recently the Library of Congress awarded SI International a contract to develop training techniques and materials to prepare NLS network libraries for acquainting patrons with the digital talking-book system. Currently SI International, in collaboration with the NLS Network Division, is developing an online training site, complete with instructional tools, for using the digital system for beta testing during the prelaunch evaluation. Feedback will be collected, analyzed, and incorporated before the training site is launched. The contractor is also preparing training materials for using BARD.
The following announcement may be of interest to readers. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped reserves the right to publish announcements selectively, as space permits. The item mentioned, however, is not part of the NLS program, and its listing does not imply endorsement.
Hadley School for the Blind offers more than one hundred free distance education courses online. Students can enroll when they wish and receive personalized instruction from a Hadley teacher. Hadley offers a wide range of courses in adult continuing education, high school academic subjects, family education, and professional development studies on topics from braille to independent living. The school has partnered with the University of Utah to offer college-level courses for professionals who work with blind individuals. For more information visit the Hadley web site at www.hadley.edu.
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