Harrison and Martys load CDs.
NLS inventory management technician Richard Harrison and automation officer Michael Martys, shown above, are loading one thousand titles, equivalent to six thousand CDs, from the NLS catalog onto a server as part of a pilot project to test some of the functions of the DAMS.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is committed to ensuring that its digital talking-book (DTB) collection is easily accessible. Organization is a key in facilitating usability. During the next year, NLS will focus on developing a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) to arrange and store its digital titles. NLS is currently defining the system's requirements, which will guide the selection of a contractor to build the system.

Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director, perceives that "the Digital Asset Management System is a major piece of the digital project. In order to manage the digital collection with the same efficiency as the cassette collection, we are taking advantage of new technology that will support digital management."

DAMS consists of multiple functions that operate together to form a system. It is essentially advanced software that electronically manages large volumes of information or data like the digital talking-book collection for maximum efficiency and ease of handling. DAMS will also engage in various functions central to sustaining a digital collection. NLS automation officer Michael Martys, DAMS project manager, is currently working on defining requirements.


DAMS will serve many needs. In addition to managing the collection's content, the system must also facilitate collection accessibility and some aspects of DTB production.

"DAMS is a complex system with a simple goal-to make DTBs easily accessible to NLS patrons and librarians," says Martys. "All of its various functions ultimately work together to achieve that end."

DAMS will support online access to the collection, estimated to be in excess of about 20,000 titles. When patrons submit a title download request, the software will communicate with other NLS computer information systems to fill that order.

Another important DAMS task will be to archive the digital collection. The archive will include both a playable version of the DTB and the master recordings. Efficient archiving provides organized, secure, and centralized storage.

According to Martys, some of the project's top challenges have been finding a storage mode that could accommodate NLS's sizable collection as well as afford users immediate access to the collection. It's a tall order, but DAMS will be customized in an effort to meet those needs.

It will also serve the communication and production needs of a duplication-on-demand (DOD) system, in which titles are duplicated by request at special centers. The program will collect special orders from network libraries and forward them to DOD centers for fulfillment. The DOD centers will then download the requested titles from the DAMS and duplicate copies onto flash-memory cartridges for the libraries.

DAMS will also provide NLS personnel with statistics and data on its internal operations. NLS will use this information to monitor and maintain the system and ensure that it runs smoothly.


DAMS will be a focal point in the NLS digital project over the next two years. Once Martys and his team finish defining the system's requirements, they will begin the important work of finding the right contractor to do the job. That search will continue through the end of the year. In early 2007, focus will shift to installing DAMS.


Recently NLS began a research and development project to create software that will emulate some of the functions of the Digital Asset Management System (DAMS). The project will test fundamental concepts involved in the development of DAMS. Facilitating title download, production, distribution, and archiving are among DAMS functions that will be tested.

Loading NLS's digital collection, stored on an estimated 160,000 CDs, onto a computer is one of the greatest challenges automation officer Michael Martys and his team face. "If we stacked these CDs one on top of the other, the pile would tower nearly three hundred feet over the Washington Monument," said Martys. NLS engineers are considering the possibility of using robots to help in this process.

Once the titles are loaded and checked by a specially designed computer program, they are encoded with AMR-WB+, a software tool that can compress files to one-thirtieth of their original size with virtually no perceptible loss of sound quality. After the files are loaded and encoded, the system applies copyright protection and converts the files into ZIP format for easy download from the Web.

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Digital Talking Book (DTB) Milestones


Start 1/12/04
Finish 10/1/08
Milestone Start Date
Web-Magazine Pilot 1/12/2004
Digital data management system development 11/1/2004
Player and medium development 3/1/2005
Distribution system design and transition planning—Phase II 9/19/2005
Design DTB containers and labels 6/1/2005
Web-Book pilot 6/1/2005
Prepare DTBs for distribution 10/1/2005
Manufacture initial lot of DTB containers and labels 9/1/2006
Distribution system implementation 10/1/2006
Circulation systems implementation 10/1/2006
Flash cartridge production 3/1/2007
Flash cartridge duplication 5/1/2007
Full player production 9/1/2007


For Information on the NLS Digital Project contact:

Jean M. Moss, Digital Projects Coordinator
[email protected]  Fax: (202) 707-1690

To view the strategic business plan on the Web visit