Understanding that the best ideas often emerge during discussion among knowledgeable parties, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress created the Digital Long-Term Planning Group (DLTPG). The group provides thoughtful counsel, helps to identify problems, and offers options to possible problems thus helping NLS with the transition to a digital technology.

"The Digital Long-Term Planning Group heightens NLS's awareness of all possible effects the transition will have on talking-book patrons, state librarians, and the 138 libraries in our network," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The group is assisting in the development of an efficient, cost-effective system that continues to prioritize patrons' needs and enhance their reading experiences."


NLS knows that the most practical and constructive feedback comes from individuals who possess firsthand experience with the program and digital expertise. Because of the digital transition's scope, complexity, and potential impact on the blind and physically handicapped community, NLS involved all affected parties as much as possible throughout the planning process.

NLS created the digital group in 2001 to guide planning for the digital talking-book (DTB) transition. The sixteen-member committee includes state and regional librarians, representatives from national consumer groups, such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and NLS staff.

Because librarians and consumer representatives are familiar with the current talking- book system and many are aware of new trends in digital technology, their recommendations are important.

"The librarians have a unique perspective and consumers have a perspective librarians don't have," said Karen Keninger, regional librarian at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Iowa. "The ability to talk out ideas has been very valuable to the digital conversion process."

Many members are also patrons. They have personal stakes in the process. "We're the ones who work and live with talking-books day-to-day," said David Andrews, a representative of the National Federation of the Blind. "We provide input on what will and will not work."


The selection of flash technology as the medium for book delivery is just one area where the DLTPG involvement yielded a realistic recommendation. The group reviewed several delivery options for talking books—flash, CD-ROM, and a magnetic hard-drive system— and concurred with NLS that flash technology simplified audiobook use and was durable. It also made the most economical and logistical sense.

The group also commented on issues ranging from the design of the digital talking-book player to distribution, an issue that has received considerable focus.

Introducing the Digital Long-Term Planning Group

Paul Edwards
American Council of the Blind

David Andrews
National Federation of the Blind

State Librarians
Irene Padilla
Maryland State Department of Education
Division of Library Development Services

Robert C. Maier
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Sara Jones
Nevada State Library and Archives

Michael York
New Hampshire State Library

Doris Ott
North Dakota State Library

Peggy D. Rudd
Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Donna Jones Morris
State Library Division, State of Utah

Regional/Subregional Librarians
Barbara Goral
Retired, Colorado Talking Book Library

Meredith Beckhardt
Florida Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library Services

Karen Odean
Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service

Karen Keninger
Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Iowa Department for the Blind

Kim Charlson
Massachusetts Braille and Talking Book Library
Perkins School for the Blind

Richard J. Smith
Wolfner Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Missouri

Kathleen Kappel
Pennsylvania Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Robert Norton and Avi Shapiro holding award certificate.

Robert Norton, head of the Quality Assurance Section (left), and Avi Shapiro, QA software engineer, are commended along with the entire NLS Materials Development Division staff for developing the first fully qualified digital talking book, Joan Didion's Where I Was From, recorded by Carolina Talking Books. The book, narrated by Constance Crawford, was completed on May 18, 2006.

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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