NLS Forms Advisory Committee for Digital Transition

With the design and development of digital talking books, machines, and containers nearly complete, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, is planning the next stage of the digital project-implementation. Beginning in 2008, NLS will phase-in the production and distribution of digital talking books and players while phasing out recorded cassettes and C-1 analog talking-book machines. NLS has organized the Digital Transition Advisory Committee to advise the process during its pivotal first three years. The committee, made up of consumer representatives and regional and state librarians, will meet for the first time on January 30 in Washington, D.C., to discuss key issues.

"We have reached an important point in the digital project. Our focus is shifting from design and development to production and distribution," said Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "We are eager to get digital audiobooks into the hands of our patrons."

The advisory committee will serve three primary purposes. First, it will be a channel for informing user groups, the network of cooperating regional libraries and state librarians about NLS’s plans for distributing digital talking books and players. Key stakeholders will thus know what to expect when implementation begins. Second, committee participants will review distribution plans to ensure that no significant considerations are overlooked. Finally, members will offer new and emerging ideas for improving the transition process.

This Digital Advisory Implementation Committee succeeds the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, which was tasked with advising NLS on the design and development process for digital talking books and players. The planning group completed its assignment. The advisory committee will help to move the transition process forward.

The fourteen-member committee includes consumer representatives from the American Council of the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, and the National Federation of the Blind. Regional librarians representing the Midlands, Northern, Southern, and Western Conferences and a representative from the Consortium of User Libraries will also serve on the committee. Additionally, the group includes six state librarians from different parts of the country.

Taking the Lead

Carolyn Sung, chief of the NLS Network Division, will chair the advisory committee. The Network Division offers direct service and support to NLS’s network of cooperating libraries. Because it maintains regular contact with the libraries, it is the most logical choice for channeling communication about the digital transition.

"The role of the Network Division is ultimately to help librarians to do their work and to provide them with the resources they need," said Sung. "Our goal is to ensure that librarians nationwide continue to be informed about the transition so that they can adequately prepare to provide digital offerings to patrons in 2008."

The Network Division has been engaged in the digital project from the beginning. Steve Prine, assistant chief of the Network Division, serves on NLS’s Digital Audio Development (DAD) executive committee, which has focused on the development of the player and cartridge, and he, along with Sung will be presenting relevant issues to the implementation committee at the inaugural meeting.

Implementation Issues

The advisory committee will be presented with a full progress report on the development of the digital player, cartridge, and container. The state of the digital book download project and other automation concerns will also be addressed. The main focus of the meeting, however, will be to discuss distribution plans.

After the transition period in 2012, NLS will revisit the distribution system issues. The organization will consider whether to continue mass-duplication of all digital titles or adopt a hybrid system, in which the most popular titles will be mass produced and less popular titles will be duplicated on demand. The cost of digital duplication is expected to decrease steadily over the next years, and implementation of a hybrid system may not be cost-efficient by 2012.

Among the transition issues to be discussed at the implementation committee meeting are book and player distribution, shelving, duplication, circulation system modifications, machine distributing and monitoring issues, and copy allotment.

According to Prine, successful implementation across the network is based on librarians fully understanding the new dynamics and processes associated with the digital program. "The digital transition will be a complex process, but we’re confident that with adequate preparation the implementation will be seamless," noted Prine.

Members of the Digital Transition Advisory Committee

Consumer Groups

  • Chris Gray, American Council of the Blind
  • George Brummell, Blinded Veterans Association
  • David Andrews, National Federation of the Blind

Network Libraries

  • Lissa Shanahan, Indiana Regional Library, Midlands Conference
  • Jill Lewis, Maryland Regional Library, Northern Conference
  • Ruth Hemphill, Tennessee Regional Library, Southern Conference
  • Bessie Oakes, Utah Regional Library, Western Conference
  • Karen Keninger, Iowa Regional Library, Consortium of User Libraries

State Libraries

  • Irene Padilla, Maryland State Department of Education Division of Library Development and Services
  • Robert Maier, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
  • Michael York, New Hampshire State Library
  • Doris Ott, North Dakota State Library
  • Peggy Rudd, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Donna Jones Morris, Utah State Library Division

Flash Archive

Other Newsletters

Digital Talking Book (DTB) Milestones


Start 1/12/04
Finish 10/1/08
Milestone Start Date
Distribution system implementation 10/1/2006
Flash cartridge production 3/1/2007
Flash cartridge duplication 5/1/2007
Manufacture initial lot of DTB conatiners and labels 8/1/2007
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