As the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, progresses towards the transition to digital talking books, the Collection Development Section is taking the opportunity to reassess the collections and revisit the principles that have guided book acquisition for the past seventy-five years. Although the collection development policy may be revised, the standard of service will remain constant, with NLS dedicated to providing the best possible resources for its patrons.

Each year, the NLS Collection Development Advisory Group, convenes to assess the state of the collections and to consider opportunities for improvement. At the conclusion of the May 23-25, 2007 meeting, the group presented NLS with recommendations to strengthen its collections and also commended the organization for its ongoing commitment to enhancing its patrons' reading experience. "As we proceed with the digital transition, the Collection Development Section will continue to host this annual meeting to ensure that our collections remain current and relevant to our patrons. It's a great forum for discussing ways to improve, expand, and diversify our offerings," says NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke.

NLS has always responded to patrons' comments and suggestions, and the Collection Development Advisory Group was instituted in 1977 to provide a formal annual method for obtaining advice from around the country. The group consists of four network librarians, four readers-at-large, a children and young adults librarian, and a representative from each of three consumer organizations—the American Council of the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, and the National Federation of the Blind. The advisory group advocates for the preferences and concerns of patrons.

The three-day meeting began with an introductory orientation to educate the group about current issues in book selection and production and to provide a general overview of NLS operations. Following a day and a han of discussions of patron concerns, the committee members presented their findings to the NLS director and staff in an open forum.

The committee commended NLS for several aspects of its service, including its ongoing progress with the digital initiative and its effectiveness in communicating information about this project to its constituents. Members further commended NLS staff for preserving classic titles-both fiction and nonfiction-as they move through the digitization process. The group was impressed by the program's ongoing commitment to providing adult reading materials, books for juvenile reading programs, and continuing to complete series in genre fiction.


Spanish-speaking readers are an important audience to the program, and NLS plans to produce more books to reach this growing constituency. The committee recommended that NLS continue to produce Spanish-language books, but with a changed emphasis from literary fiction to nonfiction works about self-help, personal investment, citizenship, and family activities. NLS strongly agrees with this recommendation and plans to broaden the Spanish-language collection.

The committee recommended that NLS develop an ongoing survey in print, audio, and braille formats to assess readers' current needs and preferences. NLS concedes that more information will be needed, particularly in light of the digital audiobook market. NLS staff want to know how the proliferation of audio materials from both commercial and public-sector sources may affect patrons' reading decisions, and in what ways, if any, the expanding options should impact NLS collection-building policies.

The committee also suggested that NLS increase the use of tactile graphics in braille books, especially in children's titles. Thanks to the technological advances in braille production methods, NLS will be able to include more tactile graphics-such as maps, depictions of animals, stars, and planets, and other objects that lend themselves to tactile representation-in braille books.

In response to the committee's recommendation to expand the diversity of the collection by using alternative bestseller lists as part of the title-selection process, NLS plans to consult lists from more diverse publications, such as Essence magazine, in order to offer titles that are consistent with the backgrounds of its patrons.

Children's books also offer an opportunity for extending the program's reach. The committee recommended that the NLS Kids Zone web page inform users about the availability of children's bibliographies from cooperating regional libraries. Additionally, the committee recommended that the NLS children's librarian develop additional bibliographies for Kids Zone. NLS considers bibliographies to be useful to young readers and is currently moving forward with plans to broaden the Kids Zone.

"The 2007 Collection Development Advisory Group meeting was a model of civility, good judgment, and constructive criticism that was greatly appreciated," says Edmund O'Reilly, acting head of the Collection Development Section. "The group's suggestions will be carefully considered and will guide us in our efforts to reexamine our collection-building precepts. The participants identified a number of interesting possibilities for the future, and we've already begun implementing some of their recommendations."

In preparation for the digital launch, NLS has selected 20,000 retrospective titles to be produced for four years. Many of the titles will be available when NLS initiates the service in 2008.

Consumer Organization Representatives

  • Otis Stephens, American Council of the Blind
  • Peter Davis, Blinded Veterans Association
  • Anil Lewis, National Federation of the Blind


  • Teresa Haifley, Midlands Conference
  • David Stewart, Northern Conference
  • Chet Avery, Southern Conference
  • Fred Riggers, Western Conference


  • Sharon Ruda, Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service, Midlands Conference
  • Patricia Schubert, Manatee Talking Book Library, Southern Conference
  • Catherine Rubin, Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Northern Conference
  • Scott Scholz, Nebraska Library Commission, Western Conference
  • Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Children! Young Adult

2007 Collection Development Group Moderator

  • Edmond O'Reilly, acting head of the Collection Development Section
  Members of the 2007 Collection Development Advisory Group  

Flash Archive

Other Newsletters

Digital Talking Book (DTB) Milestones


Start 1/12/04
Finish 10/1/08
Milestone Start Date
Distribution system implementation 10/2006
Flash-cartridge contracting/production 3/2007
Flash cartridge duplication 7/2007
Manufacture initial lot of DB containers and labels 8/2007
Full player production 12/2007


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