NORTHSTAR SYSTEMS INC. TO PRODUCE DIGITAL AUDIO CARTRIDGES FOR TALKING-BOOK PROGRAM
On August 22, 2008, the Library of Congress awarded Northstar Systems Inc. of Cucamonga , California , a contract to manufacture USB flash-memory cartridges for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Washington, D.C. The cartridges will be used to record audiobooks that will be distributed to NLS patrons across the country and overseas.
The initial contract funding of more than $6.2 million will enable Northstar to manufacture audio flash cartridges on which NLS will record both new and existing titles over the next year. The base contract covers three years with a unilateral government option for four additional years. The books recorded on these cartridges will be distributed to the network of 128 libraries that serve approximately one-half million blind and physically handicapped individuals throughout the United States and its territories.
The cartridges purchased under this contract will permit all NLS recorded books to be issued on either 512 MB or 1 GB cartridges. This will enable each recorded book to be contained on a single cartridge, greatly improving the current patron's experience of receiving multiple four-track cassettes. In addition, Northstar is obligated to furnish participating libraries and interested patrons with blank cartridges at prices fixed in the contract. Specific procedures for purchase by these parties are being determined.
Northstar has a manufacturing network that includes plants in Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, China, and Singapore, providing a total of one million square feet of production space. The corporation is an active member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, SD Association, USB-IF Committee, Compact Flash Organization, and MemoryStick Organization.
In June 2008 contracts were signed with Shinano Kenshi Corporation Ltd./Plextor-LLC of Culver City , California , to begin production of digital talking-book players and with LC Industries in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, to produce mailing containers for the cartridges. This Northstar Systems contract is the final agreement necessary for the conversion of the national talking-book program from analog to digital.
Shinano Kenshi is reviewing the pre-production prototypes of the digital talking-book players—designed and produced by Battelle in late 2007—to verify compliance with all NLS design specifications and requirements. Simultaneously, Shinano Kenshi is engaging subcontractors and suppliers to produce plastic and electronic components of the digital talking-book players. Both are critical phases in preparing for mass production of the new digital talking-book players.
SI International, an information technology solutions provider engaged to develop training strategies for NLS and the network staff, issued recommendations this month for best methods to prepare network library staff for the implementation of the digital talking-book program. After determining the efficacy of these recommendations, NLS will issue a new contract to develop the training program.