NLS catalog moves to Voyager system

NLS has announced the migration of the International Union Catalog to the Voyager Integrated Library System. The Voyager catalog, which went online in May, offers catalog searchers a number of advantages over earlier catalogs, and it may be used to expand other bibliographic services, according to Robert Axtell, head of the NLS Bibliographic Control Section. "It has a much more robust range of keyword searching options than previous catalogs and adds the ability to browse name and subject headings. Search results can be sorted, and the catalog is updated daily, not weekly," Axtell says.

Voyager is an integrated library system (ILS) that manages online tools for cataloging, acquisitions, circulation, and public access around a single unified bibliographic database, so that a record for the same book will not have to be held and maintained by four separate library systems. "Voyager is popular among academic, research, and national libraries, for which it was designed," Axtell explains. "The system is supported by a small army of specialists at the Library of Congress and is continually upgraded."

Voyager has the virtues and disadvantages of a system designed to find relevant records in very large files. It has powerful search features, but they come at some cost to its ease of use, if only because of the multitude of choices it offers. Additionally, Voyager tends to have busy screen layouts that may seem to pose unnecessary complications to searchers using assistive technology. "The number of patrons using our catalogs has been growing steadily since our first web catalog in the mid-nineties," Axtell observes. "We realize that many of our patrons are new to computers and catalogs, so we are mindful that our catalog should be both accessible and relatively easy to use."

Text-Only interface developed

"Voyager allows only limited customization of its screens, but the Library discovered an approach to Voyager that has allowed us to design another interface," Axtell continues. The Z39.50 standard for computer-to-computer information retrieval provides a way for searchers in one catalog system to search a remote catalog based on a different system without having to know anything about that system. Like most integrated library systems, Voyager supports this standard.

By their nature, Z39.50 interfaces tend to be simple and generic, as the standard imposes a stripped-down set of common search types that can be used in different systems. It also provides NLS with the ability to design screens without the tables and graphics in the Voyager catalog. But instead of using the standard to search remote catalogs, NLS decided to use the simpler interface for the purpose of searching its own catalog.

Custom-designed Z39.50 search forms were devised, including one that emulates the basic Web-BLND screen. "We had to conduct several test loads, test record import from our production control system, and configure the Voyager catalog."

Finally, a set of context-sensitive help pages was created by webmaster Tom Martin and bibliographer Catherine O'Connor, both of the NLS Network Division, to explain the proper use of Voyager. Each help screen contains a link to each of the others and, together, they constitute a virtual online users' manual. These links include an FAQ page that will grow as users' difficulties, if any, become more apparent. Every screen for searching or displaying records in Voyager contains a link to the help pages.

The Voyager online public access catalog (OPAC) itself is markedly different from previous catalogs and will take some getting used to. But through online help screens and e- mail support, NLS will be able to support its far-flung base of users.

A primer of catalog searching

To distinguish the Z39.50-based search forms from those provided with Voyager, the sets will be referred to as the NLS Text-Only catalog and the NLS Voyager catalog.

I. The NLS Text-Only catalog

The Text-Only catalog has three search forms.

  1. The Single Term Search form is about as simple as it can get: there is one box for entering a single word or phrase. The system will retrieve all records from the database which contain this phrase anywhere in the record. The question mark may be used for truncation.
  2. The Quick Search form is a copy of the Basic Web-BLND search form. It has boxes for entering names, titles, keywords (i.e., a word or phrase anywhere in the record) plus a drop-down list box for limiting searches to NLS holdings only and another to limit retrieval to certain formats.
  3. The Multiple Term Search form allows the reader to enter up to three fields including names, titles, keywords, location, and format, and to set restriction or combination requirements (and/or/not).

II. NLS Voyager catalog

The Basic Search screen is the starting point for Voyager. It displays a box in which to enter search terms and a list of six search types from which to select. The search type determines how the system will interpret the search terms. It is important to understand the differences between the search types.

Keyword. This search is designed to be as simple as
possible, but it also tends to be imprecise. It retrieves
any words that are entered from anywhere in the catalog
records. A small number of special symbols can be used to
refine searching.

These symbols will not work in the index searches, described below.

Keyword searches should be used when it is not clear where words or phrases relating to the material in question are likely to fall in catalog records, when terms may appear in different places in different records, or when there are no results using other types of searches. Records are displayed in the order determined by a relevancy algorithm, which considers (1) uniqueness of search terms within the database; (2) proximity of search terms to each other within the catalog record; (3) number of different search terms present in a catalog record; (4) number of times a search word is present in catalog record fields (e.g., subject heading field, author field, title field) in which the terms occur; and (5) the "weight" assigned to the field where the terms occur (name, subject, and title fields are assigned a greater weight than most other fields).

Index searches (also called browse searches) are used to search for traditional catalog access points: name, title, subject, and call number (used in the NLS catalog to search for book numbers). They are left-anchored with automatic truncation, which means that words must be entered in the correct order, starting with the first word of the heading being searched. The special restrictive symbols quotation marks, exclamation point, plus sign, and question mark of the Keyword search and the Command Keyword search (discussed below) will not work with index searches. Intervening commas, periods, and apostrophes should be omitted when conducting these searches.

The Title Index can be used to search for titles of books and series. If searching the full title does not produce satisfactory results, enter only the first few words of the title. Initial articles (a, an, the, das, el, la, etc.) in any language should be omitted, as should intervening commas, periods, and apostrophes; hyphens, however, should be retained. Unlike the other index searches, Title Index searches can be used with limits (explained below). This search should be used when the title of the work is known. If one is unsure how the title begins, a Keyword search could be more effective.

Name (Author/Narrator) Index searches for names of persons and organizations responsible for the content of a publication. Enter the person's name, last name first. The system will retrieve an alphabetical list of name headings beginning with the name closest to that entered along with the number of records attached to each heading. The list will also contain cross references indicated by the More Info icon so that if one enters Clemens, Sam, the list will contain a pointer to Twain, Mark. Use the Subject Index to search for works about a person or organization.

The Subject Index searches for Library of Congress subject headings. It will produce alphabetical lists of subject headings beginning with the heading closest to what was entered. The list also contains cross references indicated by the More Info icon that lead from terms that are not used in the Library of Congress system to similar subject headings that are in use and may be helpful. This search is useful when the researcher knows the correct subject heading or is attempting to discover the correct heading.

The Book Number Index searches for the book number assigned by the owning library. The search will produce a list of book numbers, starting with the number closest to the search term. For NLS book numbers, a space should be left after two-letter prefixes (RC 50000) but not after three-letter prefixes (BRA18500); and leading zeroes must be included (RC 08235). This search is useful for finding known book numbers or to produce a list of book numbers arranged in order.

Command Keyword. Like the Keyword search, this search will retrieve keywords found anywhere in the catalog record, but it offers more options. As in the Keyword search, the question mark and quotation marks are used to indicate truncated terms and phrases. If more than one word is entered (unless enclosed by quotation marks), the terms must be separated by Boolean operators: and, or, not. These tell the system how to combine the requested terms. Parentheses can be used to nest parts of complex searches. Finally, index codes can be used to restrict searching of a word or phrase to certain fields in the catalog record. There are index codes for name, title, series, annotation, content descriptors (tag lines), publication, book number, etc. There is a link to the index codes on every help page and on the examples at the bottom of the Basic Search page. The Boolean operators and index codes will not work in other types of searches.

As an example of the versatility of the Command Keyword search, consider a search for all works by Eric Kraft, where it is not certain whether the first name is Erik or Eric or the last name is Craft or Kraft. The works should contain no descriptions of violence or strong language; the word juvenile must not appear in the subject heading, but the word clam should be present in the annotation. The Command Keyword search entry then would read: (nkey "kraft eri?" or nkey "craft eri?") not (k521 violence or k521 language or ksub juvenile) and k520 clam.

A quick limit can be added for format. Admittedly these index codes are not terribly intuitive (readers who can remember them would probably not forget how to spell Eric Kraft) but there is a link to a list of the index codes further down among the search examples on the Basic Search page just in case.

Quick Limits produces a drop-down list of options for refining the search. Restrictions include recent (one- or two-year-old) books, NLS books, NLS and locally produced network books, NLS braille books, NLS audio books, or Web- Braille books. Limits do not work with Name, Subject, and Book Number Index searches. This is a good option for a complicated search when the Command Keyword search seems unnecessarily intricate. The list of Quick Limits may change as more is learned about user preferences.

The Set Search Limits button brings up a screen for refining a search. While somewhat harder to use than Quick Limits, it offers more options for limiting searches by combinations of holding library (location), year of production, format, and language. These limits do not work with Name, Subject, and Book Number Index searches. Guided Search. In addition to the Basic Search page, there is a Guided Search page. The search pages are linked to each other. The Guided Search is a variant of the Command Keyword, but employs drop-down menus and radio buttons to guide users through the selection of Boolean operators and indexes. While this makes it easier to use, selecting options with the mouse slows down the process. The Quick Limits drop-down list is not available from this screen.

Record displays

Title Index searches produce a titles list for records matching the search criteria. However Name, Subject, and Book Number Index searches produce a headings list. Selecting a heading from that list will in turn produce a titles list. The titles list contains a drop-down box allowing the reader to re-sort the records by name, title, or date produced (many older records and in-process records do not contain dates and will always appear after the oldest dated records on a descending-date sort).

Each record will have a check box to select records for printing or outputting by search term, author, title, and date on the first line and the holding agency or location and book number (if any) on the second line. The title is linked to the Brief Record display.

At the bottom of the page is a table for printing, e- mailing, and downloading records. The print option produces a plain text file to print or save to a PC disk drive. Records may also be sent to an e-mail address. One may elect to either print, download, or e-mail selected records or every record on the page. Finally, records may be saved in the MARC21 Communications format if they are to be copied to another MARC system.

The following record displays allow the use of the print/save/e-mail table for individual records. One may also move back and forth between records using the same display, or move to different display types.

Brief Record Display. This is the default display. It shows the holding agency or NLS location, format, book number, main author, title, series, reissue information, annotation, in-process stage, and, for Web-Braille, a link to the document itself. The name and series fields are highlighted because they are "search redirects," which means that if they are clicked, the system will perform a name or title search, respectively.

Subject/Contents Display. This display contains a contents note, if available, plus subject information such as the Dewey decimal number and subject headings. The subject headings are also search redirects. One may move back and forth among the records or select one of the other displays.

Full Record Display. This display contains everything in the catalog record (except for some coded fields). MARC Tags Display. This display contains everything in the catalog record displayed with MARC tags and subfield codes.

Other features of Voyager

Because it is an integrated system, records will no longer need to be exported from a bibliographic database to the online public catalog, so updates are instantaneous. Voyager also integrates name and subject authority records into their respective index searches, creating a flexible structure of cross references in the catalog.

Voyager also has a reporting module for the production of reports and exports on the catalog. It is expected that one practical application of this will be monthly downloads of new and revised MARC records that will be made available to network libraries for updating their local systems. This will upgrade the current bibliographic download program in several ways:

Information will be more complete than in the past, since the records are exported from a common comprehensive database and not from an autonomous system. Names and subjects will be more uniform because they will be under comprehensive authority control. Records may be captured and distributed at several points in the production cycle: when book numbers are assigned, when the book is completed, or whenever records are subsequently upgraded.

Web-Braille enriches braille music experiences for many patrons

Web-Braille, as many may already know, is an Internet or web-based service that provides, in an electronic format, many braille books and all braille magazines produced by NLS. The site is free to eligible readers and password- protected. The digital braille files can be read online or downloaded from the Internet and subsequently read on the computer, using a braille-aware notetaker, a refreshable braille display, or voice output. The files can also be embossed.

Music Web-Braille works exactly the same way, except that the files contain music scores. The first were made available in the spring of 2002, and they included about three hundred titles, running the gamut of musical styles and periods. Since then, registered patrons have been able to download a growing range and number of music titles, to their near universal delight, from Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier to "I'll Never Break Your Heart" and other songs in the series of Popular Music Lead Sheets. As one patron exclaimed, "It is a dream come true." Another said, "I am so excited about having music on Web-Braille. Now I'll be able to download scores and refer to them when I need to." A third, hearing news of music through Web-Braille, responded, "What a glorious surprise! As a pianist and singer, and as the instructor for the Hadley courses in music appreciation and braille music notation, I was absolutely thrilled My Everest printer reproduced these scores flawlessly." There are now more than 500 scores available. Although they continue to range across the musical spectrum, classical works predominate, reflecting both the strength of the collection and patron demand. Among the classical works, piano music is the best represented, while the popular music is heavily vocal. The largest part of the popular music is the complete collection of Popular Music Lead Sheets, with more than seventy issues to date. Each issue contains the lyrics, melody, and chords to five songs altogether some 350 songs currently available through Web-Braille.

While the songs and classics constitute most of music Web-Braille, a few music books or texts are available or will be in the near future. One of the most important of these has recently been added: The Dictionary of Braille Music Signs, by Bettye Krolick. This work is the standard reference for braille-reading musicians who have gone beyond the beginning stages of reading music.

Music scores on Web-Braille may be located through the NLS online catalog at Links to the digital scores are found in the appropriate catalog record. Web-Braille files are in ASCII DOS text format. Older titles use contracted braille for the non-music portions of the score. But recent rule changes specify uncontracted braille for the title page, lyrics, musical directions, and so on. Each Web-Braille file usually represents one volume of a music braille score and is named with its regular library call number and volume number, followed by a .brf file extension. For example, volume 2 of BRM 12345 will have the filename 12345m02.brf.

Benefits of Web-Braille music

Both music patrons and the Music Section can benefit enormously from the digitizing of music materials. For patrons, there is the freedom to search for and find independently any available music title at any time, day or night. Thus, it is possible not merely to know that NLS has a certain title, which could be requested and mailed out, but that the work itself can be downloaded at home. It can then be accessed and used in a variety of ways, only one of which is embossing. The downloading process is both easy and speedy. As an example, one patron called in desperate need of music that she had just learned would be required for a memorial concert only six days later. Using standard practices, it would have taken a miracle to get the braille score to her by the concert date, even if it were mailed out the moment she called. However, the patron was a Web-Braille user, and NLS managed to post the score on Web-Braille the next day. The patron successfully downloaded it and had the entire weekend to practice, instead of waiting for her music to arrive. Needless to say, she was delighted. A patron can also develop a library of music at home without necessarily having to commit significant space to the storage of embossed volumes.

For the Music Section at NLS, Web-Braille provides a number of different benefits. The first is preservation. NLS can now digitize its collection of "masters" the original paper copies of braille transcriptions contracted for by NLS. The digitized score becomes, in effect, a new format for the master collection. As long as there is a digital file, NLS will be able to emboss new copies for circulation, without the wear and tear on the master that results from thermoforming. And, when circulating copies become worn or damaged, it is relatively simple to emboss a fresh new copy. A second advantage of Web-Braille is the reduction in storage space required for copies of circulating scores. Shelves no longer need to be filled with large numbers of copies of scores that reflect a guess at how many copies may be requested over a five- to ten-year period. NLS can simply retain a digital master and emboss copies on demand. Of course there are many more details to braille music, and the Music Section has available for loan works that will provide instruction. What is given here is merely a small indication of one of the new areas in Web-Braille. NLS is working to ensure that the flow of new music scores to Web- Braille continues to grow and widen in scope.

How Web-Braille music works

Braille music is strictly linear. The notes are read in lines of musical indicators (notes, their values, pitch, tempo, etc.), using braille cells, just as literary lines are read. There is nothing of the graphical character of standard print music, where a note that is high on the five lines of the staff is high-pitched and a note that is low on the staff is low-pitched. Here are the first measures of Beethoven's piano sonata no. 6 (op. 10, no. 2) in standard notation, followed by the same measures in music (virtual) braille from an edition of this work in the NLS music collection:

(illustration: music staff and braille representation)

Lastly, below are those same measures when the braille dots are scanned by a computer. A special software program (called OBR) reads the dots in each braille cell and produces an ASCII text character equivalent for each cell's dot configuration. Thus, for a cell with only two dots, say, dots 1 and 2, the computer produces a "b". This "b" can, in braille music, specify the measure number (2) or other things.

allegro4 <#b4
j .>'>p'8"i+0- 8?+9-x2ylc *jce
a_> 8^g9- 8]9-v
b .>'8.?x8ik+b0 8w1+b3x2)lcicd 8wx; jb
_>'vx8^g9- 8$0-v '''''''' m
e .>'>c'>59"!'n]fa g[>d.ha@c
_> ''''' ;b_]++9a\# [k0aw1+90

It is clear that the braille and the corresponding ASCII representation of braille cells are linear: simply lines of characters. But those lines of characters indicate the musical values of notes of the score high, low, long, short, fast, or slow.

How then does braille music indicate pitch (the particular location of a note that is high or low)? Put simply, the notes are identified on the basis of the octaves of the piano keyboard, starting the count at the bottom or left end. The "first octave" is the lowest complete octave of the piano beginning with C. Thus, C above middle C is "fifth octave C," since that C is in the fifth octave of the piano. And "fifth octave C" is represented by special braille characters that indicate first the octave sign, then the number of the octave, followed by the name of the note.

Revised NLS package handling policies

NLS remains subject to precautionary procedures that were adopted for the U.S. Capitol complex, including the Library of Congress (LC), following the receipt of anthrax- contaminated mail in a Senate office building a few weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Although not physically located on Capitol Hill, NLS is part of LC and subject to these procedures along with others governing deliveries by commercial carriers that were placed in effect at the beginning of this year.

Mail has not been directly delivered to the LC or NLS by the U.S. Postal Service since October 2001. NLS mail is first sent to an off-site facility where it is irradiated to kill any anthrax spores that might be present before the mail is delivered. This causes considerable delay and often significant damage to the affected materials, although damage has been reduced in recent months with the use of lower levels of radiation.

Mail delivery problems led to a big increase in the number of items sent to the LC and NLS by private commercial carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and others. Many vendors were encouraged to use such services. All commercially shipped items received at the LC were x-rayed before entering the building.

Policies adopted to deal with the threat of contamination did not initially apply to items sent by private carriers, but this has now changed. As of January 15, 2003, such items may no longer be delivered directly but instead must go to an off-site processing facility to be x- rayed, tested, and quarantined pending the test results. Shipping companies must provide a manifest with the names and addresses of senders and recipients of all packages. If the test results are negative, the packages will be delivered to the recipients. However, if a sample tests positive, the package will be turned over to the Capitol Police for further analysis and disposition. Parcels containing personal items will be tested and, if the results are negative, will be returned to the sender in accordance with LC policy not to accept personal packages.

To avoid extra charges for materials addressed to NLS that have to be redirected to the off-site facility for testing, contractors and others shipping by commercial companies should use the following address:

Library of Congress - NLS/Blind (TSA - 20542)
Attn: [name and phone number of NLS recipient]
9140 East Hampton Drive
Capitol Heights, MD 20743

The above will also be used as the return address on all special mode mail sent by NLS using FedEx, UPS, etc. NLS continues to receive mail sent by USPS and shipped by private carriers, but only after a substantial delay. Whenever possible, NLS personnel should be contacted by telephone, e-mail, or fax.

(Photo caption: Members of the Audio Equipment Advisory Committee, clockwise from lower center: Joseph Bernal, Stephen Austin, Paul Blomster, Irwin Hott, Richard Riddell, Robert Jones, Linda Broady-Myers, Barry Levine, Brad Kormann, John Cookson, Teresa Lacy, and Bonnie Olson.)

Audio group discusses equipment

The 20th annual National Audio Equipment Advisory Committee meeting took place on April 2 4, 2003. The committee, comprising representatives from consumer groups, librarians, and repair volunteers, reviewed the current status of NLS's equipment manufacturing and repair programs and discussed the future of equipment as the digital conversion continues. Each subgroup also proposed recommendations that have been submitted to NLS staff for response.

Committee moderator and head of NLS's Engineering Section, John Cookson, began the meeting by remarking that "we are on the edge of the digital era," foreshadowing much of the committee's deliberations and recommendations on the development of digital audio equipment. Brad Kormann, chief of the Materials Development Division, welcomed the panel to Washington noting that the cherry blossoms were beginning to bloom. He touched on the notion of "the digital frontier" as he discussed the status of NLS's analog and digital projects. He was proud to report that although digital conversion has begun, the "analog program is still going strong, thanks to librarians, machine lending agencies, and repair groups."

Donald Smith, head of the Quality Assurance Section, described the current production of braille and cassette mailing containers, E-1 and C-1 machines, and headphones. Jim Miller, equipment control officer, discussed the equipment inventory, noting that NLS has well over one million pieces circulating and in stock. Kevin Watson, equipment repair officer, discussed the repair activities of the approximately 1,500 people in 300 groups. He cited estimates that the TelecomPioneers and G.E. Elfuns save NLS, conservatively, 4.3 million dollars annually in repair costs.

After a short break, during which members became acquainted with one another, John Cookson reintroduced NLS's digital project by outlining the three aspects involved with design: collection building, distribution, and players. NLS is continuing to record books digitally, and is on track for the goal of 20,000 titles by 2008. "Specifications for distribution methods and digital talking books are still in process," remarked Cookson. John Bryant, head of the Production Control Section, spoke about the current magazine delivery program that is undergoing beta testing and may prove to be one of the methods used for disseminating content. Research and development officer Michael Moodie briefed the panel on a future NLS study designed to "obtain information about patrons for use in designing the DTB player and the distribution system."

Margie Goergen-Rood, studio director, and Bill West, audio book production specialist, discussed the digital original mastering and duplication experiment. Lloyd Rasmussen, senior electronics engineer, summarized the research and development supporting NISO DTB production and testing, including player simulation, DTB formatting, and evaluation software. NLS automation officer Robert McDermott briefed the committee on the proceedings of the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, which he chairs. Carolyn Sung, chief of the Network Division, discussed the changing role of the Inventory Management Section regarding repair parts ordering and announced the new e-mail ordering address: <>. She also noted the new online site of Machines and Accessories reports, which will include new reports as they are issued and an archive of two-years' depth: <>.

Deliberations and recommendations

The second day was devoted to subcommittee meetings; the consumer, volunteer, and library representatives discussed the presentations made by NLS staff members and deliberated on plausible recommendations. The morning of April 4 was spent finalizing and drawing up specific recommendations and goals to be presented to Kurt Cylke, director of NLS.

Consumers. The consumers subgroup focused on the details of the new digital talking book and the features the group would like to have included in its design. They suggested manufacturing two portable units, one simple and one complex, that could be attached to a docking station to recharge; and they recommended an ideal size for the unit. They also requested the inclusion of a sleep timer and the use of large buttons with distinctive colors and textures.

Repair volunteers. Members of the G.E. Elfuns and TelecomPioneers requested that a "comprehensive catalog be produced, detailing all the parts and tools available and necessary for maintenance and repair." They discussed concerns about specific equipment and accessories, and also suggested that a system be incorporated to match repair groups in need of work with libraries in other regions in need of labor. Raising environmental and economic concerns (as well as plenty of laughs from the audience), the subgroup asked that NLS discontinue using Styrofoam peanuts and find a more suitable packing material.

Librarians. Reflecting the needs of their patrons, librarians also focused on the future of the digital talking book. They would like a user-friendly design that would be resistant to moisture and spillage, be rugged and durable, have multiple levels of functioning, bear serial numbers for easy tracking, be backward compatible with current accessories, and remain consistent with current equipment particularly in maintaining the tactile graphics. They also asked for an online version of the C-1 service manual, guidelines for distribution of DTBs, and the continued production of cassettes.

Committee members

Consumer representatives
Barry Levine, American Council of the Blind;
Frank Merendino, Blinded Veterans Association;
Carla McQuillan, National Federation of the Blind;
Linda Broady-Myers, Southern Region;
Irwin Hott, Midlands Region
Repair volunteer representatives
Jerry Adamson, TelecomPioneers (Midlands);
Paul Blomster, TelecomPioneers (Northern);
Joseph Bernal, TelecomPioneers (Southern);
Stephen Austin, TelecomPioneers;
Robert Smith, G.E. Elfuns
Network library representatives
Robert Jones, Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service (Midlands);
Richard Riddell, Philadelphia Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (North);
Teresa Lacy, Library and Instructional Resource Center for the Blind, Alabama (South);
Bonnie Olson, South Dakota Braille and Talking Book Library (West)

Mystic Seaport update: pass available year round

Mystic Seaport free library passes, available by request to NLS patrons and their families, are now valid for all twelve months of the year. As announced in the last issue of News (January March 2003, vol. 34, no. 1), the alliance between Mystic and NLS has been extended through 2003. The library pass entitles two adults and their children or grandchildren under eighteen free admission to the museum on a specified day of the week. Previously, the pass was unavailable during July and August, but this restriction has now been lifted. Residents of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts should contact their regional libraries to arrange for a pass; residents of all other states should contact NLS directly.

Network exchange

Arizona (Phoenix)

The Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library hosted a six-hour workshop on November 5, 2002, for all of its machine-repair volunteers. Presented by Kevin Watson of NLS, the workshop was attended by about twenty volunteers from Mesa, Sun City, and as far away as Tucson.

Watson discussed some of the technology that NLS has been working on for the new talking-book player and demonstrated certain features such as sound quality, ease of use, and durability. While interested, the volunteers commented that the new technology was somewhat over their heads. Noting that it will not be available for at least five to ten years in the future, Watson emphasized that volunteers will be needed more than ever in coming years to keep the supply of talking-book machines in good repair.

In addition, Watson talked about the NLS test tapes No. 1 (frequency response) and No. 2 (5kHz azimuth and speed). He explained how to use the tapes, how to make them last longer, and how to gauge when a tape has reached the end of its life cycle.

(Photo caption: NLS equipment Maintenance officer Kevin
Watson (left) instructs Arizona machine-repair volunteers on
the fine points of diagnosing and healing an ailing cassette
book machine.)

Arizona (Phoenix)

The Arizona State Braille and Talking Book Library is participating in Arizona's OneBookAZ program for 2003, which encourages people throughout the state to read and discuss the same book during the month of April. Now in its second year, the program was kicked off on April 5 when the authors spoke at the Arizona Book Festival held at the Carnegie Center, formerly the Arizona Hall of Fame Museum, Phoenix. Dramatic readings and book discussions occurred in Arizona libraries and bookstores throughout the month. Local television and print media publicized the program and did author interviews.

The adult book selection for 2003 is Kent Haruf's Plainsong (RC 49056), winner of several awards and designated as a notable book of the year by both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. It was narrated for NLS by Jim Ziegler. The story takes place in the small town of Holt, Colorado, where the lives of the residents become intertwined. A high school teacher struggles to raise his two sons after his wife abandons the family. At the same time, a pregnant teen is turned out of the house by her unsympathetic mother and finds a home, with the help of one of her teachers, with a couple of aging bachelor brother ranchers who are pondering what they may have missed by not marrying and having families. Haruf tells all these stories individually and then weaves them together as the characters eventually form a family of their own.

The OneBookAZ program also promotes a children's title, which this year is Jack Gantos's Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (RC 48254), the story of a boy with attention deficit disorder who can't seem to stop causing problems for himself and his classmates despite the efforts of his mother and teachers. The book's sequel, Joey Pigza Loses Control (RC 51237), was a Newbery Honor Book for 2001.

Florida (Pinellas)

On March 24 and 25, 2003, the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative once again sponsored a talking- book library tabletop display in the capitol rotunda for Library Days, an annual gathering of librarians from throughout the state. The event in Tallahassee is designed to give library supporters an opportunity to become full participants in the legislative process and to meet elected officials to let them know how important our libraries are and thank them for their support. Library Days begins with registration and tabletop exhibit set up, and then progresses to a briefing for participants on key legislative issues. After a strategy session, attendees fan out through the capitol to visit their local state legislators and encourage support of libraries. A Friends and Trustees Idea Exchange allows Friends an opportunity to share success stories. In the evening, a reception brings participants and legislators together for a more informal opportunity to discuss the needs and prospects of local libraries.

Marilyn Stevenson, Pinellas talking-book librarian, and Jerry Reynolds, Jacksonville talking-book librarian, were able to speak with state representatives about the service and encourage continued funding for the program. They also spoke with legislative aides, other presenters, and fellow librarians to promote referrals to the talking-book library.

(Photo caption: Marilyn Stevenson, Pinellas, and Jerry Reynolds, Jacksonville, at Library Days in Tallahassee)

Perkins 'campers' enjoy sleepover

The Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library in Watertown, Massachusetts, held its first library sleepover on a Saturday night in late January 2003. Ten blind girls aged 10 to 12 from all over New England arrived at the library in the early evening. The girls were already at Perkins for the weekend as part of the school's outreach program. Library staff worked closely with Beth Caruso, supervisor of outreach services, to plan this event.

After the girls unloaded their sleeping bags next to bookshelves, library director Kim Carlson and her guide dog, Jubilee, welcomed them and introduced them to children's librarian Marilyn Poindexter and outreach librarian Vicki Vogt.

Next came a combination tour/scavenger hunt of the library. With the help of the librarians, each girl selected a braille or cassette book to search for. Then, following a tour of the book stacks, which gave everyone an opportunity to crank the movable braille shelves and a turn at rewinding tapes, the girls set out to find their books a scavenger hunt! Each triumphantly succeeded in finding her selection. To celebrate, a spontaneous conga line of singing girls danced their way to the kitchen for a snack.

Afterwards they ran back to their sleeping bags (which had been placed on top of cots) and changed into pajamas. Marilyn read a quick story about Emily Dickinson, prompting a discussion about poetry and the versatile writer and artist Shel Silverstein. Later, some of the girls started their braille books, others wanted to chat, and a few completely exhausted promptly fell asleep.

Lights went out at 11 p.m. Most girls slept until 7 a.m. when staff woke them all up for breakfast in the library juice, hot chocolate, muffins, bananas, and cereal. After posing for final group pictures, the girls left with Perkins tote bags filled with puzzles, stuffed animals, braille calendars, lip gloss, chocolate hearts, and other fun goodies. The Perkins Library Friends group paid for the gift bags.

Although only one part of the girls' busy weekend, the library sleepover provided them another way to have great fun with books.

The Program

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress publishes books and magazines in braille and in recorded form on discs and cassettes for readers who cannot hold, handle, or see well enough to read conventional print because of a temporary or permanent visual or physical handicap. Through a national network of state and local libraries, the materials are loaned free to eligible readers in the United States and to U.S. citizens living abroad. Materials are sent to readers and returned by postage-free mail.

Books and Magazines

Readers may borrow all types of popular-interest books including bestsellers, classics, mysteries, westerns, poetry, history, biographies, religious literature, children's books, and foreign-language materials. Readers may also subscribe to more than seventy popular magazines in braille and recorded formats.

Special Equipment

Special equipment needed to play the discs and cassettes, which are recorded at slower than conventional speeds, is loaned indefinitely to readers. An amplifier with headphone is available for blind and physically handicapped readers who are also certified as hearing impaired. Other devices are provided to aid readers with mobility impairments in using playback machines.


You are eligible for the Library of Congress program if:

How to Apply

You may request an application by writing NLS or calling
toll-free 1-800-424-9100, and your name will be referred to
your cooperating library.

News is published quarterly by:

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542

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Editor: Ed O'Reilly

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