NLS librarian serves hundreds overseas

Yealuri Rathan Raj, NLS overseas librarian for nearly fourteen years, has a lot of experience in serving the needs of patrons living abroad. Among other activities, Raj arranges for the delivery of books and equipment to U.S. citizens in foreign countries who meet the requisite NLS criteria, and he troubleshoots myriad problems that can interfere with smooth transit. Patrons are grateful for these services and often tell him so. Raj recalls one patron, visiting NLS from Israel, who said to him: "Next to my husband, you are the most important person in my life."

Raj joined NLS in 1989 as overseas librarian. A native of Hyderabad, India, he received a bachelor's degree from Spicer Memorial College in Poona, India, and then went on to complete his education in the United States. He earned both an M.A. in religious education and an M.Ed. from Howard University in Washington, D.C., as well as an M.L.S. from the University of Maryland. Before coming to NLS, Raj was a reference librarian in Howard's Graduate Library where, among other tasks, he helped to develop its philosophy, mathematics, and communications collections.

Service to U.S. patrons abroad

Visually impaired and handicapped U.S. citizens living overseas for at least six months are eligible to receive essentially the same services they could obtain in the United States. These include free loan of braille volumes, talking books, and playback machines--with no postage for delivery and return of these materials. Overseas patrons also may request magazine subscriptions from a list of thirty-two braille and forty-eight recorded selections. In addition, patrons are routinely sent bimonthly issues of Talking Book Topics or Braille Book Review in large-print format (and, if requested, on cassette or computer diskette), plus other bibliographic and reference materials. Finally, those with Internet access can connect to the NLS web site to obtain catalogs and other information available online.

In a special semiannual publication, Overseas Outlook, Raj announces new catalogs that are available, provides news of recent developments, and includes a minibibliography of selections focusing on a particular subject that may be of interest to citizens overseas. The January-June 2003 issue, for example, featured an annotated listing of twenty-four books from the NLS collection on Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Currently, NLS serves about 350 overseas patrons--both first-time patrons and persons transferring from a U.S. regional or subregional library--in sixty countries. They include American diplomats and private sector employees or their family members, as well as a sizable number of retirees and others who choose to live abroad. Raj estimates that the group comprises mostly older people with macular degeneration, but younger adults and a few children are also represented.

Patron requests high in 2002

Raj annually fills between 10,000 and 15,000 requests by his clients for recorded and braille books. In 2002, service slightly exceeded the high end of the general range--15,198 talking books and 129 braille books. It is not unusual for persons to ask for up to twenty books at one time. The largest number of overseas patron requests comes from residents of Mexico and Israel, with residents of Canada in third place. Other requests are received from patrons living in Western Europe, a few from patrons in the Czech Republic, and a handful from persons in Africa, Asia, and South America.

To obtain desired reading matter from the NLS librarian, a patron selects the book or books he or she wants to read from an issue of Talking Book Topics or Braille Book Review and sends an order form to Raj. He then arranges to fill the order and, if necessary, to supply playback equipment compatible with the electrical current in the patron's country of residence. (In countries with a 220-volt system, patrons will need a converter--which NLS does not supply--if they wish to continue using the 110-volt machines they used in the U.S.) All items are shipped free, generally by surface mail in the case of books and equipment and by airmail in the case of magazines.

For the most part, reading materials and equipment are sent directly to patrons. However, for patrons located in countries that are not signatories to the Florence international postal protocol such as Mexico and refuse to allow shipments from NLS as free matter, Raj directs the shipments of books and magazines to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate and the patrons pick them up there. Not surprisingly, glitches occur in this system. Sometimes service is delayed because NLS has not received proof of a would-be patron's U.S. citizenship. Sometimes shipments are lost or stolen, and Raj has to track them down or refill the order. Sometimes readers experience difficulties with equipment, so Raj sends a replacement.

Still other problems crop up as well. For example, when one country with a substantial number of patrons unexpectedly began to impose customs duties on shipments of playback machines, causing considerable customer consternation, Raj was able through a series of letters to several officials in that country to eliminate the duties and allay the complaints.

For his efforts, Raj gets plenty of thanks. Besides becoming the second most important person in one patron's life, Raj has received letters from all over the world expressing gratitude. One letter from the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police to James Billington, Librarian of Congress, described the enthusiastic reaction of his mother, who lives in Switzerland, to NLS's overseas service. "An avid reader and professional editor for most of her life, she has been deeply appreciative of the variety and quality of materials you make available in recorded form. Her use of the service has been greatly enhanced by the helpfulness and cordiality of Mr. Raj. Whenever she experiences any difficulty with her equipment or materials, he is unfailingly helpful, friendly, and patient."

Other international services

Another part of Raj's job is to oversee the NLS program of international interlibrary loans. Although NLS cannot serve non-U.S. citizens directly, it lends braille and recorded books to libraries and institutions serving blind and physically handicapped persons in other countries. These interlibrary loans currently total up to 8,000 books a year. Most go to English-speaking countries Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand but multilingual and non-English speaking countries such as Germany, Jamaica, Latvia, South Africa, and Sweden along with the city of Hong Kong also account for a substantial number of requests.

Borrowers in foreign countries must have access to compatible equipment, since NLS does not lend playback machines. However, Raj will provide foreign interlibrary loan readers with a list of U.S. manufacturers of four-track machines that can be purchased.

NLS makes loans only to foreign libraries that are recognized as institutions serving people who are blind. Such libraries must submit an official request for loan privileges with NLS and, once approved, use a particular form for ordering books. (This form will be replaced in the near future by Internet-based orders.) NLS loans books for a period of six weeks, and borrowing libraries are responsible for their safe return.

Despite this established practice, Raj often gets letters from individuals (usually but not always visually impaired) in a variety of countries--such as Iraq, Iran, India, Bangladesh, and Malawi--seeking not only books but also clothing, watches, and money, among other items. If a book-seeking individual lives in a country that has a library with NLS loan privileges, Raj refers him or her to that library. But when the individual's country lacks diplomatic relations or is not on friendly terms with the U.S., Raj suggests contacting a charitable organization serving blind or physically handicapped individuals in the country to obtain help.

Raj also occasionally arranges to borrow books from foreign libraries.

In addition, NLS donates "excess" supplies--especially surplus braille volumes no longer needed by libraries in the United States--to developing countries that are just starting to build special format collections. So far in the 2003 fiscal year, such donations have exceeded 29,000 braille volumes (of which nearly 75 percent were declared surplus by libraries in Illinois). They went to libraries in Argentina, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Jamaica, India, Malawi, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey. Each year, as part of an exchange agreement, NLS also provides foreign libraries hundreds of commercial audio books received through copyright deposit by the Library of Congress.

New programs

NLS initiates new international programs from time to time. A recent example is a pilot project that sprang from a June 2003 conference in Puerto Rico of the Association of Caribbean Libraries and Research Institutes. Caribbean countries were offered an opportunity to contribute locally recorded books to the NLS collection and to receive books along with appropriate playback machines through International Interlibrary Loan for use by blind readers. Three countries so far have taken up the offer: the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and the Dominican Republic. If the pilot venture proves worthwhile to enough interlibrary loan users, NLS will consider expanding the program.

(photo caption: Millie Rosenblatt, visiting NLS from Haifa, Israel, chats with Raj and NLS Network Division chief Carolyn Sung)

NLS overseas service at a glance

Developing the national collection

The 2003 Collection Development Advisory Group (CDAG), made up of consumer organization representatives, readers, and librarians, met at NLS on May 21-23, 2003, to discuss collection building policies. After a day and a half of deliberations, the group presented NLS with sixteen recommendations for enhancing its collection.

Topping the list was a request for an increase in production of adult and young adult fiction with African American protagonists. The committee also recommended that NLS expand its print/braille selections from thirty-five to forty titles a year, with the five additional titles divided between grades K-3 and 2-4. The group also asked that all titles in sequential series be produced and made available in the same format.

They would like more series books of interest to boys, grades 4-7, and more nonfiction for grades K-3 and 2-4, including biographies and books on animals, science, sea life, plants, history, and other countries. Committee members expressed patrons' wishes to learn more about NLS narrators, asking that biographical information and news about them be included in Talking Book Topics.

The committee also recommended that NLS:

The meeting began with opening remarks by NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke and Materials Development Division chief Brad Kormann. Next, James Herndon, head of the Collection Development Section, gave a brief orientation on the policies and processes of building NLS's collections. Collection development librarians Barbara Kelly, Patricia Steelman, and Gloria Zittrauer, who select books for young adults, for children, and for senior adults, respectively, discussed their roles and responsibilities in collection practices.

Following additional presentations by NLS staff and officers, the advisory group members discussed what they heard and deliberated on their recommendations. The meeting concluded with the group commending NLS on its collection building practices of the previous year and thanking the director, the Collection Development staff, and CDAG chairperson Ever Lee Hairston and secretary Renee Snowten for their hard work.

(photo caption: Collection Development Advisory Group in session. From left, Deana Wallace, Oakley Pearson, Brad Kormann, Jim Herndon, Diana Brash, Blas Yslas Jr., Patricia Shreck, Ever Lee Hairston, Christopher Mulkin, Nancy Doering, Sue Walker, George Brummell, Lissa Shanahan, and Renee Snowten)

2003 Collection Development Advisory Group

Consumer organization representatives



Wisconsin patron establishes awards for outstanding children's books

Dr. Katherine Schneider, an NLS patron for forty-five years, and her family have established an inspiring new award program--the Schneider Family Book Awards--through the American Library Association (ALA) to honor authors and illustrators of books for teenage and younger readers that portray children's experiences with disabilities.

Under the Schneider award program, prizes will be given annually to recognize three ALA-selected books, one targeting each of the following age ranges: up to ten years old, eleven through thirteen, and the teen years through eighteen. Each prize will comprise $5,000 and a framed plaque.

To qualify for an award, a book must creatively convey a child's or adolescent's experience in coping with disability--physical, mental, or emotional. That experience may include living with personal disabilities or with those of family members or friends.

The originator of this award program is currently a senior psychologist and coordinator of training at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Counseling Service. Kathie Schneider started receiving braille books from the Library of Congress at nine years of age and talking books soon after that. An avid book lover ever since, she describes librarians as "superheroes"--not only for sending her braille and recorded books, but also for steering her to information she longed to discover. She read, for example, most of the World Book Encyclopedia when it was first published in braille in 1959. Now she roams the Internet.

Through the awards, Schneider seeks to encourage the writing of children's books about disabilities by recognizing their authors and illustrators--partly because very few such books were available when she was growing up.

NLS librarian Patricia Steelman, Collection Development Section, serves on the ALA committee that will review nominated titles.

Nominations of recommended titles for the first annual round of Schneider book prizes are due December 1, 2003. Nominations, along with supporting justification, should be submitted to: ALA Awards Program (Governance Office), 50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611. For forms and further information about the nomination process, contact the ALA Awards Program Office at l-800-545-2433 or online at

Conference agendas show concerns with technology and the future

Roll call, committee reports, new officers, motivational workshops, resolutions, light-hearted banter, and recreational diversions highlighted the four regional meetings of librarians serving blind and physically handicapped readers around the country.

Southern Conference convenes in New Orleans

The first regional meeting was held by the Southern Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped on March 11-13, 2003, in New Orleans, Louisiana. With conference chair Barbara McCarthy presiding, the general business meeting covered reports from the Audio- Equipment, Collection Development, and Long-Range Planning committees. The librarians received an update on the descriptive video project and explored ideas for the 2004 national preconference.

Conference host Elizabeth Perkins, Louisiana regional library, joined Emma Schroth, also of the Louisiana regional library, and Ava Smith, Texas regional library, in a panel discussion, titled "Strategies for Reaching Underserved Populations." Rayhe Puckett of the Mississippi regional library led a session on "Changing Customer Demographics." Greg Carlson, Florida regional library, shared tips on "Outreach and Marketing," featuring his library's new video on talking book library service. Other sessions included: "Tips on Advising Readers," "Battling Staff Burnout," "Getting the Most from Your Friends Group," and "Volunteers: Recruit, Retain, Reward!"

NLS Network Division chief Carolyn Sung, Network Services Section head Steve Prine, and network consultant David Whittall were on hand to update librarians on activities in Washington, D.C. They discussed reference services and referral options and changes in CMLS procedures. NLS automation head Bob McDermott reported on the activities of the Digital Long-Term Planning Group and on NLS technological initiatives. Jacqueline Conner, Multistate Center East (MSCE) director, and Karnell Parry, Multistate Center West (MSCW) director, updated participants on the services the centers provide.

Ruth Hemphill, Tennessee Regional Library, was elected conference chair, and Florida Braille and Talking Book Library volunteered to host the 2005 regional conference.

Philadelphia hosts Northern Conference

The Northern Conference regional meeting was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 30-May 2, hosted by Philadelphia regional librarian Vickie Collins. New Jersey regional librarian Deborah Toomey presided over a preconference one day earlier in Trenton.

The preconference featured a seminar on the "Art of Audio Book Production," with NLS participants Margie Goergen-Rood, Recording Studio director, and Bill West, audio-book production specialist, accompanied by NLS studio narrators Robin Beatty and Laura Giannarelli. The panel presented an overview of the studio, describing the daily routine and explaining such operations as assigning books to narrator/monitor teams; handling problems with assignments; auditioning and interviewing potential narrators, monitors, and reviewers; and providing adequate on-the-job training for new staff. The seminar also reviewed technical issues including the host environment, lighting, sound isolation booths, and ventilation. An open discussion and brief commentary on "The Future of Digital Production" brought the event to a close.

The Northern Regional Conference was called to order by chair Vickie Collins, who welcomed attendees, called the state roll, and received state reports. "Doing More with Less" topped the conference agenda. Librarians heard and discussed presentations on dollar-stretching programs, including measures to involve volunteers, seniors at work, and transitional workers. They reviewed "Penny-Pinching Ideas for Outreach and Fundraising" and "Money-Saving Innovations Such as E-mail/ E-reference." They also discussed maximizing space as a means of freeing financial restraints, as well as the importance of advocacy and progress in access technology.

The librarians received NLS updates on new statistical requirements, digital long-range planning, CMLS, and other topics from Materials Development Division chief Brad Kormann, automation officer Bob McDermott, Sung, and Whittall. Jacqueline Conner, MSCE, was again on hand to update the group on activities at the multistate center. Robert McBrien, New York City Regional Library, was elected conference chair. The 2005 conference is planned to take place in New York City.

Midlands meets in Minnesota

The Midlands Regional Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Readers was held on May 1-3, 2003, in Bloomington, Minnesota. Chairperson Judith Bow, Ohio Machine-Lending Agency director, presided. Ellie Sevdy, Minnesota Machine-Lending Agency director, and Catherine Durivage, Minnesota regional librarian, hosted the event.

The group received updates from NLS staff, including Judy Dixon, consumer relations officer, who made a presentation on Web-Braille, and Jane Caulton, Publications and Media Section writer-editor, who discussed NLS public awareness activities. Steve Prine and Jacqueline Conner also addressed the group.

Peter Pearson, president of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, gave a motivational presentation on "Effective Fundraising in Our Changing Times"; Jim Dust, Sue Arrington, and Kris Peck of Telex demonstrated digital recording; and James Burts and Mitake Holloman Burts of Keystone Systems, Inc., and Iowa regional librarian Karen Keninger demonstrated accessibility software. Durivage, Sevdy, and Barb Misselt of SELCO/SELS led an open forum on "Building Successful Partnerships," and Missouri regional librarian Richard Smith and staff member Debbie Musselman joined Caulton in a presentation on outreach. Shannon Caylor, a chiropractor, gave the librarians some thoughts about "Learning to Live and Thrive in Our Stressful Times: Bringing Health and Emotional Stability to Our Jobs."

The group toured the home of the Minnesota Machine- Lending Agency at the St. Paul Communication Center and the Minnesota regional library on the campus of the Minnesota Academy for the Blind. Minnesota author Losi Gelman shared glimpses of her journey to becoming an author during dinner Thursday evening. Local radio personality and Communication Center recording volunteer Charlie Boone introduced his friend Wally Hinz, a Minnesota patron, during lunch on Saturday. Hinz talked about his experiences in becoming a successful entrepreneur after losing his sight.

Catherine Durivage was elected chairperson of the Midlands Conference.

Bismarck welcomes Western conferees

The Western Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals met in Bismarck, North Dakota, on May 15-17, 2003, following a May 14 preconference on the "Art of Audio Book Production." Bill West and Margie Goergen-Rood were joined in this presentation by NLS Recording Studio narrator/reviewer Celeste Lawson.

The event was hosted by Stella Cone, North Dakota regional librarian. Conference chair Henry Chang opened the meeting, welcomed the attendees, and conducted the business meeting. The group held sessions on READS and KLAS in the afternoon. The conference received status updates from NLS staff, including Jane Caulton, Bob McDermott, and Steve Prine, and from MSCW's Karnell Parry. Bob Rutten of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction made a presentation on outreach to public schools. The group also heard from Bernie Steffan, Sue Bicknell, and Cindy Olson on databases used by the North Dakota State Library.

The group participated in panel discussions on media services, moderated by Terri Wilhelm, North Dakota Library public awareness coordinator. She was joined by Phyllis Mensing of the Associated Press, Chuck Bartholomay of Bismarck's Med Center One, and Dave Thompson of North Dakota Public Radio. Helen Baumgartener of North Dakota Vocational Rehabilitation, Diane Briggs of Fargo Public Library, and Greg Molinaro also held a panel discussion with Terri Wilhelm on "Outreach to Health Care Providers, Public Libraries, and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors."

David Borlagh, president of the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Foundation, gave an overview of the purpose and establishment of the Washburn Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, with a little history of the expedition itself. An evening event included a tour of Fort Abraham Lincoln. At the end of the conference, participants had an opportunity to tour the Interpretive Center at Fort Mandan, where the expedition wintered in North Dakota.

Jerry Packard received the gavel as the next conference chairperson, and Bessie Oaks was elected vice-chair.

The Western Conference ended the round of regional conferences for 2003. Western and Midlands conferees expect to meet together for a joint regional conference in Seattle in 2005.

Participants in each conference are looking forward to the 2004 National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped, which will be held in Grand Rapids, South Dakota, May 2-6.

Children's book award founder urges sharing of knowledge and perceptions

As reported elsewhere in this issue of News, Dr. Katherine Schneider and her family recently established a new book awards program to recognize writers and/or illustrators of children's books about coping with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities--either one's own or those of family members or friends. The program awards three $5,000 prizes annually, one each for books targeting children up to ten years old, children eleven through thirteen, and teenagers.

The force behind the new awards, Kathie Schneider, is currently a senior psychologist and coordinator of training at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Counseling Service. She is an active member of her local library's Friends group and became its president in the summer of 2003. As Schneider puts it, she has long benefitted from the library's services and would like to provide some help in return.

Given her education (B.A. from Michigan State University and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University), professional background, experiences, and perspectives, it is not difficult to grasp Schneider's description of herself as "always a curious soul," thirsty for knowledge and eager to share it. "Being blind makes it harder to get some kinds of information, which has left me trying even harder to get it," she reports.

The "world of reading for fun" began for her at age nine when she started to receive braille books from the Library of Congress through the mail. Talking books on 33 rpm records soon followed. As a result, she says, "I spent many happy summer afternoons lying in my room reading classics like Little Women." However, since popular books like Nancy Drew mysteries and comic books were not then available in braille, she could only wonder "what the other kids were talking about in these realms."

Librarians have been "superheroes" to Schneider throughout her life. They not only sent her braille and recorded books, but also steered her to information she craved to know. When the first braille edition of the World Book Encyclopedia was published in 1959 and her school library procured a copy, Schneider was ecstatic. "I read most of it, thinking I'd know as much as librarians assuming they knew everything in every book they had." She also joined a teen book-discussion group at the library, even though most of the books being discussed were too current to have been converted to braille or recorded. Still, for Schneider, "just being around book readers was exciting."

Technological advances have been a boon for her--as for others--albeit with some caveats. For example, she leapt at the chance to be one of the first testers of scanners when they were initially developed in the mid-1970s to turn printed words into speech. At that time, she recalls, a scanner "was as big as a desk, very temperature-sensitive, and had a machine voice with a Swedish accent" that was hard to decipher. Some fifteen years later when Schneider bought a scanner, the device "was as small as a typewriter and cost one twentieth of the earlier version." But, she says: "There's a trade-off for being able to read any book I want before it comes out in braille or on tape. I have to scan it page by page and listen to it in machine-speak. For poetry or books with a lot of dialect or foreign words, it isn't worth it. A human reader is far preferable. It's like the difference between taking a vitamin C pill and enjoying a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The vitamin content may be the same but the experience is not."

Despite her incessant quest for knowledge, Schneider is conscious of big gaps in her base of incidental information- -such as the color of a ruby (a question that appeared on some intelligence tests she took in the past). She also feels way behind on product information touted by advertisements. Braille magazines don't carry ads, public radio and television stations (her principal media sources) advertise very little, and Internet ads mostly can't be deciphered by her talking screen reader. Therefore, Schneider says, "when it comes to finding out about newfangled inventions like hybrid cars or red, white, and blue pretzels, I rely on sighted friends to clue me in." Similarly, she depends on sighted people's opinions when it comes to matching colors, choosing a style of lamp to add to the living room, and "knowing how beautiful my Seeing Eye dog is."

Schneider continues: "Visual beauty is another area where I'm clueless. Why is puce, which someone described to me as muddy pink, a color anyone would like? I stayed away from art and architecture classes for my humanities requirements in undergraduate school, but I would still like to know enough to stay alive in a Trivial Pursuit game when my team lands on art." While not denying that visual art literacy may be possible for persons who are totally blind, Schneider believes enjoyment for them may be limited to sculpture and other objects that can be touched.

Occasionally a picture "can be worth more than a thousand words," she acknowledges. For example, when searching the Internet for information about cats to help her goddaughter with a report, she somehow got into a pornographic site. A photo with the title "Hot Kitty" quickly let her know this site was not one she was seeking-- and left her chuckling about "an advantage of being blind, not having to deal with those images."

Schneider wants to share. She wants sighted persons to share their perceptions of visual beauty with her. Her advice to them: "When a blind friend comes to visit, find beauty you can both enjoy. Does your town have a rose garden, a symphony, a farmer's market, a bookstore, or a library with a good collection of books on tape? Beauty is even better when it's shared."

And she wants just as strongly to share her knowledge with others. She often searches the Internet to find needed bits of information for friends, such as how to "correctly price a coin for a thrift sale." She also encourages friends to touch the animal carvings and other objects she collects. A particular favorite is a Hopi katchina story doll carving, named Tehabi, of a blind man carrying a mobility-impaired man. Schneider relates the moral of the story: "You see for me; I'll walk for you."

(photo: Katherine Schneider with her Seeing Eye dog)

NLS develops new poster series on reading enjoyment for all ages

NLS is launching a new poster series to enhance public awareness of the national free-reading program. It plans to release six posters at six-month intervals over a three-year period, beginning in October 2003, for use by network libraries. As in the past, the poster themes were chosen primarily on the basis of librarians' preferences and suggestions revealed in responses to a survey questionnaire seeking their views on a number of possible topics. Seventy-two libraries answered the questionnaire.

The first poster in the series, "A Good Book Is Worth Sharing," features husband and wife Bud and Billy Jean Keith, patrons of the talking-book program both in the United States and abroad for some fifty years. Billy Jean, who retired in 1998 as a policy analyst for the National Council on Disability, received cassettes in London when she lived there in the 1970s. She presently works part-time as a peer counselor for the Independence Center of Northern Virginia. Bud, a retired employee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights, obtained talking books through the American Embassy in Panama while serving in the Peace Corps during 1965-1967. Holder of a Ph.D. in Adult/Special Education from the University of Pittsburgh, he describes 75 to 80 percent of his reading as "escapist." He says, "I love to let my mind wander [and] to travel. It's imagination and I learn a lot."

The Keiths live in northern Virginia and are served by the Arlington County subregional library.

In addition to the retired couple sharing a book, two other poster themes in the new series focus on the pleasures of reading together. One portrays a grandfather reading a print/braille book to his small granddaughter, while the second shows a patron sharing a print/braille book with his young son and other family members. The remaining posters depict a patron with a guide dog visiting a library, a young couple in the kitchen using a recipe in a talking cookbook, and a patron painting while listening to a talking book.

The full color posters are available in two sizes: 17 by 22 inches and 8-1/2 by 11 inches. The smaller size comes both with an easel back for stand-up display and without the easel for bulletin board posting. Each poster can be customized with the name, address, and telephone number of the local cooperating library.

(photo caption: New NLS poster depicts Bud and Billy Jean Keith as they share a talking book)

Network Exchange

Arizona (Phoenix)

On April 21, 2003, U.S. Senator Jon Kyl visited the Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library to narrate the children's book Slim and Miss Prim, by Robert Kinerk, for Arizona's collection of locally produced books. A picture book published under the Rising Moon imprint of Northland Publishing in Flagstaff, Slim and Miss Prim is a rollicking tale of how the determined and talkative Miss Prim rescues her kidnaped cowhand Slim from a gang of local rustlers. Longtime volunteer monitor Mel Shutz teamed with the senator for the recording session.

During a tour of the library, Senator Kyl met Steve Prine, head of the NLS Network Services Section, who happened to be making a scheduled NLS visit at the time, and state librarian GladysAnn Wells.

This is the second time an Arizona member of Congress has volunteered in Arizona's recording studio. In 2001 U.S. representative J.D. Hayworth narrated House Mouse, Senate Mouse, a delightful story of how a bill becomes a law--even for mice.

[photo caption: Senator John Kyl (R., Arizona) with, from left, NLS Netword Services Section head Steve Prine, Braille and Talking Book Library Division director Linda Montgomery, and state librarian GladysAnn Wells]

Florida (Pinellas)

On May 20, 2003 the Pinellas Talking Book Library in Clearwater, Florida, hosted a reception for the opening of an art exhibit at the library. The collection of works from the Creative Clay, Inc., Cultural Arts Center was on display at the library until the end of June. Creative Clay's mission is to provide people with developmental, physical, and emotional challenges a place in which to experience all aspects of the art world. The collection on display includes sculptures, paintings, and tributes to victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Paula LaHaie of Creative Clay, Inc., presented information about the organization's studios, client goals, and outreach services. The Creative Clay partners recently traveled to Japan to learn other ways to expand their services, and they hope representatives from Japan will soon visit their facilities in St. Petersburg and Safety Harbor, as well as their newest artists studio in North Carolina.

(photo caption: Paula LaHaie of Creative Clay, Inc., and Marilyn Stevenson, Pinellas Talking Book librarian with a collaborative student project in repsonse to to 9/11: Hands for Our Heroes)

Montana acquires digital system

On April 22, 2003, the Montana Talking Book Library became the first regional library in the nation to install a low- complexity mastering (LCM) digital audio recording system in its Helena recording studio. The purchase of this system was made possible through donations from dedicated patrons and their families.

This system, designed and developed by the NLS audio production staff and installed under the guidance of NLS audio production specialist Bill West, meets NLS requirements for digital recordings and produces superb sound quality. The remarkable LCM system prepares the Montana Talking Book Library recording studio for the digital future, whatever decisions are made regarding machines and media. Although studio recordings will be mastered and stored in digital format, duplicated copies for patrons will continue to be issued on familiar analog cassettes for the next few years, until NLS reaches final decisions concerning digital talking book technology.

After two months of full production, staff and volunteers are pleased with the LCM, and volunteer monitors, narrators, and reviewers are having fun operating the system. Recording Studio director Diane Gunderson conducted most of the training, with the assistance of volunteers Phyllis Herbert, Lea Blunn, and Giles Walker. Gunderson is impressed by how quickly and easily the staff and volunteers have learned the LCM system.

The LCM offers many more options in the recording process than the previous analog system. These include such audio text functions as editing, adding, deleting, marking, indexing, and maneuvering throughout entire book files. The narrator now has the benefit of hearing a section of the previous recording session to get a flavor for the sound levels and rhythm in order to continue with a seamless weekly recording, thereby saving time and streamlining the whole production process. (This item was written by Christie Briggs, Montana Talking Book Library, and is reprinted with permission.)

(photo caption: John Holbrook narrates the Montana Talking Book Library's first digital audio book, Six-Gun Syndicate by Norman Fox)

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

Writers: Robert Axtell, Jason Greenberg, John Hanson, Marilie Rockefeller