NLS Press Release

NLS forms Advisory Committee for Digital Transition

For Immediate Release:
February 13, 2007
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or rfis@loc.gov


Committee will advise transition to digital talking books and players

WASHINGTON, DC—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 for the next stage of the digital project—implementation. Beginning in 2008, NLS will increase production and distribution of digital talking books and players, while decreasing distribution of recorded cassettes and C-1 analog talking-book machines. To aid the implementation, NLS 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, met 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 audio books 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 the distribution plans to ensure that no significant considerations are overlooked. Finally, members will offer new and emerging ideas for improving the transition process.

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 also serve on the committee. Additionally, the group includes six state librarians from different parts of the country.

Carolyn Sung, chief of the NLS Network Division, chairs 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 advisory committee was 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 was also addressed. The meeting’s main focus, however, was to discuss distribution plans for digital talking books and players as well as relevant transition issues. Among the transition issues discussed were book and player distribution, shelving, duplication, circulation system modifications, machine distribution, monitoring issues, and copy allotment.

More than 23 million copies of recorded and braille books and magazines were circulated to a readership of 799,718 in 2004. The International Union Catalog provides access to 423,500 titles (19 million copies). Audiobook readers borrow an average of 31 books and magazines a year. Braille readers average 20 books and magazines a year.

An overview of the NLS digital talking-book project may be found in Current Strategic Business Plan for the Implementation of Digital Systems at www.loc.gov/nls/businessplan2006.html. For enrollment information, visit www.loc.gov/nls or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2011-01-10