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NLS Press Release

Texas and Illinois Libraries Honored
For Exemplary Service to Blind and Disabled Readers

For immediate release
June 1, 2012
Contact: Jane Caulton
(202) 707-0521 or jcau@loc.gov

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, today presented awards to libraries in Texas and Illinois for outstanding service to blind and disabled readers.

The Texas Talking Book Program, a division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, received the Network Library of the Year Award. The annual award, in its eighth year, carries a $1,000 cash prize.

The Chicago Public Library Talking Book Center, a subregional library of the Illinois Network of Talking Book and Braille Libraries, received the sixth annual Network Subregional Library of the Year Award, which also carries a $1,000 prize.

NLS presented the awards at a luncheon today, June 1, in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

"These are challenging times for all government agencies, but the Texas and Chicago libraries have continued to meet the needs of the blind and disabled readers they serve in creative and innovative ways," said NLS Director Karen Keninger. "They are outstanding representatives of the more than 100 cooperating NLS libraries across the United States."

The Texas Talking Book Program, which is headquartered in Austin, served nearly 16,000 individual readers and institutions and circulated 891,662 books and magazines in 2011. That's in addition to the more than 143,000 books and magazines that Texas readers accessed online through the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service.

"In recent years, the transition from analog cassette technology to digital cartridge and download services has presented both challenges and rewards for our readers," said Peggy D. Rudd, director of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. "Through planning, innovation and hard work, the Texas Talking Book Program staff has made the transition as seamless as possible, while generating great excitement among readers who continue to marvel at the digital talking-book machine and who cannot wait for new books to appear on BARD."

NLS began distributing digital talking-book machines (DTBMs) to replace cassette machines in 2009. Texas was one of eight libraries that helped NLS test digital books and playback equipment before production was implemented for the entire network. In 2011, the program's staff made BARD support and training a top priority.

The Texas Talking Book Program also scores high in customer satisfaction, according to the library's nomination application. Every two years, two thousand randomly selected readers are asked to participate in a customer-satisfaction survey. The library conducted its latest survey in October 2011, and according to those who responded:

"I cannot thank you enough for your service through all these years," the daughter of a reader in Greenville, Texas, told the Talking Book Program staff. "Your staff could give lessons in service to others."

NLS Network Division chief Carolyn Sung said the Texas program also excels in providing service in Spanish, maintaining a toll-free information line that includes audio versions of its quarterly newsletters, and offering public awareness, education, and outreach activities across Texas, including "BARD parties" where readers can learn how to use the download service. Library staff automated the process for inspecting DTBMs before they are distributed to readers and also established a special unit to answer questions on disability and health issues.

The winner of the 2011 Network Subregional Library Award, the Chicago Public Library Talking Book Center (CPLTBC), provided service to 2,921 readers and circulated 128,447 books and other materials, according to director Deborah Taylor.

The CPLTBC, located in the Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago, works closely with the Chicago Public Library to ensure readers with disabilities can participate fully in library services and programs. In addition to a monthly book discussion, the library hosts an annual poetry program; diversity celebrations, including African American Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month; and popular winter and summer adult reading programs. In 2011 the center hosted its first online and in-person (fully accessible) adult book discussion with the winter reading program. In collaboration with the Illinois Network of Talking Book and Braille Libraries, CPLTBC staff plan and moderate discussions for online accessible RA Bookbreak sessions, which are open to reader advisors and staff from the entire NLS network of libraries.

NLS created the Network Library Award to recognize outstanding accomplishments of libraries serving blind and disabled individuals across the country and in U.S. territories. A committee of librarians and consumer organization representatives chose finalists from among the nominated libraries based on mission support (defined by the American Library Association Revised Standards and Guidelines for Service), creativity and innovation in providing service, and record of reader satisfaction. The four NLS network regional conference chairs recommended the final selections to the NLS director.

NLS administers the braille and digital talking-book program, a free library service available to U.S. residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or disability makes reading a regular printed page difficult. Through its national network of regional libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in digital audio and braille formats, as well as digital audio equipment, directly to enrollees at no cost. Selected materials are also available online for download, and music instructional materials are available in large print, braille, and recorded formats. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/nls/ or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2012-06-07