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NLS: That All May Read

What's New? 2002


What's New? is an annual update for those already familiar with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). It describes the most recent developments in the NLS program. Please contact your cooperating network library to request any item mentioned, unless otherwise indicated.


Web-Braille, NLS braille books on the Internet, continues to grow and receive enthusiastic responses from users. With more than 2,000 users and almost 4,300 titles, Web-Braille is now a permanent part of the NLS program.

In May 2001 all NLS-produced magazines and sports schedules were added to Web- Braille. Now braille magazine contractors are required to transfer grade 2 files to the site within one working day after completing shipment of the embossed copies.

In late 2001 NLS began testing newly developed optical braille recognition software's capability to scan physical braille books and store them as grade 2 braille files. The scanning of older braille titles makes it possible to add classic literature, prequels to existing Web-Braille titles, and other books of interest to users. A pilot test of ten titles was very successful; further tests with other contractors are planned.

In December 2001 nearly two hundred braille musical scores and one music magazine were added to Web-Braille. More music materials will be added as they are produced.

NLS is also exploring the possibility of obtaining from its braille book producers the files for older braille titles. It is likely that hundreds of additional NLS-produced titles can be added to Web-Braille in the near future.

NLS is currently developing a software package called WB-View. This software will allow Web-Braille users to browse Web-Braille materials more easily both online and offline. Features will include the ability to set multiple bookmarks, go to bookmark, find and find again, go to last visited position on open, and much more.


Digital Talking Books: Progress to Date (May 2002) has been issued in braille,in large print, and online at www.loc.gov/nls/technical/dtbprogress/index.html. An audiocassette edition is in production. This report covers updates on next-generation technology; work accomplished to date, including the digital talking-book standard, NLS's computer-based cost-analysis system, and the formation of the Digital Long-Term Planning Group; next steps to implement the use of digital talking books; and other digital issues such as recording systems and Web-Braille. The report also contains a bibliography. The formats noted above are available upon request from the NLS Reference Section as indicated at the end of this brochure.

Two large-print catalogs were completed: Cassette Books 2001 and For Younger Readers 2000-2001. Braille Books 1999-2000 has been produced in braille. Readers who requested these catalogs on their annual publications order forms should have received them through the mail.

Braille Book Review/Talking Book Topics on computer diskette is now being produced with a braille diskette label in addition to its large-print label.

Copies of other braille-books catalogs are available in braille--either to keep or on loan, depending on supplies. Other recorded-books catalogs are available on voice-indexed audiocassettes that you can borrow through your library and, for catalogs produced between 1985 and 1998, on flexible discs that you can keep.

A number of new items are available on loan from the NLS Music Section. These include a group of audiocassette lectures by Michael Barclay from Opera Education International. Specific operas covered are Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery and Fiery Angel, Moore's Ballad of Baby Doe, Heggie's Dead Man Walking, the Weill-Brecht Dreigroschenoper (Three Penny Opera), Donizetti's La Favorite, Handel's Giulio Cesare, Dvorak's Rusalka, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride, and many more.

In addition, a range of songs from Guitar by Ear are now available on audiocassette. These include such titles as Blackbird (The Beatles), Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi), Dust in the Wind (Kansas), Eruption (Van Halen), Rock This Town and Sleepwalk (Stray Cats), and more.

NLS continues to provide access to many of its documents and services through Internet resources that include a web site (www.loc.gov/nls) and an ftp site for document downloading. Visitors to the NLS web site can search the catalog; view and download Talking Book Topics, Braille Book Review, the text of published catalogs and bibliographies, and newsletters; and obtain addresses and telephone numbers of cooperating libraries.

The web site is designed to be fully accessible to persons using text-based browsers and adaptive devices that output information in large-print, braille, or synthetic speech.

Automated Catalog

The International Union Catalog for Braille and Audio Materials, a database for finding books in special formats, can be searched online www.loc.gov/nls/web-blnd/advancedsearch.html and on CD-ROM. The International Union Catalog lists more than 380,000 special-format books in the NLS collections as well as holdings from other agencies that serve blind and physically handicapped readers, such as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the National Library for the Blind (Stockport, England), and many others.

Reference Materials

Reference factsheets, circulars, directories, and bibliographies provide information on topics of interest to persons with disabilities and to service providers. Reference publications all appear on the NLS web site (www.loc.gov/nls/reference) and can be provided on computer diskette upon request from the NLS Reference Section as indicated in the last paragraph of this brochure.

The following NLS-produced reference materials have been recently updated:

The following new factsheets were released:

The following NLS-produced reference materials have been recently put into alternate format:

The Reference Section has produced a new reference circular, available in large print:

The Reference Section is revising the following reference circulars for release later in 2002:

Research and Development

NLS has several research and development projects under way.

Digital talking-book standard.

Working with a large group of interested parties under the auspices of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), NLS completed a technical standard for the digital talking book (DTB), the next-generation library access medium for blind and physically handicapped individuals. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) formally approved the document as American National Standard ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002 on March 6, 2002. NLS maintains background information on the development, maintenance, and use of the standard, as well as a direct link to the standard itself, at www.loc.gov/nls/z3986/index.html.

PC-based DTB player.

NLS is developing a PC-based DTB player incorporating the features earmarked for the "basic" player described in the Playback Device Features List www.loc.gov/nls/z3986/background/features.htm. Implementation in software of many features of the "advanced" player is complete, with work under way on more features. NLS has begun using the PC-based player, in conjunction with a number of sample books and a mockup button array created by NLS, to test in-house response to the initial user-interface design. NLS will expand testing to include consumers outside NLS, working in a systematic process to design DTB players that will be straightforward and easy to use.

Solid-state memory research.

NLS is researching both the technical and cost issues surrounding the use of the solid-state memory card as a delivery medium for digital talking books. Commonly called "flash memory" and used in digital cameras, MP3 players, and some laptops, these cards are more widely used every year. Preliminary results on the technical side are extremely encouraging--the cards are very robust, retain data virtually indefinitely, can be quickly and repeatedly rewritten (i.e., loaded with a new book), and can contain very large DTBs, thus limiting the need for multiple cards for a single DTB. The single critical barrier to our use of these cards currently is cost. While costs have dropped by a factor of 300 in the last nine years, they would need to drop by a factor of ten in the next five to six years to become affordable in large quantities. NLS is cautiously optimistic but must obtain more detailed cost projections from the industry before committing to this technology.

Low-complexity mastering system.

NLS has developed the first module of a digital recording system designed for use in the studios of NLS network libraries. The LCM (Low-Complexity Mastering) System was created to ease the transition from open-reel tape to digital recording for volunteer studios. The new module is installed in one NLS studio, where it is being tested. Work is also under way on a second module that will create the other files that must be combined with the digital audio file to make a DTB compliant with the NISO DTB standard.

Consumer Input

NLS receives information and advice on its program through two standing committees: the Collection Development Advisory Group and the National Audio Equipment Advisory Committee. If you have ideas on the development of the NLS book collection or on playback equipment, contact your consumer organization or your local library for the name of your representatives on these committees.

In addition, your comments and suggestions concerning the NLS program are always welcome. Address them to the NLS Consumer Relations Officer at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, by e-mail ([email protected]), telephone (202) 707-0722, or fax (202) 707-0712. Requests for copies of reference materials may be addressed to the Reference Section by e-mail ([email protected]), telephone (202) 707-5100, or fax (202) 707-0712. Requests sent by the U.S. Postal Service may be considerably delayed.

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Posted on 2013-06-28