Oklahoma studio a model for other states moving to digital recording

Paul Adams with volunteer 
  Linda Brown
Photo caption: Volunteer Linda Brown and studio director Paul Adams

During the four years Paul Adams has been recording studio director at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (OLBPH), he has been complemented for his exceptional work in producing high-quality digital audiobooks and magazines for the library's collection. It was Adams's work that prompted Bill West, National Library Service (NLS) audio production specialist, to visit the library during the week of June 28, 2005.

At a luncheon hosted by the library's Friends group, Oklahomans for Special Library Services (OSLS), West spoke about digital recordings and the role Oklahoma can play in setting the standard for other states to move into the digital age. West said that he was highly impressed with the progress Adams has made as studio director and invited him to serve on the network task group that will be writing policies and procedures for digital studios around the country.

Bill West
Photo caption: NLS audio production specialist Bill West

"The transition from a tape-based program to digital has been a real learning journey--frustrating at times, but the improvement in the quality for the benefit of those we serve has certainly been worth it," said Adams. Volunteers Linda Brown, S. Jean Clark, Craig Day, Twyla Gray, Janine Hoffman, Mary Kinser, Kathy Lopp, Phillip Morales, Larry Morphis, Ed O'Connor, Beverly Simpson, and Alan Thompson work with Adams in the studio producing audiobooks and other recorded publications, primarily those about Oklahoma or written by Oklahoma writers. "We greatly appreciate the patience of these volunteers during the transition," Adams commented. "Many hours have been donated in narrating, monitoring, editing, and reviewing--not to mention learning the software and how to operate the computers."

Following West's remarks, Adams presented OSLS president Bill Crawford with a CD copy of Quest of Self: The Author's Personal Religious Philosophy, which Crawford authored and is now in the library's collection. Larry Morphis, who narrated the book, also received a copy of the CD. Jane Nelson, visual services administrator, and library director Geraldine Adams presented Paul Adams with a certificate of appreciation for his dedication and ceaseless work in the library's state-of-the-art digital studio. Jody Harlan, Department of Rehabilitation Services public information administrator, joined the festivities, as did OSLS board members S. Jean Clark, Bill Crawford, Jim Gillespie, Rex Howard, Kathleen Kennedy, and John Orr.

Volunteers recognized for their talent and time


The Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) had several occasions to recognize its volunteers this past year.

In February 2005, volunteers at BTBL completed the seventeenth recording of Great Decisions, an annual collection of eight essays produced by the Foreign Policy Association of America, each focusing on issues of government and politics in different parts of the world. The essays are used as the basis for discussion groups that meet at community colleges and other community locations in many states. The BTBL makes recordings available to all other libraries for the blind through NLS. This year 196 copies were sent to individuals in Arizona, and 48 submasters were created for use in other states.

Each of the eight essays is recorded by a different recording team. Thanks go to volunteer readers David Aubrey, Bill Coates, Marilyn Koch, Jim McLeroy, Don Myers, Doris Walker, and Jim Yeater; volunteer directors Kim Bell, Ty Hofflander, Frank Holman, Joan Miller, Alma Myers, and Mel Shutz; and volunteer reviewers Ron Donnell, Alta Holler, Joan Miller, and Sarah Raum. According to Jeanie Pawlowski, manager of the BTBL volunteer program, "We always have a short time frame to record the essays because the print copies aren't available from the publisher until early January and most discussion groups begin in February or March. Although it means putting aside their ongoing book projects, volunteers usually enjoy Great Decisions' current topics and good writing." Great Decisions 2005 is available in BTBL's collection.

On March 12, 2005, the BTBL held its twenty-fifth annual volunteer recognition event. Some 186 volunteers and guests attended a luncheon held in the Great Hall of the Phoenix Art Museum. Joe Baum, John Cummings, Jack Elliott, Fred Halleman, Pam McCune, Bob Ryan, John Schumacher, Jack Spells, Sam Strizich, and Don Trudeau received special recognition for giving one thousand hours of volunteer service. The volunteers enjoyed tours of the museum and the guest speaker, Joan Brock, who became blind as a young adult and is now a nationally known motivational speaker.

Longtime talking-book volunteer Ron Donnell received special recognition for his service at a luncheon on April 14, 2005, sponsored by the Association of Volunteer Administrators of Central Arizona (AVACA), a professional organization comprising people who are active in the area of volunteer management. More than one hundred local volunteer programs are represented in AVACA, and each group nominates one volunteer to receive an award at the annual luncheon. Donnell was selected for his thirteen years of service as a director and reviewer in the BTBL recording studio. The event was held at the East Valley Institute of Technology's Culinary School in Mesa.


The theme of the day was "Threads of Kindness Sewn by Library Volunteers Are Valued at Fresno County Public Library" as the library held its annual volunteer reception at the Woodward Park Library on March 13, 2005. Twenty-three Talking Book Library for the Blind (TBLB) volunteers were honored for their many hours of service.

"Our TBLB volunteers together gave 3,410 hours in 2004," said Wendy Eisenberg, TBLB librarian. TelecomPioneers Jim Adams, Ed Burney, B.J. Ferioli, Bill Johnson, George McClelland, Will McEvoy, Jim Moore, Dick Murphy (in memoriam), Russ O'Geen, and Ralph Reynolds were recognized (see related article, page 6). Also honored for their service were volunteers Bill Allison, Jacque Arabian, Pat Bartholomew, Susan Bernay, Jo Ann Gowens, Wes Leverson, Sandra Lindley, Chris Mackey, Cathie Peterka, Daniel Pinske, Johnnie Porter, Esther Snider, and Mary Zanarini.


State Librarian Tom Jaques praised the fifty-two volunteers who donated their time and talents to the library's Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for their hard work. Addressing the honorees at a reception and awards ceremony on May 18 at the library, Jaques noted that volunteers from the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging RSVP Program, BellSouth TelecomPioneers, ExxonMobil, Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, and other dedicated individuals repaired 794 cassette players, prepared 21,600 newsletters for mailing, and inspected thousands of recorded cassettes during the past year. Volunteers who work as narrators, producers, and editors for the Louisiana Voices audiobook recording program completed fifty-three titles and began work on a number of other projects. Margaret Harrison, head of Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Angela Cinquemano, studio manager for Louisiana Voices, presented each volunteer with a lapel pin and a certificate of appreciation. The Mrs. W. Carruth Jones Foundation for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which acts as a Friends group for the library, cohosted the event.

Volunteering is a family affair at Nebraska TBBS

Leif Eric Johnson
Photo Caption: Leif Eric Johnson poses with his Eagle Scout project.

To help earn his Eagle Scout award, Leif Eric Johnson organized a reuse/recycling project at the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service (TBBS) during the summer of 2005. He recruited twenty-six volunteers to take labels off talking-book boxes, clean the boxes, and reshelve them for future use. The group also packed cassettes for shipment to the NLS recycling center in Pennsylvania.

After satisfying his Eagle Scout requirements, Johnson, his brother Torvald, sister Britta, and mother Cleta continued to volunteer. The youth group from the Johnsons' church, St. Mark's United Methodist, also became involved, as did young people from CEDARS Youth Services and area families. The family of narrator Janene Sheldon--Will, Calvin, and Charley Sheldon--cleaned labels off boxes while their mother recorded Nebraska magazines in the studio. Iowan Emily Braught, the niece of narrator Beth McNeil, visited during her aunt's narration session and was also motivated to pitch in.


National Braille Association (NBA)

NBA Professional Development Conference
Sheraton Westport Hotel
St. Louis, Missouri
Wednesday, April 26 through Saturday, April 29, 2006.

NBA Professional Development Conference
Hilton Charlotte University Place
Charlotte, North Carolina
Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, November 4, 2006.

NBA Professional Development Conference
Antlers Hilton Hotel
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28, 2007.

For more information about these meetings, contact:

National Braille Association
Three Townline Circle
Rochester, NY 14623-2513
(585) 427-8260
e-mail: [email protected]

California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH)

CTEVH 47th Annual Conference
Anaheim Marriott Hotel
Anaheim, California
Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 12, 2006.

For more information about this meeting, contact

741 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029-3594
(323) 666-2211

Visual Aid Volunteers of Florida (VAVF)

VAVF 2006 Conference of Volunteers
Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs
Altamonte Springs, Florida
Monday, April 3 through Wednesday, April 5, 2006.

For more information about this meeting, contact:

Meg Wagner, VAVF president
8444 35th Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33710
(727) 347-9836
e-mail: [email protected]

In Memoriam: Two blind musicians and braille music authorities

Georgia Marie Griffith, 1931-2005

Excerpted from an article by Rita Price, Columbus Dispatch, September 18, 2005.

Georgia Marie Griffith, NLS braille music proofreader, author, musician, and computer pioneer of Lancaster, Ohio, died Wednesday, September 14, 2005, after a short illness.

Griffith was born blind and became deaf by age thirty-eight. She was noted for her productivity and was the recipient of many honors and awards for her accomplishments. From 1971 to 1981, she was a braille music proofreader for the Library of Congress. She taught herself twelve foreign languages in order to proofread foreign music notes and vocal music. She also taught music lessons to blind piano students.

In 1981, she was employed by Compuserve as a database manager/information specialist and computer-operations specialist.

Griffith received the Smithsonian Medal in 1977 for working with the Handicapped Users' Database. Georgia Griffith Day was declared in Lancaster on January 11, 1987. She was inducted into the Ohio Woman's Hall of Fame in 1994, and received the Great Communicator Award for the Central Ohio Speech and Hearing Center in 1996.

Griffith was a life member in the National Federation of Music Clubs; received letters of commendation from three presidents; and authored a book in 2003, Running Around in Family Circles with Friends in Pursuit, which was transcribed into braille and is available for loan from NLS regional libraries (BR 15247).

Griffith graduated from the Ohio State School for the Blind in 1950, and she graduated Phi Beta Kappa-Cum Laude from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, with a degree in music education in 1954. She was a member of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Lancaster, where she sang for many years in the choir and directed the junior choir. She also taught piano to the children of Maywood Mission.

Survivors include her sister, Bernadine A. (Robert) Baker; sister-in-law, Marilyn Griffith Tipton; her aunt, Patricia (George) Johnson; and several nephews and nieces.

John di Francesco, 1919-2005

Excerpted from articles by Katherine Pfrommer, the Oakland Voyager Info-Systems, September 24, 2005, and Daveed Mandell, the Blind Californian, Winter 2005-2006.

John di Francesco, baritone opera singer, musician, teacher, and braille music authority, died September 20, 2005, at the age of eighty-six.

Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1919, di Francesco lost his sight from spinal meningitis at the age of two. His first language was Italian, but he learned English at seven when he began attending Perkins School for the Blind.

After high school, di Francesco earned a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he studied voice, piano, and organ, and graduated summa cum laude in 1944. Primarily an opera singer, di Francesco studied voice with Boris Goldovsky.

Following his years at the conservatory, di Francesco was mentored by renowned opera star Ezio Pinza, who paid for him to study with fellow singer and voice coach Enrico Rosati in New York.

In 1949, he appeared as Pinza's protegé on a CBS television special. In 1950, di Francesco was s a winner in the Music Education League's Concerto and Vocal Competition. A recognized expert on braille music, he served for several decades as a proofreader for the Library of Congress.

Di Francesco moved to Oakland in 1957 and became music director and instructor at the California School for the Blind in Berkeley. "Dad wanted to share with other blind people, to inspire others," his son Tom said.

The educator founded the Vista College Chamber Chorale in 1979, served as protestant choir director at the Alameda Naval Air Station, and conducted choirs at several Bay Area churches.

A severe hearing loss forced di Francesco to stop teaching in the late 1990s, but he remained active with organizations of blind people, especially the California Council of the Blind's (CCB) Bay View Chapter, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.

Di Francesco was also an activist. He worked with the City of Oakland to install audible pedestrian signals and vigorously campaigned for increased braille literacy on behalf of the Braille Revival League (BRL).

Di Francesco's wife Muriel Cook preceded him in death (1996). He is survived by his three sons: Tom of San Francisco, California; Michael of El Cerrito, California, and Paul of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Volunteers master new skills

Between May and July 2005, forty-two people received certificates in braille transcribing:

  • 37 in literary braille transcribing
  • 2 in literary braille proofreading
  • 2 in music braille transcribing
  • 1 in mathematics braille transcribing

Literary Braille Transcribers


Kenneth Blunk, Phoenix


Roberto D. Cabral, Wrightsville

Tim S. Moore, Wrightsville


Judi Biller, Oceanside

Robert Breshears, Vacaville

Arlene A. Chilton, Oxnard

Janice L. Flakes, Carson

Joseph P. Flauta, Folsom

Daniel Rosales, Folsom

Marilyn C. Westerman, Marysville


Dona Dishaw, Louisville


M. Lee Heitz, Sarasota

Filomena D. Isla, Jacksonville


Gary D. Wills, Hardwick


Ruth Rozen, Evanston


Jason Darrah, Anamosa

Judy Linn, Mount Ayr


Ronda R. Farmer, Wichita


Kathleen Conley, Berley

Shailaja Shah, Southfield


Jennifer Turner, Northfield


Michael McLemore, Lincoln

Daniel Stetter, Lincoln


Verlyn R. Colledge, Lovelock

Steven K. Findlay, Las Vegas

Douglas W. Hultgren, Las Vegas

Leonard J. Todecheene, Indian Springs

New Jersey

Rosemarie E. Brower, Denville

New York

Susan Pinto, Brooklyn

Kial Porter, Napanoch


Jesus R. Bonilla, San Antonio

Penny Estes, San Antonio

Louanne Larson, Gatesville

Joyce C. Perkins, San Antonio


Mary L. Ewer, Auburn

Susan K. Harris, Vancouver


Jeffery T. Hunter, Oshkosh

Literary Braille Proofreaders

Janiece Petersen Kent, Washington, D.C.

Mary Lynn Sten-Clanton, Boston, Massachusetts

Mathematics Braille Transcriber

Elsie Jerrell, Gatesville, Texas

Music Braille Transcribers

Melissa Hirshson, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Christine H. Dodson, Gatesville, Texas

Mechanical magic: TelecomPioneers keep talking-book players in working order

Originally published in the Fresno Bee, September 15, 2005.

George McClelland pries the cover off a talking-book cassette machine to expose its mechanical innards and a plethora of dust, hair, and lint. He turns the machine upside down, dumps the debris on the floor, and checks for needed repairs. This is the way seventy-five-year-old McClelland and a handful of other retired Pacific Bell (now SBC) employees spend their Tuesday mornings: repairing the cassette machines for the Fresno County Talking Book Library for the Blind. They are part of SBC Pioneers, a nonprofit organization of active and retired employees who do volunteer work in the community.

The organization started in 1911 as the Telephone Pioneers of America and changed its name to TelecomPioneers about three years ago, says Cindy Lee, president of the organization's Sierra Rivers Council, which has three thousand members from the Fresno, Madera, and Visalia area. The Sierra Rivers Council is part of the Golden Bear Chapter, which has fifteen thousand members from Kern County to the Oregon border. SBC Pioneers has eight-hundred thousand members in the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. In Fresno, the Pioneers have been repairing the library's cassette machines since it opened in 1975. According to Fresno County branch librarian Wendy Eisenberg, they put in 686 hours in the past fiscal year.

Russ O'Geen in Fresno repair shop.
Photo caption: Russ O'Geen works on a cassette-book player.

Volunteers typically spend from 8 a.m. until noon Tuesdays at the library, which is at the Ted C. Wills Community Center. Up until a few years ago, when several members died, the group numbered as many as ten. These days, there are six: McClelland, Ed Burney, Jim Adams, Russ O'Geen, Bruno Ferioli, and Bill Johnson. "It's something to do after you retire besides travel," says Burney, age eighty, who retired in 1984. "I get a lot of satisfaction out of coming down here. I think we all do, or we wouldn't come."

Burney, a former Sierra Rivers Council president, estimates he has repaired about five hundred machines over ten years. Sometimes the group fixes as many as twenty-five of the library's two thousand machines in a day. They replace playback heads, case heads, keyboards, motors, jackboards, amp boards, and rubber components, as well as recharge batteries. They use fingernail polish as a sealant and rubbing alcohol as a cleaner. "If you get one that has a bad case of trouble, it will take you a while," says McClelland, who retired in 1985 and has been repairing the machines for seven years.

Adams, age eighty-four, retired in 1977 and has volunteered for eight years. How long will he continue? "Until we just can't do it any more," he says. Lee says the Pioneers know the repair program is important. "It has benefitted so many people," she says. "It's one of our special programs. It's one more avenue to make lives more enriched."

"I get to work with tape-recorder equipment that I used to like to work with anyhow," says O'Geen, who has been volunteering for a little more than a year. The sixty-two-year-old adds that it's nice to use his skills to give something back. So each Tuesday, they "get together and shoot the breeze" while working their mechanical magic. "If we're in town, we hardly miss," Burney says. "If we didn't do this, I don't know who would."

Braille student-instructor dialog

The Braille Development Section receives numerous questions concerning a variety of problems in braille transcribing. This article addresses some of them. The question-and-answer format is intended to give clarity.

Student: The print book that I have chosen for my thirty-five-page trial manuscript for Library of Congress certification contains the word "cantilever." It is my understanding that since the "ever" contraction is used for the word "ever," it should also be used in "cantilever." However, the collegiate edition of a number of reputable dictionaries shows the word "cantilever" pronounced with a long "e." According to Section 45 of the official code, English Braille American Edition, 1994, revised 2002, initial-letter contractions should be used only when they retain their original sound. It seems to me that if my dictionary shows the word "cantilever" pronounced with a long "e," the initial-letter contraction for "ever" should not be used. Am I correct?

Instructor: Since the collegiate editions of many reputable dictionaries show the word "cantilever" pronounced with a long "e," it is recommended that the initial-letter contraction for "ever" should not be used. However, it should be pointed out that some reliable dictionaries show "cantilever" pronounced with a short "e." In that case, the "ever" contraction is used. To avoid points being deducted from your score on your trial manuscript unnecessarily, a letter to the grader should accompany every trial manuscript listing the complete title of the dictionary that was used. (See Section 20.10 of the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, 2000.)

Student: I have studied Section 20.10 of the instruction manual, and I am still not clear as to what I should include in my letter to the grader for the thirty-five-page trial manuscript. Could you please clarify this for me?

Instructor: Certainly. A letter to the grader, written in braille, should accompany every trial manuscript. In the letter, the complete title of the dictionary used for dividing words in your trial manuscript should be given. In addition, anything unusual encountered in print, such as format irregularities, added or omitted punctuation, or frequent dialect, should be included. If the print book contains unusual foreign words, they should also be explained in your letter to the grader. Do not include any of the above explanations on a transcriber's notes page. The letter is not to be counted as part of the thirty-five-page trial manuscript. Points will not be deducted for any errors found in the letter.

Student: The book that I am transcribing for my thirty-five-page trial manuscript contains a lot of misspelled words and omitted punctuation. Section 20.8 of the instruction manual says that the transcriber should exercise caution in making changes to the print copy. Therefore, I am not sure whether I should correct the misspelled words and omitted punctuation for my trial manuscript.

Instructor: Section 20.8 of the instruction manual says that it is the job of the transcriber to follow the print copy as closely as possible, and transcribers should not in any way try to substitute their judgment for the author's intent. This is especially true for capitalization, punctuation, and hyphenation where print practice varies widely among writers and publishers.

Occasionally, however, errors do occur in print which should be corrected in braille. For example, in the sentence, "hte little child is hapy," it is clear that the words "the" and "happy" are misspelled and should be corrected. It should be pointed out that in correcting spelling, be sure that what is shown in print is not simply an alternative or archaic spelling such as "milch" for "milk." Since "milch" is an archaic spelling for "milk," print copy should be followed.

Student: I am currently working on the contents page for the thirty-five-page trial manuscript. On the print contents page, the chapter titles are not numbered. Should I insert the chapter numbers in braille?

Instructor: No. In general, do not add items to the braille contents page that do not appear in print. If the chapter titles are not numbered in print, they should not be numbered in braille. Remember to follow print for capitalization and Roman or Arabic numerals when brailling chapter titles and chapter numbers.

Student: I have one final question about my thirty-five-page trial manuscript. If I select a book that contains cover or jacket material, should this material be included?

Instructor: No. According to Section 20.4 of the instruction manual, all pages at the beginning of a book (a dedication, acknowledgments, preface, table of contents, etc.) should be included in your trial manuscript--with one exception. Material found on the back of the dust jacket, the jacket flaps, or on the inside of the book cover need not be included in your thirty-five-page trial manuscript. This includes any of the items presented in Section 19.2g of the instruction manual.

Dixon named acting head of BDS

Judith Dixon
Photo caption: Judith Dixon

Judith M. Dixon has been appointed acting head of the NLS Braille Development Section (BDS). In addition to this responsibility, she will retain her duties as consumer relations officer. In her new capacity, Dixon will oversee the general functions of the section, answering complex questions from volunteers, libraries, and agencies regarding braille transcribing issues and other braille-related needs. Sandra Gourdine, assistant to the head, will coordinate the day-to-day activities of the clerical and support staff in the section. NLS will use this interim period to review the overall functions of the Braille Development Section with the goal of improving services.

Dixon accepted this appointment following the retirement of Mary Lou Stark, who joined the staff in late 1991 as assistant head of the section and later assumed the head position. After her retirement, Stark and her husband Frank relocated to South Carolina.


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Posted on 2011-01-10

Posted on 2011-01-10