Johanna Bureau closes its doors after more than 80 years of service to blind readers

Johanna Bureau 1933
Johanna Bureau’s volunteers in 1933 (above) and the
2006 transcribers (below).

The Johanna Bureau for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, based in Chicago, Illinois, discontinued its services at the end of 2006.

Since 1924 the Johanna Bureau has served blind and physically handicapped individuals with large type, audio, and braille materials through the work of volunteers.

"The volume of orders for educational braille materials has been dropping steadily over the past five years. Our costs for new transcriptions and for duplication were among the lowest in the country and our work has always been to the highest standards, so we’re unsure of the cause of this decrease in orders," lamented Edith Weiner, executive chair of the bureau. "Our board concluded that since the number of people served decreased and expenses for the rental of the bureau’s large depository and office space have increased, it was neither sensible nor viable for us to continue."

Johanna Bureau today

"We will transfer many of our titles on paper and disk that other organizations wish to acquire. These transfers will be reflected in the LOUIS database. Our funds will be disbursed to organizations serving blind or physically handicapped people."

The bureau was formed when two members of Johanna Lodge, a philanthropic women’s organization, decided to learn braille in order to transcribe some recreational material for a friend, a chaplain who had been blinded in World War I. Other lodge members became interested in the women’s work. When the group, which by then was referring to itself as a bureau, told the Chicago Public Library about its mission, the library offered to house the group and circulate its hand-copied braille books.

From 1924 to 1964, the bureau was located in what is now the cultural center of the Chicago Public Library. By 1964, both the bureau and the library needed more space. Bureau volunteers decided to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and to rent a facility for its large collection of braille masters, large-type volumes, and the newly added collection of recorded titles. Large type and tape were eventually phased out, but the bureau continued as a volunteer group the oldest in the United States—transcribing print into braille for anyone who needed the service. On average the bureau served school districts in 35 to 40 states annually.

"Volunteers are sad that the bureau is closing—many of them have volunteered for decades—but they admit it is time to retire,” said Weiner. “They’re proud of their long and outstanding service and rightly so."

One volunteer, Erma Baer, served as a braille transcriber for more than 60 years. Baer’s family invited Wiener to Baer’s 100th birthday celebration on November 19, 2006.

Ohio library helps rebuild Miss. school libraries

Cindy Nugent (center) with Debbie Cox (left), program director of the Bay St. Louis/Waveland School District, and Jo-Dell Beckham (right)
Cindy Nugent (center) with Debbie Cox (left), program
director of the Bay St. Louis/Waveland School District,
and Jo-Dell Beckham (right).

Barbara Mates, regional librarian of Cleveland, and Rahye Puckett, regional librarian of Mississippi, joined forces to help Katrina children recover the joy of reading.

The idea began in December 2005 when Mates, also chairperson of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), suggested that her staff forego its usual holiday gift exchange and, instead, purchase print books for children in districts damaged by Katrina.

Barbara then contacted Cindy Nugent, the outreach coordinator and readers’ advisor for the Mississippi regional library and asked if Nugent could find a library in need of these books. Public libraries in the area were and are—still in the process of rebuilding and were more in need of construction materials than books, but Nugent and her fellow staffers found school libraries that were eager to accept the donation. The Ohio library shipped the new books directly to the schools.

In 2006, when a member of the Caldecott Award selection committee was searching for a place to donate nearly 80 books that the committee had considered for the award, Mates again contacted Nugent, who in turn notified two schools that were still in desperate need of books.

On October 30, 2006, Nugent and Puckett drove to Hancock County, Mississippi, with books in tow. Joining Debbie Cox, director of the Bay St. Louis/Waveland school district, they delivered the books to the delighted librarians and students of North Bay Elementary and Waveland Elementary Schools.

"We passed gutted buildings that had been North Bay, turned a corner and saw the rows of trailers that now make up the school," said Puckett. " Waveland Elementary School is also situated in a sea of trailers.

"We felt so fortunate to observe the excitement of delighted children selecting and browsing through books that had the ‘eau de new book’ fragrance," she added.

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 book that I have selected for my 35-page trial manuscript for Library of Congress certification contains a preface. In print, the preface appears before the contents page. I have studied carefully the material presented in Lesson 19 of the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, fourth edition, 2000, on preliminary pages. According to Section 19.3 of the instruction manual, it seems that the preface should be brailled as a text page rather than a preliminary page. Is this correct?

Instructor: Yes. Section 19.3 of the instruction manual says that in braille, text pages start with the first print page upon which narrative text is found. This may be a preface, foreword, introduction, author’s note, etc. Even if these pages have Roman numerals in print, they should be transcribed with Arabic numbers in braille.

Student: I understand now that the preface is considered to be a text page. However, should it still be brailled before the contents page as it appears in print?

Instructor: No. Generally speaking, both preliminary pages and text pages should be brailled in the order that they appear in print with one exception: if narrative text, such as a preface or introduction, is written before the table of contents in print, it should be transcribed after the table of contents in braille. However, do not add or change the headings listed on the braille contents page.

Student: When preparing my 35-page trial manuscript, should I braille the entire print contents page?

Instructor: No. When transcribing into braille the contents page for your trial manuscript, you should include only those items that you transcribe for your trial manuscript. Remember that when preparing your braille contents page, substitute the appropriate braille page number for the page number shown in the print table of contents. Thus, the entire transcription must be completed before the braille page numbers can be inserted.

Student: I have a question about Section 20.12 of the instruction manual on scoring the trial manuscript. After reviewing the evaluator’s report on my 35-page trial manuscript, I discovered that 20 points were deducted for omitting a letter in a word 10 times in the title of the book. Since the same error was repeated 10 times, I believe that it should have been counted only once. Is this correct?

Instructor: No. Errors are counted separately unless they involve formatting or corrections in contractions or word divisions. Since you omitted a letter in a word which was likely not a contraction, it was considered a spelling error and not a formatting error and therefore the 20 points were deducted from your score appropriately.

Student: I prepared my first 35-page trial manuscript on a computer using a direct-input braille program. My manuscript was embossed by someone at an agency for blind people. After reviewing the evaluator’s report on my manuscript, I discovered that a number of errors occurred after it was embossed. Since many of my errors occurred because of a problem with the embosser, is it possible to restore points to my manuscript?

Instructor: Absolutely not. Section 20.9 clearly states that if a trial manuscript is generated by a computer, all of the pages should be thoroughly proofread after it has been embossed.

Student: I have recently enrolled in the Library of Congress braille transcribing course. I would like to send my lessons to an instructor in my local area. The instructor who has offered to grade my lessons is not a transcriber who is certified by the Library of Congress. Is this permissible?

Instructor: No. If you decide to work with an instructor in your local area, that individual must be a Library of Congress certified braille transcriber or proofreader. A person who simply has a good knowledge of contracted braille does not qualify as an instructor for the course.

Volunteers lauded for their contributions


Veteran volunteer Louise Lederhos was honored by the Radio Reading Service of the Rockies (RRSR) and the Friends of the Colorado Talking Book Library (CTBL) at CTBL’s annual volunteer appreciation brunch at the Lakewood Country Club in Lakewood, Colorado, in December 2006. A proclamation from Governor Bill Owens highlighted Lederhos’s accomplishments during her 30 years as a narrator for the CTBL talking-book program, including the more than 95 books and magazines she has recorded, many of which are still available in CTBL’s collection.

Lederhos also has served on the library’s Volunteer Advisory Council, assisted with the Reach Out Service to new patrons of the library, and serves on the Friends of CTBL board of directors. She helped draft the handbook for CTBL studio volunteers and often assisted with training new volunteers. In 1992 Lederhos used her experience with CTBL to assist the newly formed RRSR in developing a volunteer program for broadcasting the local newspapers and periodicals to visually impaired people. She served on the RRSR board of directors, including one year as its president.

An active leader within her community, Lederhos has served on many boards and committees, including the Jefferson County Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), and is currently the chair of the volunteer services program at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. She is a long-time resident of Arvada, in the Denver metro area.


More than 70 volunteers who contributed 7,315 hours to the Idaho Commission for Libraries Talking Book Service (TBS) were honored during a special ceremony on July 11, 2006, at the library.

Thirty-five volunteers attended the event, during which Sheila Winther, TBS volunteer services coordinator, and Richard Wilson, associate state librarian, presented each of them a certificate of appreciation and a keychain/flashlight. "Services would be diminished without their ongoing support," said Winther. Nine volunteers who started after January 1, 2006, were introduced and narrator Larry Weeks was recognized for his 15 years of service.

At the same event, nine TBS patrons who were 100 years of age and older were inducted into the NLS Ten-Squared Talking-Book Club. NLS network consultant David Whittall presented certificates of recognition to the inductees, who also received priority status for future requested reading materials from the library.



Perrysville, Pennsylvania, resident Jack Goerl was awarded the Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) Outstanding Volunteer in Community Service Award for 2006 at a ceremony on October 11, 2006. Goerl has volunteered at Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) for 15 years, repairing audio equipment. The 75-year-old is the leader of the local chapter of the national TelecomPioneers of America, who repair the audio equipment used by nearly 10,000 readers in 36 counties of western Pennsylvania.

Goerl, who has logged more than 3,000 hours as a volunteer, joins the TelecomPioneers for six hours every Wednesday at the library’s repair shop in Oakland. He is responsible for ordering equipment, recruiting new members, serving as a liaison with NLS, and supervising the group’s training to repair new digital playback equipment. "I enjoy volunteering very much. I get to talk with other people who share my interests and it keeps me occupied," said Goerl.

"He leads his team toward creative problem-solving. The result is faster repair, higher quality, and quicker service for our patrons,” said LBPH director Kathleen Kappel.

LBPH volunteer coordinator Keri Castellano added, "Always a team player, Jack has been receptive to new challenges and likewise encourages his fellow workers."

Like many volunteers, Goerl was honored by his award but didn’t expect it. "I was surprised. I think the person who wrote my nomination was a creative writer," he joked.

Goerl had a 30-year career with Western Electric and later with AT&T, specializing in installing and maintaining telephone equipment. From October 1985 to December 1989, he was stationed in Singapore, where he worked on the development of an undersea fiber optics cable and terminal equipment for Guam, Taiwan, and the Philippines. He retired in 1989 and joined the TelecomPioneers in 1991. In addition to his work at LBPH, Goerl enjoys bowling and volunteering at St. Teresa of Avila church in Perrysville.

"Jack and the other Pioneers are volunteering at its best," said Kappel. "They are friendly, they work well together, they share their expertise, and they make others’ lives richer. We are very grateful to them."

RSVP of Allegheny County is sponsored by the American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter. In 2006, RSVP marked its 34th anniversary of providing volunteer opportunities for seniors 55 years and older in the greater Pittsburgh area.


The Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) hosted a reception to honor two of their retiring TelecomPioneers volunteers, Robert Lewis and Edward Carlin. There were 36 attendees, including Lewis and his wife, Dorothy, at the August 16, 2006, event.

Both Lewis and Carlin began volunteering before LBPH started keeping volunteer records, but it is estimated that each donated 24 years of outstanding service to the library. "Mrs. Lewis was also special to the LBPH staff. She often waited patiently in the public area for her husband to finish," remarked Keri Castellano, volunteer coordinator. The Lewises also volunteer at Meals on Wheels and at the local hospital. Always ambassadors for the talking-book service, they kept applications in their car.

Kathleen Kappel, director of LBPH, presented a framed certificate to Lewis. Unfortunately, Edward Carlin was unable to attend because of health reasons, so his certificate and a thank-you card for his service were sent to him.

Updating Update’s mailing list

We are updating the mailing list of individuals and organizations that subscribe to the print edition of the Update newsletter.

If you subscribe to the print edition of Update, you will receive a notice with a pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcard within the next 30 days. Please detach the postcard, indicate whether you still wish to receive Update or if you want your name removed from the mailing list, and mail the postcard back to us. You must return the postcard to remain on the mailing list.

Thank you for your assistance.

Volunteers master new skills

Between June and December 2006, 99 people received certificates in braille transcribing: 88 in literary braille transcribing, 1 in literary braille proofreading, 9 in mathematics braille transcribing, and one in music braille transcribing.



Gary Louis Giasson, Phoenix

George Michael Hauss, Phoenix

Charles Reynolds Jones, Phoenix

Barry Northcross Patterson, Phoenix

Robert Nelson Spaulding, Phoenix

Robert R. Van Keuren, Phoenix


Keith L. Star, Wrightsville


Nancy M. Allison, Santa Paula
Denise Chandler, Ventura
Jeffrey Creagan, Coalinga
Alma C. Dolan, Pleasant Hill
Sarah E. Esajian, Reedley
Jeanine M. Gordon, Walnut Creek
Shawn R. Hatcher, Sacramento
Patricia Kitay, Simi Valley
Linda Leng, Pleasant Hill
Sharon H. Michels, Ojai
Paul Ostby, Arroyo Grande
Roger W. Quilalang, Coalinga
Bonnie L. Ralston, San Diego
Shelby L. Simpson, Vacaville
Leo Sisco, Coalinga
Arnoldo Trevino, Avenal
Cynthia K. Whaland, Stockton


Della Medeiros, Colorado Springs
Phyllis Ellen Penniston-Jordan, Fruita


Kathleen M. Donnelly, Valrico
Siew K. Ng, Tampa
Audrey Jean Shafer, St. Petersburg
Frances I. Susca, Clearwater


William Reuben Jackson, Hardwick
Steven Glen Mitchell, Hardwick
Samuel Joseph Mosely, Hardwick


Albert Ciccone, Boise
Gerald Fleming, Boise
Dennis H. Hadley, Boise


Katie Marie Fry, West Lafayette


Mark E. Dotson, Anamosa
Michael D. Keary, Anamosa
Roy Donald Lucas, Mt. Pleasant
Jerome F. Miller, Anamosa
Wesley Moore, Anamosa
Melissa Serenda, Iowa City
Albert Winfrey, Anamosa
Drew Everett Young, Anamosa


Samuel E. Green, Sayre
Steve A. Hamel, Sayre
Sean Johnson, Sayre
Andy L. Sena, Sayre


Edward E. Canada, Lexington
Tammitha M. Fuentes, Louisville
Dena Marie Williams, Louisville


Rebecca J. Sherwood, Brookline


Enrique J. Bringuez, Jackson
Stephen S. Leith, Jackson
Mario L. Madrid, Jackson
Clayton W. Mathis, Jackson


Jeffery David Rasmussen, Lincoln

Lester Wagner, Lincoln


Michael Maurice Green, Las Vegas

Stephen R. F. Kern, Indian Springs

Jeanine M. Mooers, Reno

Everett J. Pace, Las Vegas

Francisco E. Rivas-Bonilla, Las Vegas

Shane R. Spivey, Las Vegas

New Jersey

Sally McGrath, South Orange

Carolina Santos, Caldwell

New Mexico

Selma D. Lopez, Los Lunas

New York

Jeffrey R. Moore, Otisville
Isabelle Osborne, Nyack
Linda M. Pero, Webster
Patricia A. Schrader, Rochester

North Carolina

Debbie Evans, Harmony
Tim L. Poole, Burlington


Billy J. Finley, Grafton
Jaime L. Householder, Mansfield
Steven A. Troyer, Grafton
Ricky R. Williams, Grafton
Charles Wilson-Bey, Grafton


Susan E. Bergmann, Bethel Park
Debra Lee Brown, Cambridge Springs

South Dakota

Michael W. Cox, Sioux Falls


Deborah Jo Thomas Armstrong, Gatesville
Cynthia B. Harris, Sachse
Cynthia Mahaffey, Garland
Laura W. Purchis, Poteet
Dee Ann Rickman, Fort Worth
Jimmie L. Smith, Gatesville
Karen Wetterman, Gatesville


Lisa Ahrensbach, Ogden

Michael W. Bush, Ogden


Jesse C. Duckman, Fitchburg


Debra Spence, Orlando, Florida


Shannon M. Cornelius, Gig Harbor, Washington

Mary E. Czepyha, Deadwood, South Dakota

Mario G. DeLara, Las Vegas, Nevada

Robin I. Johnson, Vancouver, Washington

Jeffrey A. McMahon, Lenexa, Kansas

Satyaki Saikia, Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Barbara L. St. Peter, Canton, Georgia

Fred J. Van Ackeren, Lincoln, Nebraska

Paz Bayla Yunzal, Donna, Texas


Kent F. Ray, Folsom, California


California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH)

CTEVH 49th Annual Conference, Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, Los Angeles, California; Friday, February 29–Sunday, March 2, 2008. Preconference Thursday, February 28, 2008.

For more information about these meetings, contact:

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

Visual Aid Volunteers of Florida (VAVF)

VAVF 2007 Conference of Volunteers, (date and location TBA).

For more information about this meeting, contact:

Meg Wagner
VAVF President
8444 35th Avenue N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33710
(727) 347-9836
[email protected]

Arkansas group repairs milestone machine

From  left to right: John Bolland, Tom Grubbe, Rudy Mrva, and Jack Ernst.
From left to right: John Bolland, Tom Grubbe, Rudy Mrva, and Jack

The Mountain Home, Arkansas, volunteer machine-repair group repaired the milestone 10,000th talking-book machine on October 31, 2006. The group, which has been in operation since 1989, repaired 774 machines in 2005 and nearly 400 machines in 2006. Also during 2006, two new repair volunteers joined the group.

Ten repairmen meet regularly in a small building on Centurytel property for coffee and doughnuts—courtesy of project leader Tom Grubbe of Western Electric (Lucent)—to share stories of the past and present. The group was formed in 1989 by the late Frank Eiper of Western Electric and Clare Usack of Illinois Bell Telephone. John Bolland and Rudy Mrva, who were also among the original volunteers, are still with the group. Jack Ernst passed away at age 91 in early 2007.

Masthead Information:

Update is published quarterly by:

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542

Correspondence should be addressed to the Publications and Media Section.

To change address or cancel subscription, please enclose mailing label.

Publication editors:

Ingrid Davitt

Coordinating editor:

Freddie Peaco

Braille student-instructor dialog:

John Wilkinson

Publications and Media Section
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542


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Posted on 2011-01-10

Posted on 2011-01-10