Florida volunteer named Point of Light

Florida state senator Evelyn Lynn with volunteer Shirley Symonds
Photo caption: Florida state senator Evelyn
Lynn with volunteer Shirley Symonds.

The Florida governor Charlie Crist recognized Shirley Symonds as a Point of Light for the people of Florida, citing her as a "shining example of volunteer service" on July 9, 2007. Symonds, 89, was honored for giving more than 26 years of service to the Florida Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library (BBTBL) in Daytona Beach.

Since 1981, Symonds has regularly volunteered 15 hours a week at the bureau, assisting in nearly every area of work and contributing more than 20,000 hours of service. She currently works in the bureau’s Materials Production Section, where she operates braille embossers and other equipment used to produce braille books, magazines, and newsletters.

Governor Crist said in a written statement, "I am proud to honor Shirley for her steadfast commitment to serving the braille readers of Florida. By volunteering each week, Shirley embodies the selfless spirit of Floridians dedicated to improving the lives of others."

State senator Evelyn Lynn presented the award to Symonds on behalf of Governor Crist at the ceremony, attended by more than 70 bureau volunteers and staff. Former Florida Department of Education commissioner John Winn, whom Symonds met while he was touring the BBTBL, nominated her for the award.

BBTBL chief Michael Gunde said, "Symonds’ service is emblematic of all of our volunteers, whose work is critical to our program. We are one of only a few government agencies where volunteers are the majority of our workforce rather than paid employees. Yet our service quality is consistently rated as higher than most other programs. Volunteers are the key to our success. We salute Shirley Symonds and all of our dedicated volunteers who work together to help make our world a better place in which to live."

"Shirley embodies the selfless spirit of Floridians dedicated to improving the lives of others."
—Florida governor Charlie Crist

The Governor’s Point of Light Award, sponsored by Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, recognizes a Florida resident each week who demonstrates exemplary service to his or her community. A panel of judges, composed of Florida volunteers, evaluates all nominations and makes recommendations to Governor Crist. The nonprofit Volunteer Florida Foundation manages the award program.

National Federation of the Blind handles NLS braille certification responsibilities

Since taking over the administration of the braille transcriber training program for NLS in 2007, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has forwarded to NLS the names of more than 300 individuals for certification as braille transcribers and proofreaders. Authority and oversight for certification remains with the Library of Congress; NFB’s role as a contractor to NLS is strictly administrative. The Librarian of Congress and the NLS director will continue to authorize and issue certifications for braille transcribers.

Students may now submit their literary course lessons in electronic format via e-mail. Communicating via e-mail reduces the turnaround time for lesson evaluation, which helps students proceed through the course more efficiently. NFB continues to revise course materials to ensure that Braille Authority of North America (BANA) updates are incorporated into the braille certification courses.

"Braille remains essential for the employment of blind people everywhere, and we are pleased to be working with the Library of Congress on this important program that makes high-quality braille more widely available," said Jennifer Dunnam, manager of Braille Programs for the NFB’s Jernigan Institute.

"NLS was solely responsible for all braille certification in this country for 63 years, but the methods of braille production have changed dramatically," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "To best serve our patrons, we must keep pace. NFB, a longtime advocate for braille in the United States, has demonstrated expertise in braille technology and is therefore highly qualified to administer this program."

Since 1943, NLS has offered courses in literary braille transcription for Library of Congress certification. Courses in mathematics and music transcribing, as well as literary and mathematics proofreading, were later added. Transcribers determine how to accurately represent print information in braille and then transcribe the information, providing blind readers with the same materials available to sighted readers. Approximately 200 transcribers and proofreaders receive certification each year. "NLS will remain the certifying authority for braille transcribers and proofreaders, continuing to guarantee the high standards associated with their work," said Cylke.

Founded in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind people in America, with more than 50,000 members, with affiliates in all 50 states, and more than 700 local chapters. NFB’s International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is a comprehensive evaluation, demonstration, and training center, housing more than $2.5 million in tactile and speech output technology. Current and prospective braille transcribers may contact Jennifer Dunnam, manager of Braille Programs at NFB’s Jernigan Institute, at (612) 767-5658 or [email protected].


National Braille Association Professional Development Conference Wednesday, October 29–Saturday, November 1, 2008. Marriott Griffin Gate Resort, Lexington, Kentucky. For more information contact: National Braille Association, 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, NY 14623-2513; (585) 427-8260; [email protected], www.nationalbraille.org
California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH) For information on the 2009 meeting, contact CTEVH, 741 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029-3591; (323) 666–2211; www.ctevh.org/

National Braille Association launches Ask an Expert

In April 2007, the National Braille Association (NBA) launched a web site feature called Ask an Expert that lists 10 areas of expertise in braille transcribing where members may post questions and view responses. Visitors do not need to be members of NBA to view the site, but those who wish to post questions must register.

The Ask an Expert service was originally developed to increase services to members. According to executive director Dave Shaffer, NBA created a place online for transcribers and experts to meet. "We are hoping people who use Ask an Expert will promote the free service and spark interest in joining NBA," said Shaffer.

The goal is for an expert to respond to each question within 24 hours. A question may be forwarded to several experts before an answer is provided. The NBA board of directors moderates the questions and volunteers its time to help transcribers.

The site’s registered membership has grown to nearly 200 with about as many questions posted. The Mathematics and Science area is the most widely viewed—one question and response on centering reference page numbers in a second-grade math workbook attracted more than 900 views.

Carmen Gilchrist, who owns a transcription business in San Antonio, is an example of the site’s success. She heard about the service "through the grapevine" a few weeks after it launched and has been hooked ever since. "It says something about the industry that so many people want to find the exact format for transcription," said Gilchrist. She doubts the experts can be stumped. According to Gilchrist, a question on where to place the name of the author of a poem went through ten moderators before the correct format was established. "I’m so grateful for how much people volunteer for this service," she exclaimed.

Areas of expertise on the web site are: the braille formats course, computer-assisted transcription, educational materials, foreign language, literary braille, mathematics and science, music braille, online learning, tactile graphics, and transcriber services. To view Ask an Expert, go to www.nationalbraille.org. The National Braille Association can be contacted by phone: (585) 427-8260; by fax: (585) 427-0263; or by mail: 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, NY 14623-2513.

Braille Authority of North America offers code update

In a continuing effort to be responsive to braille readers and braille transcribers, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) released BANA Braille Codes Update 2007. It contains updates to the following codes:

English Braille, American Edition, 1994, Revised 2002

Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription, 1997

Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision

BANA is undertaking comprehensive revisions of English Braille, American Edition and of Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription. The 2007 update is a preliminary release of specific changes to each of these codes prior to the complete revision and publication of the new editions. The Nemeth portion of this 2007 update is a compilation of all changes and errata to the 1972 edition of the Nemeth Code. These code changes took effect on January 1, 2008. Subsequent BANA braille code updates will be published as necessary and will contain future code changes.

The 2007 update is being distributed in several electronic formats through the BANA web site at www.brailleauthority.org. Users can create print and braille versions from the files provided online. Print or braille versions are available free by contacting BANA chairperson Judy Dixon by phone at (202) 707-0722 or e-mail at [email protected].

BANA officers
Judith Dixon
Vice Chairperson
Eileen Curran
Jennifer Dunnam
Mary Archer

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In Memoriam


Maxinr B. Dorf
Caption: Maxine B. Dorf

Maxine B. Dorf (1921–2008), leading braille authority

Maxine B. Dorf, who retired as NLS Braille Codes Section head in 1983 after 32 years of service, died in Lexington, Kentucky, on March 14, 2008. She was 87.

For more than three decades, Dorf was part of the Library of Congress program to certify braille transcribers and proofreaders. Coworkers and volunteers knew her as an outgoing person who found much joy in her work and life.

NLS government and volunteer information specialist Freddie Peaco, a colleague, fondly remembers her: "Maxine was such a warm and welcoming person. She was very active with the volunteers and the braille community, and I found her to be very approachable about work-related matters."

As Dorf’s tenure with the Library grew, so did her reputation as a braille authority. "She was known worldwide for her professional braille capability," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. “Maxine had a talent for melding accuracy and humor to the point that those who enjoyed her tutelage were sad when they had to leave."

Dorf received a Meritorious Service Award in 1961 for coauthoring the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, a lesson plan for teaching braille, used by students around the world. The American Library Association honored her with the Francis Joseph Campbell Award in 1984. She served for decades with the Braille Authority of North America. From 1981 to 1982, Dorf was president of the National Braille Association. During the 1980s she received the Leonard A. Robinson Award from the Maryland chapter of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the Robert S. Bray award from ACB.


Norma Schecter with her husband, Bernard
Caption: Norma Schecter
with her husband, Bernard

Norma Schecter (1919–2007), braille literacy champion

Theta A champion for braille literacy and an advocate for the blind community, Norma Schecter died January 6, 2007, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 87.

During the 1950s, Schecter was an early proponent of braille in Southern California. She taught braille in West Covina and organized the Braille Institute Transcriber’s Guild in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley Braille Guild. In the 1970s Schecter moved to Orange County and started braille transcription courses at Huntington Beach Adult School and Saddleback Adult School, Orange Coast College, Saddleback College, and Long Beach City College. In 1974 she founded the Beach Cities Braille Guild. Schecter taught in Orange County for almost 30 years.

She received the 2001 Braille Literacy Award and the 2000 Jim Veale Humanitarian Award. A stone honoring Schecter was placed on the American Printing House Wall of Tribute for her 50 years of service.

"Norma had a Rolodex in her brain that she could scroll through in seconds and come up with an answer—a source of information, who to call, where to go, etcetera—to anyone with a question about braille," said Linda McGovern, a longtime friend.


Dick Hawkinson
Caption: Dick Hawkinson

Richard Hawkinson (1925–2007), dedicated South Carolina volunteer

South Carolina State Library, Talking Book Services (TBS) TelecomPioneer Richard "Dick" Hawkinson passed away on August 20, 2007. He was 82.

For 20 years, Hawkinson spent most Tuesday mornings repairing talking-book equipment for the library. Since 1992, he led a dedicated group of TelecomPioneer volunteers who supported the library’s machine-repair program.

"Demonstrating his dedication to the Pioneers and the repair program, he worked until August 7, still wearing his big smile," said Pamela N. Davenport, TBS director.


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Braille student-instructor dialog

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

Student: I am about to begin working on my 35-page trial manuscript for Library of Congress certification. I have studied the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, fourth edition, 2000, concentrating on the instructions for centering a heading.

However, when a centered heading occupies an uneven number of cells, I am having trouble deciding in which cell to begin my heading. For example, the title of my book contains 29 cells. When I follow the instructions for centering a heading on a braille line, I have an uneven number of cells so that the title cannot be perfectly centered.

Instructor: When a heading occupies an uneven number of cells so that it cannot be perfectly centered, move the heading off center by one cell to the left, thus making more room for a long title and the page number. Therefore, the title of your book should begin in cell 6.

Student: I am transcribing a book in which it is necessary for me to divide plural words at the end of the braille line. Unfortunately, the plurals of nouns are not given in my dictionary. Could you give me some guidance on how to divide them?

Instructor: Certainly. The plurals of nouns are not given in the dictionary if they are formed regularly. To divide such words, it is necessary to know that when a plural is formed by adding "s" or "es" to a word ending in the sound of "ch," "sh," "j," "s," "x," or "z," the "es" becomes a separate syllable. Examples: bush-es, catch-es, dress-es, box-es, hedg-es, maz-es. Remember that when an "s" is added to a word ending in "e" but does not form a new syllable, the word cannot be further divided. Examples: games, miles, likes, dislikes, takes, mistakes.

Student: I believe it is clear to me now how to divide plural nouns. However, the past tense and the past and present participles of regular verbs also cannot be found in my dictionary, and I am having difficulty deciding how to divide these words.

Instructor: In general, adding "d" or "ed" to form the past tense of a verb does not create a new syllable. Therefore, such words as "raced," "caused," and "shaved" are one syllable and are not divided. However, when "ed" is added to a verb ending in "d," "t," "dd," or "tt," it is pronounced separately and constitutes a new syllable. Examples: suspend-ed, supplant-ed, add-ed, butt-ed.

When a verb ends in a "t" or "d" that is doubled before the addition of "ed," a new syllable is formed and the division is made between the doubled consonants. Examples: nod-ded, plot-ted.

When "ing" is added to a verb to form the present participle, it creates a new syllable. Examples: play-ing, hid-ing, fish-ing. When "ing" is added to a base word, it becomes a syllable; however, when a final consonant is doubled before adding the "ing," the word is divided between the doubled consonants. Examples: grab-bing, run-ning.

Student: Finally, are there other problems that I might encounter in dividing words that are not given in the dictionary?

Instructor: Yes, adjectives. Great care should be taken to distinguish adjectives ending in "ed"—such as "crooked" and "wicked"—where the "ed" constitutes a separate syllable, even though it is not preceded by a "t" or "d."

When "er" or "est" is added to adjectives to form the comparative or superlative, this always results in an additional syllable. Examples: bold-er, long-est.

When the base word ends in "ee," the word is divided between the two "e"s. Examples: fre-er, fre-est. When a final consonant is doubled before adding the "er" or "est," the word should be divided between the doubled consonants. Examples: big-ger, mad-dest.

Volunteers master new skills

Between January and October 2007, 180 people received certificates in braille transcribing: 160 in literary braille transcribing, 1 in literarybraille proofreading, 13 in mathematics braille transcribing, and 6 in music braille transcribing.

Literary braille transcribers

Melissa A. James, Anniston
Reba D. Stewart, Talladega
Susie Thomas, Talladega
Tanya W. Thornton, Talladega
Kenneth R. Graham, Phoenix
Richard D. King, Phoenix
William Kelly Michael, Phoenix
Dustin V. Plante, Phoenix
Lidia H. Runge, Phoenix
John A. Walters, Phoenix
Roger Shon Frank, Wrightsville
Ahmad J. Anderson, Avenal
Sally Beckley, Ventura
Jonathan J. Bodary, Lompoc
Marion G. Braff, Walnut Creek
Francisco Carrillo, Folsom
Alfredo Hernandez Cruz, Coalinga
Kevin W. Gentry, Folsom
Mary Jane Goldfarb, Thousand Oaks
Dawn M. Gross, Ventura
Gerald A. Hickman, Folsom
Kiambu Damani Kelly, Ventura
William D. Lemley, Eureka
Roman Martinez, Ventura
Chan Sulla Park, Coalinga
Sharon Stroud Pember,
Westlake Village
Michael S. Pluth, Folsom
Bonnie Rose Shubb, Newbury Park
Pamela Sieg, Castro Valley
Sean Six, Vacaville
Kathleen E. Talley, Camarillo
Mary Taylor, Bakersfield
Kathleen Joan Walker, Moorpark
Debbie Sue Wey, Modesto
Vincent Wong, Walnut Creek
Ronald A. Rajcok, Windsor
Salathiel Thompson, Cheshire
Terrence Walker, Cheshire
Michael D. Chinski, Wilmington
Robert Wesley Warrington, Wilmington
Kenneth W. Bates, Orlando
Laura Buss, Ponte Vedra Beach
Helen A. Conniff, Jacksonville
Linda Downs, St. Augustine
Anne H. Hartschlag, Jacksonville
Colombe L. Horchos, Clearwater
Mohandai Mahelal, Kissimmee
Juanita M. Miller, Winter Garden
Andrea Lynn Schleicher, Tarpon Springs
Tara Prakash P. Tripathi, Orlando
Mariann Witengier, Orlando
Raul Alvarez, Hardwick
Randy Scott Carmack, Hardwick
Charles Allen Carter, Hardwick
Joseph Randle Davis, Hardwick
Terry Eiland, Hardwick
Bobby John Herz, Hardwick
Carey Clint Jackson, Hardwick
Alyssa Jolley, Lawrenceville
Richard E. Keys, Hardwick
John Burt Knowles, Hardwick
Sheila Rousey, Eastanollee
Robert Larry Schneider, Hardwick
Michael R. Sloop, Hardwick
Jeffrey Summers, Hardwick
Matt Timmerman, Hardwick
Elizabeth Whidby, Gray
Michael Schon Whiting, Hardwick
Jason Henry Wilson, Hardwick
Phillip Yarbrough, Hardwick
Ellen Rogers Anderson, Moscow
Keyte Behunin, Boise
Richard B. Lutes, Boise
Jan M. Zollinger, Hagerman
Elizabeth A. Galligan, Georgetown
Gwynn Lorraine Stewart, Georgetown
Melvin Dennis, Anamosa
Roxanne Sue Hensley, Earlham
Blake A. Privitt, Newton
Eric William Querrey, Newton
Karen L. Brown, Louisville
Natasha J. Harmon, Portland
Steven Booth, Baltimore
Christina Thomsen Davidson, Crownsville
Judith A. Cannon, Watertown
Debra Ann Charnley, Livonia
David L. Ellis, Jackson
Cynthia Karen Flood, Livonia
Mollie Marie Galate, Redford
David Gill, Jackson
Donald J. Gimotty, Jackson
Lyndsey L. Graham, St. Louis
Larry Joe Howard, Jackson
John H. Luther, Jackson
Leocadio Servin, Jackson
Mark Stephan, Jackson
Kimberly Jean Vandercook, Monton
JoHonna Lou Brunson, St. Cloud
Myron Philip Hahn, Willmar
Benerie Maurice Allen, Jefferson City
Mary Mast, York
Juan Mendoza, Lincoln
Kelly Thirtle, York
Ronnie Lynn Brownson, Las Vegas
Bill Lee Chamberlain, Las Vegas
Donell Cothran, Las Vegas
Ronald L. Davis, Las Vegas
Milton Jackson, Las Vegas
Ronald R. Long, Las Vegas
Anthony A. Rivera, Las Vegas
Wayne G. Vanderleest, Las Vegas
Martin Russell Wyckoff, Las Vegas
James E. Zanini, Las Vegas
New Mexico
Lenore E. Hastings, Las Cruces
New York
Kristen Marie Chauvin, Webster
Douglas Martin, Napanoch
Anthony Panlall, Napanoch
Sara Louise Weber, Islip Terrace
North Carolina
Diane R. Herran, Charlotte
Richard Bugh, Grafton
Nicolas DeLeon, Grafton
Carl Faulkner, Grafton
William L. Kimbrough, Grafton
Patricia A. Mervis, Elyria
Ronald T. Probert, Grafton
Mark A. Williams, Grafton
Richard Williams, Grafton
Pamela S. Kiser, Breinigsville
Melinda Marie Posteraro, St. Marys
South Dakota
Jason Eugene Frye, Sioux Falls
Paul D. Harris, Yankton
Christopher Houle, Sioux Falls
Michael Glen Larsen, Yankton
Richard R. Matthews, Yankton
Leroy Ross, Yankton
Jamie A. Stevens, Yankton
DeEllen Bellah, Gatesville
Monica T. Colbert, Gatesville
Angelita L. Corona, Gatesville
Machell Williams Day, Gatesville
Joanne Dion, Copper Canyon
Robert J. Findeisen, Littlefield
SuzAnne D. Finney, Gatesville
Ralph W. Fowler, Littlefield
Melissa Klepper, Gatesville
Misty G. Martin, Gatesville
Pamela G. Miller, Gatesville
Laurie Diane Moynihan, San Antonio
Cydnie Powers, Pflugerville
Cole Scott, Littlefield
Rebecca Shaw, Gatesville
Stormy Stanford, Gatesville
Beverly Stanley, Gatesville
Aimee L. Bloom, Zillah
Michael G. Cavanaugh, Edmonds
Angela Vargas, Vancouver
Jeremy M. Becker, Oshkosh
Christopher L. Dejewski, Oshkosh
Jill M. Dumphy, Madison
Su Lin V. Wiering, Madison

Literary braille proofreader

Donna Chambers, Las Vegas, Nevada

Mathematics braille transcribers

Robert Earl Kroncke, Florence
Katrina Ostby, Arroyo Grande
Eric Schlager, Folsom
Ellen H. Voyles, Moraga
Frank Arnold, W. Lafayette
Jerry Lee Cole, Anamosa
Larry D. White, Anamosa
Evelyn Gaither, Gatesville
Sandra Hutto, Gatesville
Connie L. Stone, Gatesville
Rose Marie Durocher Turford, Gatesville
Jason J. Faber, Oshkosh
Joel M. Furst, Oshkosh

Music braille transcribers

Moonset Yu, Watsonville
Charlotte L. Zeman, Cedar Rapids
Katy L. Dumdie, Gatesville
Dennis W. Helwig, Oshkosh
Jeffrey T. Hunter, Luxemburg
Joshua L. Jameson, Oshkosh

North Carolina celebrates 20-year career of volunteer services director Gary Raye

North Carolina volunteer services director Gary Ray receives a recognition plaque from NLS government and volunteer information specialist Freddie Peaco.
Caption: North Carolina volunteer services
director Gary Ray receives a recognition
plaque from NLS government and volunteer
information specialist Freddie Peaco.

The theme "You and Gary Ray make a difference every day!" greeted the more than 150 volunteers and well-wishers gathered at the North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH), on November 16, 2006, for a combined volunteer recognition dinner and retirement party. Gary Ray, the library’s outreach/volunteer services director, retired in March of 2007 after working for more than 20 years to ensure that patrons received the best library services.

Ray began his association with the LBPH as a volunteer in 1981. For six years he served in many different capacities before he was hired as a reader advisor in 1987. In that capacity, Ray got to know many of the library’s patrons and volunteers. During this time he also served a term as president of the Friends of the Library. "This position allowed me to give back to the organization that not only employed me, but also gave me high quality library service, which I first started using in 1976," said Ray.

In 1996 Ray became the library’s outreach/volunteer services director, a position that gave him the opportunity to travel around the state to discuss the library’s services. "It made me so happy to spread the word about the service. Sometimes I felt it was more of a calling than a job," he smiled.

In his farewell speech "I Had a Really Good Time," Ray said:

"I first became aware of the library back in the mid-seventies as I was losing my sight. The services of the LBPH saved my life. Reading was the first thing I took back from my blindness. I have seen the library from every point of view: as a patron, volunteer, Friends officer, and an employee. During that time, nearly 30 years, my support for this agency and its mission has never flagged. . . .

Volunteering is important to me as I know it is to each of you. I can assure you that your contribution to our service is essential for us to deliver some of the best library services in the nation. What you do is so important. Please don’t ever stop!"

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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 (PMS).

Publication editors:


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