April 4, 2006 Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service Recognized as Outstanding by Library of Congress

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jane Caulton (202) 707-0521

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress today presented the Network Library of the Year Award to the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service of Springfield for outstanding accomplishments in 2005.

The annual award, which carries a $1,000 cash prize, was presented today, in recognition of National Library Week, during a private luncheon in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington D.C.

Sharon Ruda, director of the Illinois braille service in Springfield, said, “I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of all the Illinois cooperating libraries.” The sub-regional libraries include the Chicago Public Library Talking Book Center, the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, the Southern Illinois Talking Book Center and Voice of Vision Talking Book Center, which were all recognized by NLS.

“Thanks to the active involvement of the staff, volunteers and patrons, the Talking Book and Braille Service is able to pilot many new projects and keep patrons up to date with current technologies,” Ruda said.

NLS recognized the Illinois Talking Book and Braille Service for creating and providing technology-related services to blind and physically handicapped readers. One of its most ambitious programs, the Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL), started in the Illinois talking-book community as an accessible Web-based book discussion in 2003, and is now popular in libraries worldwide. In 2005 the OPAL Web site had more than 44,000 visitors and 30 braille and general-use library members in the United States, Australia and Norway.

Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director, said, “The Illinois Service for the Blind has taken great steps preparing patrons for the NLS digital conversion in 2008 by using technology to provide innovative service. These efforts—and its 95 percent patron approval rating—go far beyond the award criteria, making Illinois an excellent choice.”

Other projects spearheaded by Illinois Talking Book and Braille Service include:

  • InfoEyes, a virtual reference service for blind, visually impaired, and other print-impaired individuals, which is provided live online or via e-mail
  • Playaway audiobooks, a program that provides patrons with small, self-playing talking books
  • Unabridged, a Web-based digital audiobook program that permits patrons to listen to books on their computers or download them onto a CD or MP3 player
  • The Lobe Library, a program that mails eligible readers digital audiobooks on small Otis or MP3 players
  • The Illinois Kidzone, an online summer reading program and resource Web site for young readers, their parents and their teachers

The Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service is the second recipient of the Network Library of the Year Award; Braille Institute Library Services of Los Angeles received the award last year. “The network is vital to our mission,” Cylke said. “We are thrilled we can give cooperating libraries the recognition they deserve.”

NLS created the Network Library Award to recognize outstanding accomplishments of the 134 libraries serving blind and physically handicapped individuals across the country and in U.S. territories. Forming the network of cooperating libraries, these state and privately funded agencies circulate NLS-produced braille and recorded materials and provide other services to eligible readers in their communities.

A specially established committee comprising librarians and patrons select the award using the following criteria: mission support, or the extent to which the library reached or exceeded the American Library Association Revised Standards and Guildelines for Service; creativity and innovation; and the record of patron satisfaction.


PR 06-078
ISSN 0731-3527