July 11, 2007 NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke Receives Award from the American Council of the Blind
Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639; Jane Caulton (202) 707-0521
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) presented the Robert S. Bray Award to Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, on July 4, 2007, during the ACB National Convention in Minneapolis. Cylke, who has served as director of NLS since 1973, was given the Robert S. Bray Award for his “visionary and steadfast commitment to a digital talking-book program that will service blind Americans throughout the 21st century.” Cylke has led NLS in researching and developing the Digital Talking-Book System—scheduled to launch in 2008—since 1990. In the 1970s, Cylke ushered NLS through the transition from phonographs and discs to a cassette-based system. Under Cylke’s leadership, the number of NLS patrons has grown 155 percent—reaching 750,000, with circulation increasing from 11 million items in 1978 to 26.3 million items in 2006. Similarly recorded cassette titles increased 3,468 percent in the same period. The program’s influence has expanded globally, impacting organizations such as the International Federation on Aging, the International Federation of Library Associations and the World Blind Union. Cylke has received numerous honors, including the American Library Association Francis Joseph Campbell and Joseph W. Lippincott awards. In 2005 Cylke was given the Newell Perry Award, the highest award of the National Federation of the Blind. He was appointed a Virginia Cultural Laureate by Governor Douglas Wilder in 1992 and given the Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in 1996. Founded in 1961, ACB is a national membership organization of more than 26,000 blind people. The organization works to improve the quality of life for blind individuals by elevating their economic, social, and cultural levels and by improving opportunities for education and rehabilitation. ACB assists members of the blind community to develop their skills and abilities, and it also conducts a public education program to increase awareness and understanding of the capabilities of blind people and their contributions. Members of ACB serve as representatives to other organizations, providing advice and consultation on issues related to blindness and low vision. ACB established the Robert S. Bray Award in 1975 to honor the memory of the late chief of the Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the precursor to NLS. Bray headed the organization from 1957 to 1972, overseeing the program through its transition from a network of 28 cooperating libraries to more than 100 upon his retirement. Readership increased under his direction from around 58,000 to more than 300,000. Bray received many awards for his contributions to librarianship, especially in the area of serving the blind community. The award named for Bray is given annually to individuals who have contributed to improving library technology or communication devices to expand access for blind people.