June 18, 2010 Seattle and Virginia Beach Libraries Receive Awards for Serving the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Contact: Jane Caulton (202) 707-0521

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, today presented awards to libraries in Seattle and Virginia Beach for outstanding service to the blind and physically handicapped communities.

The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL) in Seattle, Wash., received the Network Library of the Year Award. The annual award, in its sixth year, carries a $1,000 cash prize.

The Special Services Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of Virginia Beach, Va., received the fourth annual Network Subregional Library of the Year Award, which also carries a $1,000 cash prize.

NLS presented the awards at a luncheon ceremony today, June 18, in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

“Both the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library and the Special Services Library of Virginia Beach wholeheartedly embraced our recently launched digital talking-book system,” said Kurt Cylke, NLS director, alluding to the distribution of digital talking books and players to a national readership of 900,000 and the establishment of an Internet-based digital audiobook download system called the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD).

“Simultaneously, the two libraries continued their strong traditions of conventional library service, launched innovative new programs providing patrons with opportunities to explore the arts, and increased local awareness of their activities,” Cylke said.

WTBBL Program Manager Danielle H. Miller, who accepted the award for the Seattle library, said “During the past year, we’ve managed to expand our services in creative ways despite economic difficulties and funding cuts. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and grateful to be recognized for it.”

She added, “Receiving the Network Library of the Year Award means so much to all of us—staff, volunteers and patrons. Everything we do here is really a collective effort.”

The first NLS network library to produce its own downloadable digital talking book system, WTBBL circulated 397,077 items to 10,236 eligible individuals throughout the state of Washington in 2009. The library gained 1,401 new patrons that year.

WTBBL patrons enthusiastically demonstrated their appreciation for the library’s services through letters of thanks and financial donations of nearly $125,000 in 2009. The funding helped to support a variety of programs, including a radio reading service that WTBBL broadcasts from its studio and makes available in podcast form through its website. In 2009, the library opened its first exhibition of patron-created art, establishing an annual art show.

Miller was joined at the luncheon ceremony by Washington State Librarian Jan Walsh and Patron Advisory Council Chairperson Sue Ammeter.

Pamela Brown, senior and disability services librarian, accepted the award on behalf of the Special Services Library in Virginia Beach. Brown said, “We danced in the hallway when we learned we won the award. We’ve been striving for a number of years to meet the standards, and we hope to keep up the good work. Personally, I’m particularly pleased with the amount of media attention we’ve been able to get. I think it’s absolutely critical that we stay in the public eye at all times. This year, we’ve succeeded.”

The Special Services Library has used the distribution of digital talking-book players and digital talking books as an opportunity to garner publicity from a local newspaper. The library also obtained television coverage for organizing a library-sponsored field trip to the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, where patrons were encouraged to touch art and discuss their experiences with attending artists.

To support growing demand for digital talking books, the Special Services Library raised funds to help purchase blank digital talking-book cartridges. Patrons may use the cartridges to download audiobooks from BARD.

The Special Services Library serves the Eastern Shore of Virginia and other nearby counties, to which it circulated 35,419 items to 905 patrons in 2009. The library shares space with the Bayside Area Library, which enables the Special Services Library to provide patrons with an accessible computer laboratory and other walk-in services six days a week.

Richard Sorey, Norfolk regional manager of the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, and Martha J. Sims, Virginia Beach Public Library director, also attended the ceremony.

NLS administers the free library program that loans materials to residents of the United States and citizens living abroad who are unable to read or use standard print materials because of visual or physical handicaps. Materials loaned include braille and recorded books and magazines, music scores in braille and large print, and specially designed playback equipment. The 121 network libraries—throughout the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands—provide direct service to eligible individuals and institutions. Eligible American citizens living abroad are also able to participate in the NLS program. For more information about NLS, visit its website.


PR 10-148
ISSN 0731-3527