November 3, 2011 Talking-Book Program Honors Pioneers for 100 Years of "Answering the Call"

Contact: Jane Caulton (202) 707-0521

During a celebration of the Pioneers’ 100th anniversary as a volunteer organization, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress today presented a proclamation, recognizing the group’s role in serving blind and disabled readers.

“Talented and dedicated Pioneers volunteers have repaired more than 3.6 million audiobook machines for NLS since 1960, keeping books talking for blind and physically handicapped people. ... Pioneers have saved United States taxpayers an estimated $216 million,” noted the proclamation, which was signed by Ruth Scovill, NLS acting director and by Robert Fistick, deputy director.

John Brown, NLS Engineering Section head, presented the proclamation at an awards ceremony during the Pioneers’ centennial meeting in Boston, Mass.

“NLS is very appreciative of the time and effort these employees and retirees from the telecommunications industry have committed to the talking-book repair program,” Scovill said. “They have helped people with visual impairment and lack of dexterity continue to experience the joy of reading.”

The Pioneers organization, originally the Telephone Pioneers of America, was founded on Nov. 2, 1911, at a meeting in Boston attended by Alexander Graham Bell. Under the slogan “Answering the Call of Those in Need,” its members started repairing NLS phonographs in the 1960s, then cassette players in the 1970s and 1980s. Now Pioneers are being trained to troubleshoot the new NLS digital talking-book machines. About 1,000 Pioneers currently volunteer in the program, serving the NLS network of cooperating libraries and their patrons across the country.

For more information about the Pioneers, visit External.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress administers the digital talking-book and braille program, a free library service available to U.S. residents or American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical handicap makes reading a regular printed page difficult. Through its national network of regional libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in audio and in braille, as well as digital audio players, directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are available in large print, braille, and recorded formats. Select materials are also available online for download. More information is available at or 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).


PR 11-218
ISSN 0731-3527