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News October-December 2017

In this Issue

The making of the new NLS TV commercial

Texas recording studio blazes a trail

From the Director

Library of Congress Touch History tour

Network Exchange

NLS FY18 exhibit schedule


Film crew members set up a camera that will film Saniyah Worrell and Dana Ferguson at the dining room table.
The film crew sets up a shot in the dining room with Dana Ferguson, who plays the mother in the NLS commercial, and Saniyah Worrell, who plays her daughter.

Behind the scenes at the making of the new NLS TV commercial

“Magical Moments” will air on cable TV stations and on radio beginning this winter

By Mark Layman

Saniyah Worrell sits under the hot production lights at the head of the dining room table, idly thumbing through a book, sipping a glass of grape juice, and swinging her feet—which don’t come near to touching the floor. There’s a flurry of activity around her as the film crew finishes mounting a camera on a dolly.

“Rolling! Quiet, everyone!”

“Take one!”



A crew member snaps a digital clapboard in front of the camera.

“Very still around the camera, please. Let me know when you’re ready.”

“Camera set.”

And just like that, Saniyah goes from a bored everyday 10-year-old to a focused professional actor.

“And . . . action.”

The camera moves across the table toward Saniyah, past models of space shuttles, toy rockets, and an astronaut helmet. We see the title of the book she’s reading: Astronaut Abby’s Space Adventures.

Director Lorenzo de Guia calls for her line. Saniyah looks up from her book. “There’s no place like space,” she says dreamily.

The scene is repeated several more times until de Guia is satisfied. Then the crew begins setting up lights and props for the next scene—the last one in a full day of filming a television commercial for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).

Omar M’Sai sits at a table in front of a computer as a crew member works behind him.
Omar M’Sai, who plays the grandfather in the new NLS commercial, waits for his cue.

The commercial, called “Magical Moments,” will air in 30- and 60-second formats on cable TV stations nationwide beginning in February. A radio commercial that will air in 30- and 60-second formats also will be created from this shoot. It’s the next—and most ambitious—step in the NLS multimedia informational campaign that began in June with ads on Internet search engines and Facebook.

“The campaign is aimed at potential patrons and their friends, families, caregivers, medical professionals, and related audiences,” NLS director Karen Keninger says. “We’re already seeing results not only in enrollment but in a significant increase in visits to our That All May Read campaign website and to our Facebook page.”

The commercials were conceived and written—with a lot of input from NLS and Library of Congress National and International Outreach staff—by the Virginia-based firm that’s running the campaign. The premise: Saniyah’s character wants to be an astronaut one day. But when she realizes her grandfather can’t read about Astronaut Abby along with her—“I’d love to, but the print is just too small,” he tells her—she and her mother tell him about NLS, the free Library of Congress program that provides braille and talking books to people who have a visual impairment or a physical disability that prevents them from using regular print materials.

Director and crew member watch as the scene is being filmed nearby in the dining room.
Director Lorenzo de Guia watches on a monitor as the crew films the scene described at the beginning of this story.

The commercial’s New York–based production crew showed up shortly after sunrise at the Montclair, N.J., home that was rented for the day’s filming. They taped cardboard over the hardwood floors, put barriers around furniture and fragile objects that wouldn’t be part of the shoot, and set up lights both inside and outside the house. A truck with a generator parked in the driveway. A caterer served breakfast in the garage while prop makers put the finishing touches on a cardboard spaceship where Saniyah would pretend to be an astronaut in some of the scenes. Two wardrobe stylists and a makeup artist shared the basement, which doubled as the cast’s green room.

De Guia and executive producer Matthew Wilkinson, who work together often despite living on opposite sides of the country, kept the production moving on a tight schedule. While the film crew ate lunch, Saniyah and the actors playing the mother, Dana Ferguson, and grandfather, Omar M’Sai, recorded voiceovers for the radio commercials.

Production wrapped around 6:30 p.m. While the crew put the house back in order, Saniyah played in the yard with her twin sister as her real-life mother stood by. De Guia and Wilkinson huddled to talk about their next shoot a few days later in Portland, Oregon.

There was still some light in the late-August sky when everyone piled into two vans for the 15-mile drive back across the Hudson River to Manhattan. One of the homeowners returned from work shortly before they left and got a gift of sorts from the crew: a cell phone they had found while moving a sofa in the living room.

Texas State Talking Book Program studio blazes trail for local talking-book recording

By Paula Bahmani

Since its inception almost 40 years ago, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission recording program has produced around 6,500 talking books, nearly 400 of which are circulating nationally on the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website. So it was no surprise that BARD’s 4,000th network-produced talking book came from the Texas program. Nor was the book’s subject: a biography of William B. Travis, the garrison commander at the Alamo.

Travis (DBC11955), by the late Texas historian Archie P. McDonald, was selected by the library’s Talking Book Program Collections staff.

Craig York reads in the studio as Miles Lewis monitors the recording in the control room.
Lead audio technician and narrator Craig York reads The Yard Dog (DBC00042), available on BARD courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission Talking Book Program, as audio production administrator Miles Lewis monitors the recording process.

“Anything about the Alamo is always of interest to our patrons and anyone interested in Texas history,” said Ava Smith, regional librarian at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission Talking Book Program. “There is a lot of discussion about the Alamo as the Texas General Land Office moves forward with turning the Alamo and the surrounding grounds into a major world historical site, and the Travis biography [originally published in 1976] is still considered the definitive account of his life.”

The Texas program’s collections department follows NLS guidelines in selecting materials for its 60 volunteer narrators and producers to record: 80 percent adult and 20 percent children’s books, 55 percent fiction and 45 percent nonfiction, with a mix of new and retrospective titles. The collection staff also considers patron requests for specific titles or subject areas, with a focus, naturally, on the Lone Star State.

Other notable titles that Texas has contributed to the national collection on BARD are Same Kind of Different as Me (DBC00008) by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, narrated by volunteer Staci Thompson; Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace (DBC11932) by Michael Morton, also narrated by Thompson; and 31 of the 70 titles in the Hank the Cowdog series of children’s books by John Erickson.

Like the NLS collection, many of the audiobooks in the Texas collection were originally recorded on open-reel tape. In 2003, Texas audio production administrator Miles Lewis began working with then-NLS audiobook production specialist Bill West to test the Low Complexity Mastering system (LCM) for digital recording on one workstation.

“We transitioned to digital because of the added flexibility in the recording process, the increased audio quality, and because digital audio was already the mainstay within the commercial audio production industry,” Lewis said.

 Author Terry Shames poses in the studio with her novel A Killing at Cotton Hill along with Ric Furley and Miles Lewis.
Volunteer narrator Ric Furley (left), audio production administrator Miles Lewis (right), and author Terry Shames pose in the Texas recording studio with Shames’s novel A Killing at Cotton Hill: A Samuel Craddock Mystery (DBC04802).

After the initial year of testing, Texas transitioned its other workstations, as well as those in its partner studio in Midland, Texas, to LCM. By 2005, all books recorded for the program were produced digitally. Meanwhile, Lewis has been diligently converting many of the old analog titles to digital books for circulation on BARD.

“We are ramping up our conversion of those 6,000-plus audiobooks to the digital format and uploading them as quickly as possible to BARD,” Lewis said. “Every new book we record is posted to BARD as quickly as the process can happen.”

Last year, Texas uploaded 90 books to BARD, 18 of which were analog-to-digital conversions. So far this year, Lewis has uploaded 163, with 88 of them being analog- to-digital conversions. In addition, Texas has increased the number of born-digital audiobooks it produces from 59 last year to 69 this year. During the first year of operation, in 1978, Texas recorded just 10 titles.

After 20 years in the Texas talking-book program, Lewis continues to play an active role in the ever-changing environment of digital books. “Programs are adapting to change rapidly to keep up with the shifting technological landscape,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of this program and to have been a part of these huge changes, even as I struggle with a wide array of emotions triggered by the effects of this digital revolution.”

In late October, I spent two days observing the board meeting of the DAISY Consortium at the National Federation of the Blind offices in Baltimore, Maryland. DAISY works on behalf of its member organizations around the world—including NLS—to promote accessibility by, among other things, establishing common technical standards for digital talking books. The chief of the NLS Materials Development Division, Michael Katzmann, serves on the DAISY board.

From the Director logo with Karen Keninger headshot. The meeting gave me more insight into the workings of the consortium, including its priorities. Equally important was the opportunity to meet members of the board and learn what they are doing in their own organizations.For example, Vision Australia is moving away from CDs to a download-only service. They are providing small commercial digital players and offering several options for getting books on them. England’s Royal National Institute of Blind People is testing 300 locked-down smartphones with voice control to determine whether they could be a viable path for playing talking books.

We heard reports on the significant growth in the audiobook industry and the various ways publishers are implementing accessibility features in their products. The ultimate goal is for all books to be “born accessible.” We’re still a long way from that, but the DAISY Consortium and others are working hard to make it a reality.

—Karen Keninger, NLS director


New tour lets the Library’s blind visitors touch history

By Claire Rojstaczer

The soaring ceilings and elaborately decorated interior of the Library of Congress’s historic Jefferson Building have been a popular tourist attraction since the building’s renovation in the 1990s—and now, thanks to a new tour that incorporates verbal description and tactile exploration, experiencing them is within reach of blind and visually impaired visitors.

After several months of pilot testing, which allowed the Library of Congress Visitor Services Office (VSO) to gather feedback from NLS staff and others, the Touch History tour launched for the general public on August 1.

“We’ve always met the needs of any visitor who came in, but we thought we could do so in a more organized fashion,” explained Visitor Services specialist Kathy Tuchman, who developed the tour.

Christina Weymouth rubs her hand over the engraved name of Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.
NLS Quality Assurance specialist Christina Weymouth feels the marble wall panel engraved with the names of all the Librarians of Congress during a Touch History tour in the Jefferson Building.

Visitors on the Touch History tour are encouraged to touch the sculptural elements of the building, from metal fountain spouts to carved marble pillars. “When you have a larger tour, it’s hard to allow people time to feel things,” Tuchman said, so the tours are capped at 10 participants and scheduled for 8:45 a.m., 15 minutes after the building opens and before regular hourly tours start to crowd the space.

Visitors who can’t attend one of the regularly scheduled Touch History tours on the first and third Tuesdays of each month can still arrange for alternate times by emailing the VSO at [email protected] or calling (202) 707-8000.

Touch History participants also have the opportunity to handle a variety of artifacts provided by the Architect of the Capitol, including loose bricks, tiles, and marble pieces left over from building construction and renovation efforts. In the future, Tuchman said, VSO hopes to incorporate a model of the building and tactile graphics. “The challenge isn’t finding interesting materials, it’s maintaining a certain time frame. We try to keep tours to an hour.” For visitors who want to learn more about the building, Tuchman says, every information desk has braille copies of Library of Congress brochures.

The next step is getting the word out. “We’ve listed the tours on EventBrite and the Library calendar,” Tuchman said, “and we’re reaching out to ACB [American Council of the Blind] and NFB [National Federation of the Blind].” Giulia Adelfio, chief of the VSO, also gave a presentation about the tour during “All Things Tactile: Maps, Graphics, Objects and Tours,” a panel held at the Library of Congress in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month on October 23.

If demand increases, VSO is prepared: four other docents are already in training on how to give the tour.

Network Exchange

BPH staff members (from left to right) Dorothy Baker, Tim Emmons, and Angela Fisher Hall.
BPH staff members (from left to right) Dorothy Baker, Tim Emmons, and Angela Fisher Hall.

Alabama: Staff from the Alabama Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (BPH) gave presentations at an October 18, 2017, training session for more than 25 new library directors hosted by the Alabama Public Library Service.

Regional librarian Angela Fisher Hall outlined the history of NLS, the benefits of participating in the program, and how to qualify. Reader advisor Tim Emmons gave tips on making devices and computers accessible to patrons with disabilities. And library technician Dorothy Baker distributed handmade holiday ornaments created from stress balls, ribbons, and pins. BPH serves patrons in 63 of Alabama’s counties; subregional libraries in Talladega and Huntsville serve patrons in the other four counties.

• • •

California: Sacramento TV station KCRA featured the Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) in a story in October. Patron Karen Parsegian—who lost her sight as an adult—told the reporter “It’s like Christmas every time I go to the mailbox” to pick up talking books. Paresgian also praised the BTBL’s reader advisor librarians. “It’s incredible,” she said. “Having somebody that really knows [her interests] and is so nice.”

Director Mike Marlin and librarian Mary Jane Kayes also are featured in the story, which you can read at

• • •

Colorado: Congratulations to director Debbi MacLeod and the staff of the Colorado Talking Book Library [CTBL] in Denver on being named the Colorado Association of Libraries’ 2017 Library of the Year! “We were honored to be recognized for the work that we do in the state,” MacLeod said. “All the staff were present [to receive the award at the association’s state conference] and the president and vice president of the Friends of CTBL also attended. It takes a village to achieve such recognition, and ours consists of a great staff, a dedicated volunteer posse, and a committed Friends of CTBL.”

• • •

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire State Library—the first state library in America, founded before the United States was even a country—is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. State Librarian Michael York has been putting out news releases each month focusing on different library programs. One timed for White Cane Safety Day in October featured Talking Books Services. The release included information on the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service, and on the NLS Music Section.

More than 2,700 individuals and institutions—including schools and healthcare facilities—borrow 88,000 books and magazines each year from New Hampshire’s Talking Books Services. You can read the release at


NLS FY18 Exhibit Schedule

November 12–15, 2017 National Association for Music Education Dallas, TX
December 1–3, 2017 Abilities Expo: DC Metro Area Chantilly, VA
December 13–15, 2017 Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps Atlanta, GA
January 31–Feb. 4, 2018 Music Library Association Portland, OR
February 9–13, 2018 American Library Association (Midwinter) Denver, CO
March 20–24, 2018 Public Library Association Philadelphia, PA
April 5–7, 2018 American Foundation for the Blind Oakland, CA
April 19–22, 2018 American Occupational Therapy Association Salt Lake City, UT
April 24–27, 2018 National Association of Activity Professionals Philadelphia, PA
May 14–16, 2018 Assisted Living Federation of America San Diego, CA
June 21–26, 2018 American Library Association (National Conference) New Orleans, LA
June 29–July 6, 2018 American Council of the Blind St. Louis, MO
July 14–17, 2018 Disabled American Veterans Reno, NV
July 16–21, 2018 Association on Higher Education and Disability Albuquerque, NM
July 23–26, 2018 National Council on Independent Living Washington, DC
July 28–August 1, 2018 National Association of Area Agencies on Aging Chicago, IL
July 2018 National Federation of the Blind TBA
August 6–8, 2018 Abilities Expo: South Houston, TX
August 17–20, 2018 American Association of Diabetes Educators Baltimore, MD
August 2018 Blinded Veterans Association TBA