Overseas Services

The overseas program serves American citizens living outside of the United States who are unable to use regular print materials because of a visual impairment or a physical or reading disability. Eligible non-US citizens who are dependents of active-duty military or diplomatic personnel may also apply for NLS service. Overseas patrons have full access to the NLS collection of books and magazines. Materials are available in audio or braille and are delivered free of charge by mail on digital cartridges, in hard-copy (for braille), or can be accessed electronically through BARD, the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download service. Regardless of format, the service is provided free of charge.

How to Apply

Overseas patrons must meet basic NLS eligibility requirements and complete the NLS Overseas Services application. In addition, they must supply proof of citizenship or service member’s orders listing them as a dependent.

Patrons already registered with a cooperating network library who are planning to live abroad for six months or longer may transfer their service to the overseas library service. They do not need to complete an additional service application but will still need to contact the overseas librarian and supply proof of citizenship or service member’s orders listing them as a dependent.

A US passport number or a copy of a birth certificate showing the place of birth is acceptable proof of citizenship. A Social Security number is not acceptable for proof. Eligible non-US citizens who are dependents of active-duty military or diplomatic personnel should send a photocopy of the service member's orders posting them abroad and listing the applicant as a dependent.

Email to [email protected] is the most efficient means of submitting a signed copy of the application and citizenship documentation to the overseas librarian. However, the overseas librarian may also be contacted by mail at:

Overseas Librarian
Library of Congress
The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled
Washington, DC 20542

What Equipment Is Available to Me?

NLS encourages overseas patrons to make use of BARD and the BARD Mobile App for the quickest access to reading materials. However, overseas patrons are eligible to receive the same digital talking-book machines (DTBMs) assigned to patrons in the United States. All NLS-supplied equipment is provided on loan without cost and is circulated via postage-free mail. When completing your application, please indicate the type of DTBM you would like to borrow.

Currently, NLS does not have equipment set for different current used in other countries. In the US, electrical current is 110-volts, 60 cycles alternating current. Some countries use the same current as the US, while other countries use 220-volt, 50 cycles alternating current. Please be certain that the current is 110-volt, or that you use a voltage converter if it is 220-volt, before plugging in the machine.

If you apply directly to the overseas librarian as a new patron, we will send a voltage converter with your machine. If you are an existing NLS patron who is moving overseas and plan on taking with you a DTBM you have already been loaned by a cooperating network library, please tell the overseas librarian when you transfer your service so NLS can supply a voltage converter if needed.

Please keep any boxes in which your machine arrives, as you will need it to return it to NLS.

What Happens after I Enroll?

You will be contacted by the overseas librarian, who will work with you to supply any equipment you requested. Once enrolled, you will have full access to the NLS collection, including recreational and informational reading for adults and children at all grade levels, in audio and in braille. All overseas patrons will also automatically receive an electronic subscription to Overseas Outlook via email.

Book Selection

If you request that we select books for you on your application, the overseas librarian will do so according to your indicated reading interests. You may also select your own titles. Audio and braille materials produced by NLS and other organizations are listed in NLS Catalog, accessible online. Once you have located titles of interest in the catalog, you may send the overseas librarian your selections via email at [email protected] or call 202-707-9261.

In addition, any patron who request talking books may receive a free subscription to the bimonthly audio on cartridge publication Talking Book Topics (TBT), which lists new audio titles added to the collection. Patrons who requested braille service may receive a free subscription to the bimonthly hard-copy braille publication Braille Book Review (BBR), which lists new braille titles added to the collection. The braille version of BBR also includes an abridged version of TBT. TBT and BBR are also available for download from BARD and can be found on the NLS website in electronic forms.

Patrons seeking materials in languages other than English may want to review the web-only publication Foreign Language Quarterly for new additions to the collection. Patrons also may contact the overseas librarian and ask for a bibliography and/or minibibliography on a subject of your interest.

Book Circulation

If you elect to receive books via the post, they will be mailed to you at regular intervals in hard-copy braille or on audio cartridge, as you prefer. The number of books and the frequency of mailings will align with your stated preference. If you do not indicate how many books you want, we will mail four per month.

You may keep books as long as you need, but please return them when you have finished. Reverse the mail card, exposing the NLS address, place in the cartridge container slot, and put the book back into the mail.

In addition to by-mail service, you may access NLS materials via BARD, which allows eligible readers to download books and magazines in audio or braille 24 hours a day. Talking books may be downloaded to computers, transferred to blank cartridges, and played on NLS-authorized digital players. You may also download materials to their iOS or Android devices using the NLS BARD Mobile app, which requires a Bluetooth connection to a braille display to read ebraille materials.

To register for BARD, you will need to have a computer or mobile device with high-speed Internet access (not dial-up), moderate computer knowledge, and a valid email address. If you wish to download books to play on an NLS-authorized digital player, you will also need a flash cartridge and a cable for connecting it to your computer.

BARD requires the completion of the separate online BARD application. Once patrons have registered, they can begin downloading NLS digital talking books and ebraille.

Other Materials Available from NLS

NLS supplies magazines on digital audio cartridges and in hard-copy braille. Most of these titles are listed in Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review. In addition, we can send you a list of other magazines available through the NLS network. Audio magazines on digital cartridge should be returned, but braille magazines may be discarded.

Music scores and instructional materials in audio and braille formats are available free directly from the NLS Music Section. You may inquire about this service and materials by emailing [email protected].

NLS also produces resource materials on a variety of topics related to travel and mobility. These may be of interest:

- Travel and Recreation for the Visually Impaired and Physically Disabled

- GPS and Wayfinding Apps

Patrons might also find helpful this the State Department: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

How to End Overseas Services

If you no longer need braille and/or talking book service, please contact the overseas librarian. We will cancel all magazine subscriptions, stop mailing books, and may send you labels for returning equipment. Some additional issues of magazines and copies of books may still reach your address if they are already en route; please return them once they arrive.

You may reach the overseas librarian via email to [email protected], phone at 202-707-9261, or postal mail to:

Overseas Librarian
Library of Congress
The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled
Washington, DC 20542

If you move back to the US but wish to continue to receive service as an NLS patron, please notify the overseas librarian of your new address. Your service will be transferred to your local cooperating network library.

Overseas Outlook

Overseas Outlook is a newsletter for any patron living outside the United States. The overseas librarian automatically subscribes all overseas patrons to this electronic publication via email. It is also available in hard-copy large print on request.

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