In accordance with the authority provided in 2 U.S.C. 135a and 135b, the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) is responsible for administering a national program to provide reading materials for eligible individuals living in the United States and US citizens living abroad. The program furnishes books, magazines, and music scores and other materials produced in raised characters, in sound recordings, and in other accessible formats.

Functions and Responsibilities

NLS is responsible for the:

  • Selection and procurement of reading materials for individuals that are blind, have low vision, are physically disabled, or have a print disability.
  • Distribution of the materials and relevant bibliographic information either directly or through cooperating state and local network libraries.
  • Design, development, and procurement of sound reproduction and other playback equipment and its distribution either directly or through cooperating agencies.
  • Establishment of standards and assurance of quality products and services.
  • Administration of a nationwide interlibrary loan program and of an international gift, exchange, and interlibrary program.
  • Preparation of catalogs and other publications in print and other media for eligible individuals to ensure full use of the national program.
  • Provision of a national reference and referral service on all aspects of blindness, physical disabilities, and other print disabilities.
  • Development, maintenance, and circulation of a national collection of musical scores and instructional texts in special formats.
  • Monitoring of network libraries for effective use of NLS resources at each site and provision of guidelines and procedures manuals.

NLS maintains active outreach to individuals who are blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, and reading disabled throughout the country who qualify for service, in addition to liaising with cooperating state and local network libraries, with nonprofit and other organizations that serve individuals who qualify for NLS service, and with federal, state, and local agencies.

For additional information about the statutory specifications of NLS’s lending preferences, network, international service, and key definitional terminologies, refer to 2. U.S.C. 135a External, Pub. L. 116–94 External, and the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019 External.

Organizational Structure

Office of the Director

Manages the National Library Service; creates policy, develops strategy, and determines the use of NLS resources to reach organizational goals as well as coordinating the activities of all NLS divisions. The office also serves as the primary liaison to Library of Congress leadership. The Office of the Director includes the Director, the Deputy Director, a Special Assistant to manage legislative and programmatic requests, the Modernization Program Manager, the Planning and Innovation Office, the Communications and Outreach Section, the Research and Development Officer, and an Executive Assistant.

Patron and Network Engagement Division

The Patron and Network Engagement Division provides outward-facing customer service through varying channels, gathers insights into NLS customers at all levels, and provides these insights to other NLS units so that NLS development, operations, and maintenance activities are customer-focused. The division manages activities related to network development, guidance, and monitoring of service to users in accordance with established standards; determines user eligibility; and liaises with libraries, related agencies, volunteers, consumers, and the general public. The division comprises five sections and a division office. These sections are Network Services, Patron Engagement, Information Services, Music, and staff supporting the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Currency Reader.

Program Delivery Division

The Program Delivery Division develops and manages the delivery systems and devices necessary to assure that NLS patrons receive NLS materials efficiently and at a high standard of quality. The division includes two sections that are integral to this work: Channel Design and Deployment and Product Management and Acceptance.

Collections Division

The Collections Division is responsible for all activities and systems associated with collection development, content selection, cataloging, and audio and braille production. This division also actively seeks new, enhanced content options and expanded accessibility of NLS materials. This division includes five sections: Collection Development, Bibliographic Control, Audio and Braille Production, Content Quality Assurance, and the NLS Media Lab.

Business Operations Division

The Business Operation Division manages core business operations functions, including human resources, finance, acquisitions and purchasing, warehouse and inventory management, shipping and receiving, and facilities management in order to advance NLS strategic and operational goals. The Business Operations Division includes the Administrative Services Section, the Logistics and Facilities Management Section, the Equipment and Infrastructure Section, and Financial and Contracts Management functions.

April 2023

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