January-March 2016
Vol. 48, No. 1
NLS Network Division deputy chief Stephen Prine describes the logo in the lobby to Director Karen Keninger and other Library of Congress officials.
Stephen Prine (right), Network Division deputy chief, describes features of the new NLS lobby sign to (from left) R. Adrian Upshur, director of Integrated Support Services for the Library of Congress, and Trey Carson III, budget officer in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, while NLS Director Karen Keninger (with her guide dog, Jimmy) looks on.

A new year and a new look

NLS celebrates its 85th birthday with a new brand

by Yvonne French

NLS launched a new brand to celebrate its 85th anniversary on March 3, the date when President Herbert Hoover signed legislation establishing the Books for the Blind program, ensuring that generations of people dealing with blindness―and later, visual and physical disabilities―would be able to experience the benefits and pleasures of reading.

“We are celebrating our 85th year with the launch of a new brand—a subbrand of the Library of Congress—and a new logo,” said NLS director Karen Keninger, who officially introduced the new look at NLS in Washington, D.C. Keninger specifically requested a brand that would integrate the braille and audio aspects of the free reading program.

The modern logo features the braille symbols for NLS followed by the print letters and a graphical element representing audio waves. The organization’s full name, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Library of Congress complete the brand.

The new brand is secondary to that of the Library of Congress, which approved its use because of the unique mission of NLS. The brand will be featured on the covers of NLS magazines, directories, reference guides, and other products, which also have gotten a makeover—as has this newsletter.

The brand is the centerpiece of a strategic communications plan to build enrollment in the program.

“NLS seeks to expand its enrollment among people who are blind or have low vision and those with disabilities—especially older adults, students, and veterans,” Keninger said. The legislation that established NLS gave veterans preference in receiving service.

“Our overarching goal is to create public awareness that will help to increase enrollment, and one way we are doing that is by bringing the NLS image into the twenty-first century,” said Jane Caulton, head of the Publications and Media Section. Consulting with a competitively selected public relations firm, Caulton developed a far-reaching strategic plan that includes the nationwide network of cooperating libraries.

Caulton was careful to seek stakeholder participation during the process. “The brand was shaped with input from the NLS staff and materials from the Public Education Advisory Group, including Mary Jane Kayes (Western Conference), Keri Wilkins (Northern Conference), Susan Whittle (Southern Conference), and Sammie Willis (Midlands Conference),” she noted.

The redesigned covers of Talking Book Topics and a Reference Guide from the Reference Section show the use of the new NLS brand.

The brand is also used in a toolkit developed to assist network libraries in their public outreach efforts. The toolkit includes a variety of materials including web badges, information sheets, and a guidebook to help libraries reach their communities. All the materials may be downloaded from the Network Library Services website, which also has an archived copy of a recent webinar on using the toolkit.

“In addition to reaching end users and caregivers,” Caulton said, “we have formed partnerships with national organizations whose members include physicians, leaders of assisted-living facilities, professional associations, local and community organizations, and state-based disability and low-vision organizations to inform their members about the benefits of the braille and talking book program.”

The goals of the plan are to: (1) build awareness of the NLS brand and its services; (2) foster conversation and engage target audiences in the community, on the Internet, and in social media; and (3) cultivate stakeholder partnerships to spread the message under the theme “That All May Read.” The theme and image are captured on the NLS public education website (www.loc.gov/thatallmayread) and on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thatallmayread).

The January–March 2016 issue of LCM, Library of Congress Magazine, includes a feature on NLS and the ways it is taking advantage of new technologies. You can find the story at www.loc.gov/lcm/pdf/LCM_2016_0102.pdf.

AFB and APH choose new—but familiar—leaders

Two NLS partners have announced changes in leadership this winter.

Kirk Adams
Craig Meador

Kirk Adams, CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind, will become the new president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in May.

Under Adams’s leadership, the Lighthouse has expanded to 11 different locations across the nation, increasing both revenue and the number of its employees. Larry B. Kimbler, chairman of the AFB board of trustees said, “[Adams’s] exceptional leadership record, nonprofit executive experience, keen understanding of the blindness field, and deep commitment to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired made him the clear choice.”

Adams succeeds Carl R. Augusto, who is retiring after serving as AFB’s president and CEO since 1991.

Read more about Adams at http://bit.ly/1KIUHtR Link outside of Library of Congress.

Craig Meador became president of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) on January 1. Meador had served as APH’s vice president of educational services and product development since May 2015 and is former principal of the Washington State School for the Blind, where he began his career as a teacher.

“[Meador] has the vision, energy, and skills to address APH’s noble mission through partnerships with new technology companies, educational institutions, and leaders from government," said W. Barrett Nichols, chairman of the APH board of trustees.

Meador succeeds Tuck Tinsley III, who retired after 27 years.

Read more about Meador at http://bit.ly/1UkJCXI Link outside of Library of Congress.

NLS and braille producers are running with UEB

by Claire Rojstaczer

On January 4, Louis Braille’s 107th birthday, Unified English Braille (UEB) became the official literary braille code for the United States—and NLS was ready for it. All books and magazines assigned on or after that date, beginning with John Grisham’s The Frontier (BR21266), will be produced in UEB, NLS director Karen Keninger said.

“So far, the transition seems to be going very well,” said Braille Development Officer Tamara Rorie. “We are holding regular meetings with our producers, but none of them have indicated that they need anything specific from us.”

In fact, some producers were ahead of the game. National Braille Press (NBP) switched its transcription of NLS books to the new code months ago, and several of its titles are already available for hardcopy loan.

“We began working with UEB internally in October 2014, practicing transcribing and proofreading on our own publications,” said Jaclyn Sheridan, vice president of production at NBP. At the time, UEB training was scarcely available. NBP employees worked with materials from Australia and Canada, where UEB was adopted earlier than in the United States, to teach themselves the new code.

“Our first UEB publication was launched in January 2015,” Sheridan said, “so we’ve had a lot of time to grow comfortable with the code. We are now running our own UEB transcription course, which lets us share knowledge and also helps reinforce our own understanding.”

NBP is still doing some work in English Braille American Edition (EBAE), particularly when transcribing tests for its educational clients. “Students need to be working from UEB textbooks before they can start taking tests in UEB,” Sheridan explained. Business clients shifted to ordering menus and brochures in UEB last year, however, and she expects the percentage of work done in UEB to rise quickly.

Looking for a quick-reference guide for UEB? You can access the NLS document Frequently Used UEB Symbols as a .BRF file at http://loc.gov/nls/bds/docs/symbols.brf or find it at the front of the HTML, large-print, and braille editions of Braille Book Review.

NLS was the first client to request UEB materials from Associated Services for the Blind (ASB). “We began preparing for the transition a year and a half ago,” said Rick Forsythe, director of the ASB braille division. Transcribers used a Hadley School for the Blind course to gain familiarity with UEB. ASB also introduced new quality-assurance procedures to its pre-production staff of four transcribers and five proofreaders. “Instead of having something proofread once,” Forsythe explained, “everyone proofreads it—all five proofreaders get their hands wet. And then we have a meeting once a week to discuss the things we’ve discovered and share things we haven’t seen before.”

“I still have to work in both codes,” ASB transcriber Jessica Rivera said, “and that’s difficult. But I think once we’re fully in UEB, it will be maybe a year before it feels as natural as EBAE did.”

ASB proofreader Elizabeth Mayeux agreed. “As a braille reader, I was really freaked out by UEB at first. But since then, I have become more accustomed to it, and I see a lot of benefits to it.”

NBP’s Sheridan noted a broader benefit: “A unified code lets there be more resources for braille readers around the world.”

NLS intends to take advantage of this synergy by purchasing more books from Britain’s Royal National Institute of Blind People and Canada’s CNIB, Rorie said. “Ultimately,” she said, “UEB will expand our ability to serve our patrons.”

NLS increases use of tactile graphics in books

by Stefan Gunther

Mark Stein’s How the States Got Their Shapes (2008) provides an account grounded equally in geography and humor of how America’s states ended up with shapes that often resemble pieces in a continental jigsaw puzzle. After the book’s initial publication, NLS quickly made it available in digital audio, cassette, and braille formats. That edition, however, lacked one of the book’s essential features: its more than 350 graphics. So, after painstaking work, NLS released a second braille edition in 2013 that adapted every map into a tactile graphic.

“It’s said that ‘a picture paints a thousand words,’ and it’s no different for a blind person,” NLS director Karen Keninger said. “Try describing in words the map of the Middle East, for example, or the Sydney Opera House, and you’ll soon realize that seeing it laid out in a two-dimensional drawing makes much more sense than all the words you can muster.” She continued, “I believe in all possible forms of access to information, and adding tactile drawings when they will enhance the reader’s understanding or experience of a book makes perfect sense to me.”

A detail view of a page from the NLS tactile braille edition of How the States Got Their Shapes shows the Southwest U.S. and the Colorado River.

This reasoning has provided the backdrop for a steady expansion of tactile graphics during Keninger’s leadership. While cost has been a factor in providing tactile graphics for works like Stein’s, their capacity to convey information that is difficult or impossible to communicate in other ways has led to a steady increase in their use in NLS-produced books.

Joel Phillips, assistant head of the Production Control Section, and Judith Dixon, consumer relations officer, said that a few years ago, NLS produced only one or two books annually that included tactile graphics. Over the past two years that number has increased to the double digits. Recent titles have included books on World War I and II and how to play football.

Producing tactile graphics is time consuming. Designers have to consider how to simplify and redesign existing graphics for the needs of braille readers. Similarly, while the production process no longer relies on plates and printing presses, the digital design, preparation of a master, and the making of copies of the master that are used in the braille thermoforming process are involved and labor intensive. This complexity leads to a production cycle of four to six months from inception to completion of a braille book with tactile graphics.

Phillips and Dixon are optimistic that a new five-year contract will result in increased production of books with tactile graphics. As a matter of fact, they are considering children’s books to enhance braille readers’ experience with tactile graphics from a young age.

The NLS commercial audiobook program: More books, faster—and saving money, too

by Lina Dutky

As of January 2016, NLS has agreements with five major publishers—Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Audible, Inc. —to convert unabridged, high-quality commercial audiobook titles to the NLS digital talking-book (DTB) format. Here are five things to know about the commercial audiobook program.

  1. It gives NLS patrons access to more books—a lot more books. “These agreements have allowed us to realize a 50 percent increase in our production of audiobooks,” said Edmund O’Reilly, head of the Collection Development Section. “We are on track to produce 3,750 books in fiscal year 2016 (which ends September 30)—that’s 87.5 percent more books than we were producing before the commercial audiobook program.”
  2. It’s faster. “Commercial audiobooks have reduced the production time for DTBs by tenfold,” said Joel Phillips, assistant head of the Production Control Section. “Where it takes three to four months to produce an average 10-hour talking book from a print book, commercial audiobooks can be converted and made available in a matter of two to three weeks.”
  3. It reduces costs. On average it costs NLS $3,700 to narrate a 10-hour audiobook. While there is still some cost to convert a commercial audiobook into an NLS digital talking book, it’s much less expensive than narrating a book from scratch.
  4. It helps patrons stay up to date. New commercial audiobook titles are now available on the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site much closer to the time when the print books are published. NLS patrons can read books at the same time that their sighted friends have started reading or talking about them.
  5. But NLS can’t always alert patrons to instances of strong language, sex, and violence. Agreements with commercial audiobook producers give NLS access to a database of information about titles three to four weeks before a book is published. That means there is no print or audiobook available for NLS librarians to peruse for content that some readers might find objectionable. So if a book is not part of a well-known series, NLS librarians have been using the tagline “Unrated” to mark commercial audiobooks. That simply means the book has not been reviewed by NLS.

The bottom line? “We’re very happy with the commercial audiobook option,” O’Reilly said. “It’s been a great success—and our patrons seem to agree.”

Network Exchange

Minnesota.  The Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library offers students in the Faribault area the chance to get real-world job experience. As many as 15 students a year take part in the program, which is designed to help them gain social and work skills as they transition from school to the workforce.

Sam Chavie, one of the library’s circulation staff members, participated in the program in 1995 and now helps coordinate the library’s student workers, who shelve materials, sort incoming mail, and address mailing containers, among other tasks.

“We are blessed to have student workers,” Chavie said. “The students not only help us out, but they really help the entire library program. At the same time, they gain valuable work experience that we hope will lead to successful future employment.”

Catherine A. Durivage, supervisor of the Braille and Talking Book Library, described the program in a blog post for the Minnesota Department of Education’s website. You can read her post at http://bit.ly/1oFvYCA Link outside of Library of Congress.


Librarians shake hands

Braille and Talking Book Library adaptive technology librarian Scott Norris (pictured, center) was honored recently by the Michigan Office of Good Government.

Mike Zimmer, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (left), presented a Symbol of Leadership coin to Norris in a celebration at the library on February 4. Zimmer was accompanied by Ed Rodgers (right), director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.

The coin recognizes state employees who show a “can do” attitude, address and solve critical issues, express viewpoints constructively, and show a commitment to Michigan in word and deed

“Scott’s role shifts from trainer, to coach, to advisor, to supporter depending on the situation at hand,” library manager Sue Chinault wrote in a letter supporting Norris’s nomination. “In addition to working with patrons, Scott is always eager to guide staff from other agencies to an understanding of what constitutes accessible services.”

Illinois. The Chicago Public Library Talking Book Center (TBC) created a digital promotional card that will appear at various times throughout the year on the library’s home page. The card, which links to the TBC’s website, features a photo of one of the TBC’s patrons reading a book on an iPad using the BARD Mobile app.

Mystery fans might be getting to know  the voice of January LaVoy (right), who has narrated commercial audiobooks in the NLS collection by authors such as James Patterson and Jeffery Deaver. Listening Library’s Summer 2016 catalog includes an interview with LaVoy, who describes the role of a narrator this way: “A narrator is the equivalent of a lens through which the book is viewed. . . .The lens is doing its job to perfection when the person wearing it (i.e., the listener) forgets that it’s there.” You can read the interview online at http://bit.ly/1p1U0r l Link outside of Library of Congress.

City Lights and other San Francisco sights

We won’t suggest—as the Summer of Love hit single did—that you wear a flower in your hair, but here are a few tips for any free time you have during your trip to the City By the Bay for the National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals, April 3–7.

The conference HQ, the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, is conveniently located in the center of San Francisco, blocks away from Chinatown and a short cable car or bus ride to the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Presidio, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

No librarian should go to San Francisco without making a pilgrimage to City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. City Lights, about a 15-minute walk from the Fairmont, was cofounded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953. Among its claims to fame: Ferlinghetti and a clerk were charged with obscenity in 1957 for selling Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems.

Interested in San Francisco history? The Cable Car Museum—part of the complex that includes the city’s cable car power house—is just a few blocks from the hotel. So is the Wells Fargo History Museum, where visitors can use a telegraph and learn how to drive a stagecoach. Admission to both museums is free.

San Francisco has infinite dining options. If you’re a film buff, you might want to stop by Café Zoetrope, the Italian restaurant owned by director Francis Ford Coppola. If soul food is what you’re after, 1300 on Fillmore is known for dishes such as baby back ribs, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken.

You’ll find plenty more tips for your trip at the official San Francisco travel site: www.sanfrancisco.travel Link outside of Library of Congress.

Follow the national conference on Twitter! #NLSSFO