Digital team moves forward as NLS confirms choice of flash

Digital projects coordinator, 
	Jean Moss, and deputy director, Michael Moodie
Photo Caption:
Digital projects coordinator Jean Moss and deputy director Michael Moodie

Data presented by staff information technology specialist Neil Bernstein to the NLS Digital Audio Development executive committee on September 9, 2004, confirmed the viability of flash memory technology as the medium for the digital talking book (DTB) of the future. Following a detailed study, Bernstein concluded that the cost of flash memory cartridges had come within the range acceptable to NLS and clearly would continue to fall in years to come.

NLS has watched developments in digital technology for nearly a decade, anticipating the decline in the cost of flash technology as other elements of the digital transformation went forward. The price drop confirms that NLS should go ahead with the design and testing of a solid-state digital player to replace the current C-1 cassette machine, the playback device used by most NLS patrons. A machine-design contractor will be announced in the near future.

Flash memory cartridges, roughly the same size as but slightly thicker than a credit card, will hold a complete book that readers will find easy to navigate. "Flash will provide readers with a DTB that is easy to use, portable, and virtually indestructible, with the high-quality sound one expects from a digital product," according to NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. The technology "will allow users the reading experience of their choice."

Flash technology provides the alternative that NLS has long sought and answers the questions raised by NLS and its consultants concerning other digital systems in the marketplace. Unlike CDs, which NLS will bypass completely, flash memory cartridges are robust. They provide ample storage capacity; they may be replayed or recycled indefinitely; and best of all they have no moving parts and will be played on machines with no moving parts, minimizing annoying malfunctions and expensive, time-consuming repairs.

The NLS digital team: expertise and commitment

With three recent appointments, the NLS digital transition team is nearly complete, lacking only the machine-design contractor, which will be announced early in 2005, and two permanent staff members for whom the hiring process is under way: an Engineering Section head and a research and development officer. This multifaceted group of regular NLS employees and special contractors will guide the agency through the three remaining years of the decade-long transformation project, with the distribution of digital books and equipment set for 2008.

"The team we've put in place comprises some of the best people in a huge, competitive, international arena. They have expertise in all areas of the digital domain technology, intellectual property management, marketing, and development," said Cylke. "They will get the job done, and they will do it well."

Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director, serves as the active, working liaison between internal and external participants. During his thirteen years as NLS research and development officer, Moodie chaired the committee that developed the digital talking-book standard over a four-year period (ANSI/NISO Z39.86 2002), and he has thoroughly researched the application of solid-state technology to the digital talking books of the future. He holds an MS in business management from Johns Hopkins and a BA in psychology from Syracuse University.

Jean Moss, who holds the newly created post of digital projects coordinator, has the exacting role of overseeing the synchronization and tracking of the many projects associated with the digital transition, now and in the future. For example, she ensures that pilot and transition studies are completed in an appropriate form and in time to dovetail with subsequent implementation contracts that will rely upon their outcomes. Moss graduated from Wellesley College with a major in political science and mathematics and is pursuing an MBA at the University of Maryland. She acquired more than twelve years of complex logistical oversight experience in the private sector before joining NLS in 2000 as assistant head of the Production Control Section.

Neil Bernstein was appointed information technology specialist in the NLS Engineering Section in August. Information technology specialist, 
Neil BernsteinHe holds a BS degree in electrical engineering from Brown University and an MS in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California at Berkeley, and has more than fifteen years of private-sector experience as a systems analyst for MCI Telecommunications, a software developer for Wink Communications, and a web-design consultant for the Garam Group. Bernstein works closely with the deputy director and other members of the digital audio development team toward implementation of the NLS analog-to-digital transformation by 2008. "Neil has a unique combination of passion for audio and an electrical engineering and computer science background, all of which are essential for this position," said Michael Moodie. "We are really pleased to have him."

Bernstein will focus on coordinating software development projects supporting the DTB project, including the application of flash-memory technology. He will also assist with the design and development of the new DTB player and help create a distribution system for delivering digital audio materials over the Internet. "I want NLS to turn out a player of extremely high quality one that is reliable, easy to use, and meets the needs of every patron perfectly," said Bernstein.

Don Pieper comes to NLS as a contractor chargedDTB machine consultant, 
Don Pieper with developing and refining the digital talking-book machine that will play the solid-state flash-memory cartridges. He holds a BS, an MS, and a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford. During more than forty years of experience in private industry, Pieper has coordinated the development of specialized systems and instruments in the fields of medical technology, robotics, and communications.

Jerry Ducrest, who holds a BS in engineering and applied science from Digital transition consultant, Jerry Ducrest Yale and an MBA in management from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, is a long-time friend of NLS and well acquainted with its operations. He also has a broad background in the intricacies of government contracting and management analysis and understands how to maximize opportunities amid the constraints of such an environment. Ducrest will participate in the continuing review, analysis, revision, and testing as digital plans unfold.

Ducrest authored almost single-handedly the key digital planning document, Current Strategic Business Plan for the Implementation of Digital Systems, which set out the empirical evidence for NLS's decisions and outlined the probable outcomes in the months and years to come. More recently, he prepared a comprehensive study of the player-transition period, the five-year span when both digital and analog playback equipment will be in use.

Thomas Díaz studied comparative literature and astrophysics before Digital rights management consultant Tom Diazbecoming first a technical writer and then a software engineer in the late 1970s. Since that time, he has worked in increasingly demanding and complex positions in the software industry, taking a special interest in digital rights management (DRM) and helping to develop the attendant technology in e-book publishing. He was a key developer of the DRM system for Adobe Acrobat 6.0.

In light of his expertise in this area, Díaz has been engaged to provide guidance and opinions, to research and evaluate DRM systems, and to assist in the development of a DRM specification applicable to the emerging NLS digital talking book. NLS is collaborating with the DAISY consortium to develop a DRM system that may be implemented by both NLS and DAISY member organizations. Intellectual property i.e., copyrighted material embodied in DTBs circulated to patrons must be adequately protected so that NLS can continue to provide materials in special formats for the exclusive use of blind and disabled individuals under the provisions of the Chafee amendment.

Norman Welch is a proven leader in the world of Digital technology consultant, 
Norman Welch talking-book technology. Since the mid-sixties, when he was hired to upgrade audio quality control in disk mastering for recorded products, he has moved up through the ranks at Evatone, Inc., becoming president and COO/CEO in 1995. Over the past quarter century he has played a key role in guiding that company through substantial expansion and several critical shifts in technological focus. Welch will provide consultation services to the Office of the Director during the transition, especially in the areas of digital fulfillment, administration, marketing, communications, and troubleshooting.

David Andrews, chief technology officer of Minnesota State Consultant and consumer 
advocate David AndrewsServices for the Blind, has worked in many aspects of information technology, broadcasting, communications, and adaptive technology. He will consult with NLS on a broad range of digital issues, bringing to bear not only his technical expertise but also his perspective as a patron and advocate for blind consumers.

Full-time NLS staff members in the forefront of planning and implementing the digital transition include

Digital Long-Term Planning Group considers ramifications

The Digital Long-Term Planning Group (DLTPG) that convened on September 22 at NLS for a three-day meeting was distinguished by the presence of four invited representatives from the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), a national organization of library administrators who are responsible for library development in their states. Their attendance represented an effort to reach out to the parent agencies of network regional libraries and to guarantee clarity and transparency in NLS deliberations over decisions that would affect the states. Representing COSLA were Robert C. Maier, Massachusetts; Donna Jones Morris, Utah; Peggy D. Rudd, Texas; and Michael York, New Hampshire.

Early on the first day, Neil Bernstein presented essentially the same report on solid-state flash technology that he had given to the Digital Audio Development Committee two weeks earlier, and the result was similar. The presentation was well received and there appeared to be satisfaction with progress to date. Flash memory unequivocally receives high marks for cost, ease of use, reliability, durability, longevity, and adaptability all critical qualities for talking-book users.

Jerry Ducrest provided an overview of his recently completed player-transition study, an analysis of needs and contingencies over a fourteen-year period during which digital machines and cassette machines and their respective media will both be available, although in varying proportions of patron utilization. NLS required a detailed report to anticipate future cassette-machine production levels, repair services, parts requirements, and supply policies. Discussion, again, hinged on unknowables such as the initial proportions of patrons who would want digital players and those who would prefer to retain their familiar C-1 machines. The committee anticipates that many experienced patrons will want to keep their cassette players even after receiving digital machines, because not all reading materials will be available in both cassette and digital formats. NLS agreed that the working estimate of patrons who would want both types of machines was low and should be revised.

Guest speaker Mark Bauerlein, director of research, National Mark Bauerlein of the National 
Endowment for the ArtsEndowment for the Arts (NEA), discussed the 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk. The report noted a 10 percent decline in literary reading among adult Americans since 1982, with a concomitant decline in other kinds of reading and other forms of participatory cultural activities. The decline cuts across lines of age, gender, race and ethnicity, occupation, and educational level. DLTPG members were concerned with the findings of the report but uncertain about its immediate relevance to the work of the committee. They noted that the report had not surveyed talking-book and braille readers and wondered whether that population might be an exception to the overall decline.

NLS deputy director Michael Moodie told the group about an important forthcoming study of digital book distribution systems that will develop a cost model, provide values for key variables, create criteria for the evaluation of available options, and, finally, make evaluations and decisions based on the findings. The study will evaluate the assumption that 80 percent of talking-book circulation will be accounted for by 20 percent of book titles those that are most popular. NLS expects that a small minority of titles, perhaps 20 percent, will be mass produced and distributed to network libraries, while less popular books perhaps 80 percent of titles will be available through regional on-demand duplication and distribution centers. This hybrid system would diminish network library collection management while continuing to ensure that readers have ready access to all NLS-produced titles.

The new study will consider operating procedures and policies, service standards, specifications for systems and resources, automation and duplication processes, storage issues, and communication requirements. Members of the committee were encouraged to reflect on a variety of distribution issues and to discuss them with colleagues. It is likely that the distribution study contractor will be available for discussion at the next DLTPG meeting.

Moodie and Prine conducted an open discussion of digital transition issues, arguing on behalf of the statistical predictability that will allow the so-called hybrid system to succeed. Committee members raised issues about the division of labor, priority of digital machine assignments, decreasing availability of cassette books, and timing of phased transitions. Many concerns were the kind that would arise in any large-scale procedural change to an established system.

Lori Bell of the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center reported on a local project in which a group of volunteers is testing various commercial audio players with different types of content. The Lobe Library project involves five talking-book libraries that share a common pool of downloadable books. Books are preloaded on handheld Otis players and circulated. Readers have responded positively to the portability and sound quality of the Otis but dislike the small controls, the necessity of using headphones, and the absence of speed control.

Representatives of Potomac Talking Book Services of Bethesda, Maryland, discussed a new product line called Graphic Audio unabridged recordings of adventure and science fiction stories with multiple voices, sound effects, and related web content, including games and spin-off products. Potomac had approached the group to learn whether uptake of such a product was likely and how it might be promoted.

The meeting closed with further open discussion about the role of network libraries in web delivery of reading materials. Librarians are uncertain about their financial and logistical capacities for keeping up with intensifying technological sophistication, dependence on resources over which they have no control, and the limitations of information technology. Other comments explored the question of digital rights management and ensuring that the protection system devised to keep NLS books free to eligible readers remains as unobtrusive as possible, whatever its final configuration.

COSLA representative Robert C. Maier, director, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, suggested that the issue of greatest concern to the DLTPG is the question of fairness and equity in the early years of digital distribution when not all patrons who want DTB players will be able to have them immediately. Maier suggested that a helpful way of understanding the complexity of the digital transition project is to compare it to "a library moving from a manual system to an integrated library system. Every process is taken apart, looked at, and put back together in a new way."

Permanent members of the Digital Long-Term Planning Group

COSLA representatives

  • Sara Jones* (New York)
  • Robert Maier (Massachusetts)
  • Donna Jones Morris (Utah)
  • Doris Ott* (North Dakota)
  • Irene Padilla* (Maryland)
  • Peggy Rudd (Texas)
  • Michael York (New Hampshire)

Consumer representatives

  • David Andrews (NFB)
  • Paul Edwards (ACB)

Network representatives

  • Lori Bell (Illinois)
  • Jerry Buttars* (Utah)
  • Kim Charlson (Massachusetts)
  • Barbara Goral (Colorado)
  • Kathy Kappell* (Pennsylvania)
  • Karen Keninger (Iowa)
  • Karen Odean (Illinois)
  • Richard Smith* (Missouri)
  • Guynell Williams (South Carolina)


  • Robert Axtell, head, Bibliographic Control Section
  • Frank Kurt Cylke, director
  • Judy Dixon, consumer relations officer
  • Robert Fistick, head, Publications and Media Section
  • Robert Jones, Reference Section
  • Brad Kormann, chief, Materials Development Division
  • Robert McDermott, automation officer
  • Michael Moodie, deputy director
  • Jean Moss, digital projects coordinator
  • Steve Prine, head, Network Services Section
  • Carolyn Sung, chief, Network Division
  • Deborah Toomey, network consultant
  • David Whittall, network consultant

* Not present at September 22 24 meeting

Web-Braille celebrates fifth anniversary

Web-Braille, NLS's unique online braille book service, observed its fifth birthday on August 24, 2004. Launched in 1999 with approximately 2,600 braille book titles, the system has since enjoyed steady and continuing expansion, diversification, and growth in popularity.

Judy Dixon

Photo caption: NLS consumer relations officer Judy Dixon, one of Web-Braille's principal architects)

Web-Braille is an Internet-based service available free to eligible NLS readers through their cooperating network libraries. Once registered and in possession of a password, patrons may freely access Web-Braille files, which can be read online, embossed, or downloaded for subsequent offline use. Judy Dixon, NLS consumer relations officer, was an early advocate of Web-Braille and helped to develop its technical procedures. She monitors and updates the system, adding links to new NLS-produced books as they become available, and assists patrons with technical problems.

Today there are nearly 4,000 Web-Braille users. They have access to 6,700 titles from the national collection, almost 600 music scores, 29 NLS-produced magazines, and 6 sports schedules. New materials are added continuously.

Around the time of its first birthday, Web-Braille links were added to the NLS online catalog. For the first time, users were able to search and retrieve braille files using the online catalog search page. In May 2001, all NLS-produced magazines and sports schedules became available, and the NLS Music Section began adding braille music scores to the offerings (see News, April June 2003, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 5-7).

The year 2002 saw the acquisition of nearly one thousand older braille titles from NLS producers as digital files became available. Along the way, NLS accepted books produced by six regional libraries (Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Utah) and magazines produced by two regional libraries (Missouri and Florida). In addition, a dozen older print titles have been successfully scanned and converted for Web-Braille use.

A factsheet on Web-Braille, updated in July 2003, is available on the NLS web site at

Native American dance troupe supports NLS outreach

NLS announced the kickoff of its Native American outreach program with a performance by the Nunyak Alutiiq dancers of Old Harbor, Kodiak Island, Alaska, on September 23, 2004, in the James Madison Memorial Building. The group, consisting of eight dancers, ages nine to thirteen, and their coordinator, Wanda Price, told several stories through traditional song and dance, following opening remarks by NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke.

Nunyak Alutiiq dances at the Library of Congress.
Photo caption: Nunyak Alutiiq dancers perform in the James Madison Building, Library of Congress. NLS director Kurt Cylke and digital projects coordinator Jean Moss look on, far left.)

"We had been searching for a Native American group to help our readership campaign," said Cylke. When by chance he spotted the group of dancers practicing in the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, he immediately thought of how they could help promote the talking-book program. "They filled the bill," he stated. The dancers were en route to Washington, D.C., for the September 22 opening of the new Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall. During the long flight that they shared, the director persuaded the troupe to join him for lunch at the Library and to consider a brief noontime performance.

Dressed in traditional regalia of fox and rabbit fur coats and beaded headdresses, the group chanted the tales of life on Kodiak Island in their native tongue. The children performed songs of hunting and fishing and songs honoring their elders, describing desserts for celebration, and wishing for safe travel. "Whether traveling by air, sea, land, or in your mind, we wish everyone a safe journey, no matter where you go," said Price as she led the children with her drum to begin the song.

The Alutiiq traditions, which originated on Kodiak Island, were in danger of being lost. "Just ten years ago, not one child was interested," explained Price. But the Old Harbor Tribal Council, the governing body of one of the ten federally recognized tribes on Kodiak Island, was awarded a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice Programs that helped educate the children and make them proud of their heritage. "The people of Alaska really appreciate the way we have been treated here in D.C.," said Price. "We have much more support then we realized."

The group concluded their program at the Library with a song of appreciation for allowing them to be part of this event. "We are so honored to be here," said Price.

In memoriam: Don Smith

Donald H. Smith, head of the NLS Quality Assurance (QA) Section since 1997, died suddenly December 15, 2004. He was well known throughout the network of NLS regional libraries, volunteer equipment-repair organizations, and private contractors. Don Smith addresing 2004 conference.

Photo caption:
Don Smith addresses the National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in Rapid City, South Dakota, May 2004.)

"Don Smith gave nearly thirty-two years of dedicated service to NLS, rising through the ranks by virtue of his noteworthy diligence and commitment," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "As head of the QA Section, his guidance was firm, fair, and steady. We will miss him."

Smith joined NLS in 1973 as a tape evaluation assistant in the Volunteer Services Section, following several years as a radio and television journalist in Colorado. The diction and vocal skills he studied as a college speech major and mastered during this early career stood him in good stead at NLS, where he frequently narrated special recorded announcements and bulletins for patrons of the service. His voice is familiar to NLS readers through his narration of the C-1 talking-book machine instruction cassette. He also recorded public service announcements for the Library of Congress and acted as host for public awards ceremonies.

Smith is survived by his wife, Dianne, of Wheaton, Maryland; two sons, Adam and Corby; and a granddaughter.

NLS launches 102 Talking Book Club

"Talking books saved my life," said 103-year-old North Carolina resident Edna White while accepting her recognition certificate as the first inductee into the 102 Talking Book Club on Wednesday, October 27, 2004.

Edna White receives plaque 
from NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke and NLS DIgital Projects Coordinator Jean Moss. Photo caption: Edna White receives certificate from NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke; NLS digital projects coordinator Jean Moss looks on.

In an effort to increase national awareness and identify patrons who will serve as ambassadors for the new digital technology initiative, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped established the 102 Talking Book Club to nationally recognize the more than 1,600 users of talking books who are 100 years of age or older.

"The 102 Talking Book Club was conceived to recognize the accomplishments of the national reading program's centenarians. Through induction ceremonies in all states next year, the Library of Congress will honor these 1,600 individuals. The events will highlight the reading services provided by each state and increase the awareness of others eligible to join their free local or state reading program," said NLS director Kurt Cylke. He presented White with a certificate and a letter during the kickoff ceremony at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Raleigh.

White lost her sight at the age of ninety. "A librarian introduced me to talking books and they have become a meaningful part of my life," said White. "I am just thrilled to be the first member of the 102 Talking Book Club," she added.

For further information, visit the 102 Club page on the NLS web site at

Times names Librarians of the Year

When the New York Times announced the recipients of the 2004 Librarian of the Year Award, among them were Agnes Beck-Statile, senior young adult librarian of the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York City, and Elma M. Natt, a librarian at the Detroit Subregional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Detroit, Michigan.

These librarians, along with twenty-five others around the country, were selected from more than 1,400 nominees to receive the award by a committee of twenty library professionals.

Agnes Beck-Statile, New York City. Photo caption: Agnes Beck-Statile of the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, New York City.

Beck-Statile has been serving the community with the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York since October 1990, but has been affiliated with the NLS program for more than thirty-three years. She was grateful for the recognition. "The award is the icing on the cake, because I truly enjoy helping people with special needs," she said. "I was stunned and delighted."

Natt began her career in Detroit before becoming associate professor at the Eastern Michigan University Library in Ypsilanti and then associate professor and chief law librarian at the University of Liberia Law Library in West Africa. Returning to Michigan, she became director of the McGregor Public Library in Highland Park. She has been with the Detroit system since 2002.

For the past five years the New York Times has been recognizing librarians for outstanding public service and community commitment through the annual library awards. Each recipient received $2,500 and a commemorative plaque at the reception held in their honor on December 15, 2004.

Iowa postal employees receive awards

The Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped gave recognition awards to several postal employees and one post office at a ceremony on November 19, 2004. The postal employees received the inaugural Florence Grannis Library Service Achievement Awards in appreciation for their exceptional service on behalf of the thousands of Iowans who are blind and physically impaired.

The award is named for Florence Grannis, who served as the regional librarian of Iowa from 1960 to 1976 and who supervised the beginnings of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Mrs. Grannis died in 2004.

"Florence set the high standards of excellence and customer service we strive to meet every day," said Marilyn Jensen, the library's information specialist. "We wanted to start with Postal Service employees because they help deliver more than one thousand books a day so that we're able to serve Iowans with materials in braille and large print and on cassette," she added.

Lewis and Clark kits and reading lists available from Wolfner Library

To honor the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, Wolfner Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, St. Louis, Missouri, has created two kits for group activity programming in schools and institutions. Discovering Lewis and Clark: The Corps of Discovery in Missouri and Discovering Lewis and Clark: The Corps of Discovery in the West are multisensory kits containing everything needed to conduct fun, educational activities on the expedition theme for all ages. They include items engaging each of the five senses, so the programs are accessible to everyone regardless of disabilities.

Lewis and Clark traveling exhibit.

Photo caption: Items from The Corps of Discovery in Missori, a programming kit created by Wolfner Library.

The kits contain

The kits are loaned at no cost to patrons and Missouri institutions such as libraries, nursing homes, senior centers, and schools. They have been very popular.

The Wolfner Library also recently produced its two-hundredth recommended reading list for adults. Started in December 2000 as an e-mail distribution service, the lists are now distributed in alternative formats as well as through the library's web site. In the four years since the service began, more than 25,000 reading lists have been sent to individuals.

Carol Mathews, a reader advisor who has been with the Wolfner Library for more than thirty-five years, completed the two-hundredth list for distribution on December 7, 2004; it is entitled "Stress." Other list titles include "Heartwarming Holiday Stories," "Cooking Up Crime," "Beyond Seabiscuit," "Jazz and Blues," and "First Book." Books on the lists are NLS titles, some in recorded format and some in braille, so these "bibliographies" can easily be used by other NLS libraries.

The reading lists can be viewed on the Wolfner web site at

World Blind Union meets at LOC

The World Blind Union, North America/Caribbean Region, met at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., on October 21 and 22, 2004. Representatives discussed organizational cooperation in the blindness field within the region, development of a national braille literacy competency test, provision of aid to blinded children in Iraq, and new developments among member organizations. NLS deputy director Michael Moodie's update on NLS digital progress was favorably received.

World Blind Union members at Library of Congress.

Meeting attendees, shown in the photo above, were, standing, from left: Frank Kurt Cylke, director, NLS; Barbara Marjeram, secretary, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB); Selma Rempel; John Rempel, president, Canadian Council of the Blind; Dick Hale-Sanders, national chairman, CNIB; Jim Gibbons, president and CEO, National Industries for the Blind; Penny Hartin, CNIB; Paul Edwards, American Council of the Blind; Pat Beattie, National Industries for the Blind; Carolyn Hoover Sung, chief, Network Division, NLS; and Tuck Tinsley, president, American Printing House for the Blind. Seated, from left: Tom Miller, executive director, Blinded Veterans Association; Mary Ellen Jernigan, National Federation of the Blind; Marc Maurer, president, National Federation of the Blind; James Sanders, CEO, CNIB and president, Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded, Canada; Susan Spungin, American Foundation for the Blind; and Vangelis Nikias, Office for Disability Issues, Canada.

The Program

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress publishes books and magazines in braille and in recorded form on discs and cassettes for readers who cannot hold, handle, or see well enough to read conventional print because of a temporary or permanent visual or physical handicap.

Through a national network of state and local libraries, the materials are loaned free to eligible readers in the United States and to U.S. citizens living abroad. Materials are sent to readers and returned by postage-free mail.

Books and Magazines

Readers may borrow all types of popular-interest books including bestsellers, classics, mysteries, westerns, poetry, history, biographies, religious literature, children's books, and foreign-language materials. Readers may also subscribe to more than seventy popular magazines in braille and recorded formats.

Special Equipment

Special equipment needed to play the discs and cassettes, which are recorded at slower than conventional speeds, is loaned indefinitely to readers. An amplifier with headphone is available for blind and physically handicapped readers who are also certified as hearing impaired. Other devices are provided to aid readers with mobility impairments in using playback machines.


You are eligible for the Library of Congress program if:

How to Apply

You may request an application by writing NLS or calling toll-free 1-800-424-9100, and your name will be referred to your cooperating library.

News is published quarterly by:

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542

All correspondence should be addressed to the attention of Publications and Media Section.

Editor: Ed O'Reilly

Writers: Lina Dutky, Paula Higgins