Braille Institute Library Services named Network Library of the Year

Braille Institute Library Services of Los Angeles received the first annual Network Library of the Year Award from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at a ceremony in the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., on June 1.

Henry Chang, Sally Jameson, 
  and Leslie Stocker
From left: Henry Chang, director of Braille Institute Library Services; Sally Jameson, vice president of programs and services; and Leslie Stocker, president of Braille Institute.

Henry C. Chang, director of Braille Institute Library Services, and Leslie E. Stocker, president of the Braille Institute, the library's administering organization, accepted a check for $1,000 together with a plaque commemorating the library's excellence, innovation, and special achievements in providing service to blind and physically handicapped individuals. "I'm proud to accept this recognition on behalf of our staff, volunteers, and patrons. The year 2004 was challenging, but they rose to the occasion, providing outstanding service to our blind community," Chang said.

"I am elated that the Braille Institute Library has been selected to receive the first Network Library of the Year Award," said Stocker. "This reflects the outstanding professional leadership of Dr. Henry Chang and the excellent work of our staff."

One of three agencies instrumental in the establishment of a national talking-book program in 1931, the Braille Institute's library provided nearly 1,371,000 recorded and braille books to more than 34,570 patrons in Southern California through the regional library and its five branch libraries in 2004. The institute is funded almost entirely by private and foundation sources.

 

The United States color guard salutes 
Braille Institute.
The United States color guard salutes Braille Institute.

The luncheon ceremony, held in the Whittall Pavilion of the Jefferson Building and attended by thirty invited guests, was highlighted by the presentation of colors by a military color guard; a tribute to the Braille Institute and the network by Deanna Marcum, Library of Congress associate librarian for library services; and remarks by NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke and Carolyn Hoover Sung, NLS Network Division chief. A special musical salute to California with a group rendering of "California, Here I Come" preceded Chang's and Stocker's gracious acceptance remarks.

NLS created the Network Library of the Year Award to recognize outstanding accomplishments among the 134 libraries serving blind and physically handicapped individuals across the country and in U.S. territories each year.

A select committee comprising braille and talking-book librarians and patrons chose Braille Institute Library Services for the award using three criteria: mission support--the extent to which the library reached or exceeded the American Library Association's Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service; creativity and innovation in providing service; and record of patron satisfaction.

"The Braille Institute easily exceeded the award criteria," said Cylke. "Not only did the library continue to meet the needs of patrons during a time of budget cuts and staff reductions, but its readership and book circulation increased substantially. Most important, it received a 99 percent patron approval rating."

By expanding partnerships with government agencies, volunteers, other libraries, and even its own patrons, Braille Institute Library Services successfully implemented fifteen new projects in 2004, including

In addition, the library, at the request of its patrons, formed four book clubs. The library also provided student internships, recruiting library students to repair and preserve rare braille and print books. The Library of Congress anticipates that the Network Library of the Year Award will become an ongoing tradition. "The network executes the most vital part of our mission," Cylke said. "We are thrilled to be able to give cooperating libraries the recognition they deserve." In 2006, NLS expects to add recognition of a deserving subregional library to the award.

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NLS gathers statistics to assess program productivity

Collecting and reporting numerical data is a time-honored method of relaying information that organizations use to set goals and assess progress. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, releases a number of publications and resource guides for libraries, patrons, and other stakeholders that contain statistical information such as the readership and circulation of the collection and the number of readers registered to use the collection. Network libraries and NLS use this information to describe the size and scope of the free service, to assess its productivity, and to allocate its funds.

The statistical information found in many of the publications and resource guides is collected through various library surveys, patron databases, and circulation systems. NLS collects data from network libraries, multistate centers, and machine-lending agencies semiannually and annually and then reports the statistics annually in publications such as Library Resources for the Blind and Physically Handicapped: A Directory with Statistics on Readership and Circulation. These statistics also appear, in combination with additional information, in various other publications such as press releases, monographs, factsheets, and promotional documents like Progress through the Years.

Directory details library data

Library Resources is a directory that points individuals and organizations to the libraries that serve their state. It also provides detailed contact information and captures limited data on each library's readership, circulation, staffing, budget, building size, and collections. NLS began publishing this guide without the statistical data in the early 1960s; however, at the request of the network libraries, the statistical information was added as an appendix in 1970.

The body of the publication lists all fifty-seven regional libraries and seventy-seven subregional libraries and the machine-lending agencies. For each library and agency, the guide lists the official name and address, contact numbers, e-mail addresses and web sites, the librarians, areas served, hours of operation, types of collections and special collections, assistive devices, special services, and publications. Preceding the appendixes, other non-NLS library resources are listed in alphabetical order along with contact information, location, hours, eligibility requirements, distribution costs, subjects, reading levels, and catalog availability.

Readership and circulation

The two Library Resources appendixes include statistical information on readership and circulation and on budget, staff, and collections for each library and for NLS as a whole for the previous government fiscal year (FY) (October-September). The readership and circulation information is categorized into three sections--recorded disc, braille, and recorded cassette. A separate column lists totals for these three categories. "The information is broken down in this fashion so that libraries can compare their information with other area libraries," said Sylvia Dye, NLS management analyst. "It is extremely helpful for them to see the productivity of other libraries."

The statistics published in these appendixes do not include readership and circulation of network-provided formats or active deposit collections because those statistics are not separated by media and therefore are not relevant to the purpose of the publication.

The NLS statistics on readership and circulation are a comprehensive total of the information relating to NLS materials submitted by the network libraries. This information is also presented in three categories--recorded disc, braille, and recorded cassette. The total--for example readership in FY03 of 459,044--reflects the total number of recorded disc, braille, and recorded cassette readers network-wide.

Chronological highlights

Progress through the Years presents a brief chronology of NLS highlights along with readership circulation statistics for selected years. Readership statistics include the NLS totals from Library Resources together with users of active deposit collections, network-provided formats, and Web-Braille. There is no separation by media.

Deposit collections are small collections of NLS materials housed in nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and other such facilities and supported by network libraries. Librarians report the number of collections that they serve, but do not track the number of readers using each collection. NLS estimates an average of seven readers for each deposit collection. In 2004, for example, network libraries reported serving 31,035 deposit collections. Estimating that 7 readers actively use the materials in each collection, the total number of active deposit-collection readers reported for FY04 was 217,245.

Network-provided formats

Network-provided formats are materials that are purchased or produced and distributed by the network libraries. They include descriptive video, large-print materials, magazines, NFB NEWSLINE, and dial-in newspapers. Network libraries report the number of readers for network-provided formats for a given year to NLS. The total number of readers using network-provided formats for FY04 was 123,302.

Web-Braille is an Internet-based service that provides, in an electronic format, many braille books, hundreds of music scores, and all braille magazines produced by NLS. The service also includes a growing collection of titles transcribed locally for cooperating network libraries. The Web-Braille site is password-protected, and all files are in an electronic form of contracted braille, requiring the use of special equipment for access. Data on the number of Web-Braille readers is collected by the NLS consumer relations officer. In FY04 the number of Web-Braille readers was 3,749.The 2004 readership total that appears in Progress through the Years 1973-2004 encompasses all users of materials in the NLS program. That number--799,718--is the sum of the FY04 number of readers by format, as reported by the network libraries; the number of readers of active deposit collections, estimated by NLS; the number of Web-Braille readers, overseas patrons, and music patrons, as calculated by NLS; and the reported number of readers of network-provided formats.

Reporting serves intentions

The readership and circulation statistics in Progress through the Years show the progression of the NLS program and the increase in the number of patrons over a thirty-two-year span. In 1973, NLS readership was 391,610; in 2004 it was 799,718. It is obvious that NLS provides a valuable service to a growing number of blind and physically handicapped people. The intent of this publication is to show the journey of the service from its beginnings as a recorded disc-based program to its move into a digital age.

NLS releases a range of publications containing different categories of statistical information, each serving its unique purpose. Some publications include statistics that are only parts of a whole, because that is the most helpful way to present that particular bit of information to a specific audience. The importance of reporting accurate statistics is immeasurable. The accuracy of the NLS readership and circulation statistics reported semiannually and annually depends on the thoroughness of each regional and subregional library. "Our work together in collaboration and cooperation ensures the continuation of successful service to our patrons," Dye said.

Dixon and Kormann share Campbell Award

Judith Dixon2005 Campbell Award-winner Judith Dixon, NLS consumer relations officer.

The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) of the American Library Association awarded the 2005 Francis Joseph Campbell Award to Judith M. Dixon, NLS consumer relations officer, and Wells B. Kormann, who was chief of the NLS Materials Development Division from 1996 until his death on April 29, 2005. The Library Service to People with Visual or Physical Disabilities Forum, part of the Libraries Serving Special Populations Section of ASCLA, presents the award.

The honor, which includes a citation and medal, is presented to a library or person who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of library service for the blind and physically handicapped. According to ASCLA, this contribution "may take the form of an imaginative and constructive program in a particular library; a recognized contribution to the national library program for blind persons; creative participation in library associations or organizations that advance reading for the blind; a significant publication or writing in the field; imaginative contribution to library administration, reference, circulation, selection, acquisitions, or technical services; or any activity of recognized importance."

"Judith Dixon has been an advocate for access to printed information through the widest possible use of special formats--tape, braille, large-print, adaptive technology, the Internet, e-books, digital audio, and emerging technologies," said Barbara Mates, Campbell Award committee member, on behalf of the chair. "She truly exemplifies the mission of access, empowerment, and advocacy.

"Wells Kormann was selected for the crucial role he played in establishing groundwork for the digital future of talking books and for his innate ability to work with a large and diverse national volunteer force for the good of the program," said Mates. has the unique ability to squeeze the most out of time and money for the betterment of the program."On April 8, NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke presented the award to Kormann at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. Other NLS staff members and Kormann's family attended the ceremony honoring him that day.

In Memoriam: Brad Kormann led digital transition

Wells B. Kormann
Brad Kormann

Wells B. "Brad" Kormann, chief of the Materials Development Division of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), died on April 29 after a long illness. He was fifty-one.

"In guiding one of the two major divisions of NLS over the past ten years, Brad Kormann maintained the highest standard of diligence, integrity, and leadership," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "He met his daunting responsibilities with intelligence, professionalism, and sound judgment. His dealings with contractors and suppliers, colleagues, and subordinates were always characterized by warmth, understanding, and good humor."

As head of the Materials Development Division, Kormann was charged with leading a staff of seventy individuals involved in every aspect of NLS's mission. He oversaw the selection, cataloging, and production of the books and magazines that comprise the NLS collection; the design, production, and quality of all NLS equipment; and the distribution of these materials to the national network of cooperating libraries and agencies.

Digital committee chair

Kormann played a crucial role in the conception and development of NLS's ongoing transformation from analog to digital talking-book technology. He assumed chairmanship of the Digital Audio Development (DAD) Executive Committee when it was formed in 1997 and effectively guided the committee since that time. He contributed as writer and editor to the 1998 document Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future and was involved from the outset in the development of the ANSI/NISO standard for the digital talking book, a project that began in 1997 and culminated with the ratification and issuance of the standard in 2002. In 1998, he oversaw the creation of special software that projected and compared costs of existing and hypothetical models of talking-book systems, used to analyze expenses and compare overall cost effectiveness and value. The Life-Cycle Cost Model remains an indispensable tool in the digital transition project.

Between 1998 and 2001, Kormann worked with engineers and IT personnel to develop software to simulate a digital talking book on a PC. In the early 2000s, conversion of analog tape masters to digital format began, with Kormann leading the operation. In a second planning document, Kormann revisited the goals set out five years earlier; most had been met, and progress toward the anticipated 2008 debut of the digital talking book was on track. In 2003, he focused intensively on the creation of systems to store, archive, and access digital properties. The successful installation of the Storage Area Network in the NLS recording studio was accomplished in mid-2004.But Kormann's work with and on behalf of volunteers may be remembered as his greatest achievement. Amid the unrelenting pressure to achieve digital milestones, he did much to support, recognize, and reward his staff, colleagues, and the extended team of volunteer repair personnel.

Volunteer repair project

Shortly after his arrival at NLS, Kormann took command of the newly initiated Volunteer Repair Project, infusing it with new life. Working with NLS staff members and leaders of the Telephone Pioneers of America (now TelecomPioneers) and General Electric Elfun volunteers, he developed an innovative training approach and set high, clearly de fined standards for the repair of NLS equipment. The long-range "train the trainer" plan called for NLS, through hands-on sessions, to directly credential a small number of repair volunteers who would in turn train others in a pyramid-shaped expansion. Kormann oversaw the development of instructional repair materials, including a machine-repair video that was produced in 1999. Also crucial to the success of the project was a system by which the efforts of outstanding volunteers and volunteer groups were recognized through certifications, awards, events, and publicity. In 2000, the project culminated in a congressional resolution honoring the Pioneers for their efforts and acknowledging the millions of dollars in repair costs saved by NLS because of the volunteers.

More recently, Kormann collaborated actively in the production of a videotape honoring the contributions of volunteers. "Meeting the Need" became available in 2002 and has been circulated as a tribute and a recruiting tool.

He was a strong and vocal advocate of diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace, and consistently sought training, education, and promotion opportunities for his staff. In February 2005, he was presented with a Library of Congress Distinguished Service Award and a letter of appreciation from the Librarian. And in April, he received the prestigious Francis Joseph Campbell Award from the American Library Association for his achievements on behalf of blind and physically handicapped readers.

West Point graduate

Kormann was a 1975 engineering graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He earned an MA in human resource management from Pepperdine University and an MBA from Duke University. He also graduated from the Defense Systems Management College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Prior to his appointment at NLS, Kormann served for six years as a program manager with the Naval Air Systems Command where he provided computer-aided engineering and budgetary analysis for multimillion-dollar weapons products. In the course of his active military service, he received the Army Meritorious Service Medal among many other commendations and awards. Kormann remained a reserve officer, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2003.Brad Kormann is survived by his wife of twenty-seven years, Catherine Buckley, and their three children, Roger, Andrew, and Claire, all of Bethesda, Maryland; his parents, John and Elsa Kormann of Chevy Chase, Maryland; a brother, Matthew, of Glenwood, Maryland; and a sister, Andrea Kormann Lowe, of London.

Advisory group calls for more classics in program

Patrons and librarians representing braille and talking-book readers nationwide convened at NLS May 25-27 for the annual Collection Development Advisory Group meeting. The twelve members of the group discussed and developed recommendations for NLS magazine and book selection. The group submitted thirteen proposals and commended NLS staff for improvements implemented over the past year.

NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke opened the meeting with welcoming remarks and an update on NLS's transition to a digital format, scheduled to roll out in 2008. Jim Herndon, head of the Collection Development Section, and his staff then provided an overview of developments that have taken place since the 2004 committee meeting. Among them are

Deputy director Michael Moodie reported that user-needs focus groups conducted in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Clearwater, Florida, provided a wealth of information for the design of the new digital players. Designers have determined that the machine should have built-in speakers, built-in handles, and nondetachable power cords. He also reported that a study is currently being conducted to determine how the new players, once available, will be distributed to users. Concerns about a large number of patrons requesting machines at the same time are being addressed. The goal is to have the new equipment distributed over a five-year period.NLS staff presentations concluded with Judith Dixon, consumer relations officer, who reported that the number of titles available on Web-Braille, NLS's online braille book service, is now 7,800 (up from 2,600 when the program was launched) and that 3,972 readers are registered.

Recommendations

After a day and a half of deliberations, the Collection Development Advisory Group presented thirteen recommendations. Members recommended that NLS produce K-3 braille books, including print/braille books, in uncontracted braille when such books will be read primarily by children. They also suggested production of a limited number of short, broad-interest titles for adults and young adults in uncontracted braille, even if the same titles are available in contracted braille. To assist children with learning disabilities, members advised NLS to record more juvenile series titles such as the Hardy Boys, the Babysitters Club, the Boxcar Children, and the Little House on the Prairie books that are already available in large print.

The group urged NLS to produce more science fiction and fantasy in braille, record more modern romance and less historical romance, and withdraw outdated medical books when recommended by authorities such as the American Diabetes Association. Members asked that classic western titles--especially those by Louis L'Amour, William Johnstone, and Zane Grey--be reissued and produced in audio format. They also requested that NLS preserve and rerelease books narrated by Alexander Scourby, House Jameson, Norman Rose, Ethel Everett, Terry Hayes Sales, and other revered narrators whose readings currently exist only in older formats. The group commended NLS for producing more books by African American authors and encouraged production of additional titles by both new African American authors and those already represented in the collection. Members also suggested that NLS continue to record fiction and nonfiction on Christian sects and other world religions, noting that such additions may be limited to avoid producing titles that proselytize. Other committee requests were for additional NASCAR titles in audio format, and the reissuing of books by authors who were popular in the 1920s through the 1950s. A final request was for the recorded book lists in the braille edition of Braille Book Review to have a subject descriptor for books currently listed with only grade level or sequel information, even if the descriptor is only one or two words such as "science fiction," or "family saga."

Collection Development Advisory Group
Photo caption: Collection Development Advisory Group from back left: Cindy Nugent, Julie Harris, Otis Stephens, Sheryl Nelson, Ever Lee Hairston, Sharon Strzalkowski, and Clyde Compton. Front row from left: Gail Walter, Alice Ritchhart, Dori Middleton, Bonnie Farrier, and Christie Briggs.

 

Commendations

The group commended NLS for continuing to reissue and produce the classics, and for issuing commercial audiobooks when appropriate. Members also recognized NLS for the production of

Digital talking-book distribution study under way

NLS has contracted a study of distribution systems for the digital talking books now in development. The goal of the study is to determine the best model for distribution, one that gives high-quality service and is compatible with the new digital format.

ManTech Advanced Systems International will lead the effort, with support from Jerome Ducrest, an independent subcontractor, and Daniel Kind of Wesley-Kind Associates. The subcontractors have worked with NLS in the past and are familiar with library operations.

"An ideal solution would provide patrons with personal service, localized librarian knowledge, and timely book delivery," said Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director. "It would also ensure sufficient inventory to meet patron requests and would save libraries and NLS money."

The two-phase study is expected to take about sixteen months. In the first phase, ManTech technology experts will evaluate three distribution models and select the most appropriate one. After NLS approves the recommended model, the contractors will begin the second phase, in which they will design the system and plan the transition.

The three models that will be considered are the current system, in which mass quantities of book titles are duplicated and stored locally for easy access by librarians who fill loan requests; an online duplication system, in which a central facility would copy digital talking books as patrons request them; and a hybrid model, which would combine mass circulation and on-demand duplication.

NLS developed criteria for judging the models with input from the contractors and the Digital Long-Term Planning Group, a committee of state, regional, and subregional librarians and patrons, including members of the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind.

Librarians and patrons will have an opportunity to provide input at the end of the first phase. The contractors will meet with the Digital Long-Term Planning Group to review the recommended system and seek comment.

"This decision will impact the entire distribution network--duplication, circulation systems, data management, and possibly even facilities," Moodie said. "It is important that we consider the economic, operational, and human impact of each model."Library officials said that the new system design will address issues of duplication, packaging, shipping and receiving, shelving, and automated circulation systems. A comprehensive transition plan will include efforts to educate library patrons and staff about the new distribution system.

Multistate Center directors' meeting at NLS: Web Ordering and Warehousing (WOW) system improves efficiency

NLS and the multistate centers continue to improve and streamline the Web Ordering and Warehousing (WOW) system to better meet the needs of network libraries. At the annual Multistate Center Directors meeting, held at NLS on April 6, 2005, the directors decided to promote the use of the WOW system at the 2005 network library regional conferences. First introduced in October 2003, the WOW system has greatly increased efficiency and simplified the ordering of network supplies such as catalogs, cartons, and styrofoam for shipping machines and batteries.

"Most people are using WOW and are very pleased with it," said Carolyn Hoover Sung, chief of the NLS Network Division and contract monitor of the multistate center contracts. "We want to make sure that all libraries are comfortable using the system and can take best advantage of it."

Jacqueline Conner, director of the Multistate Center East, and Karnell Parry, director of the Multistate Center West, promoted WOW at the regional conferences, discussing standard processes, responding to questions, and requesting feedback on the system. With the implementation of WOW, library staff can now verify online that supply requests have been shipped, rather than calling their multistate center to check. In the future, the multistate center supply catalog will be available online as part of the network library web site, so that staff can browse overviews and descriptions of the items available through the WOW system.

Multistate Center staff.
Photo caption: Back left: Paula Seevers, MSCE administrative assistant, and Carolyn Sweeney, MSCW administrative assistant. Front: Jacqueline Conner, MSCE director, and Karnell Parry, MSCW director.

Also during the multistate directors meeting, Conner and Parry, along with Paula Seevers, administrative assistant for the Multistate Center East, and Carolyn Sweeney, administrative assistant for the Multistate Center West, toured NLS's three Inventory Management Section (IMS) warehouses. They were impressed by the improvements in storage capacity, safety, and organization in the warehouses since their last visit in July 2004.

"In the past year, IMS staff have worked hard to put NLS warehouse facilities into model condition," said Derrick Barnes, head of Inventory Management. Other items discussed at the meeting were the new web-based delivery verification process; the schedule for testing the new web-based missing magazine issue claims form; trends in the use of space for recorded cassettes, recorded discs, talking books, braille, and foreign language collections; and the future of tape masters.

NFB-NEWSLINE offers new content and improved accessibility features

NFB-NEWSLINE, an electronic audio newspaper service developed and operated by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), offers more than two hundred newspapers to its subscribers at the same time that printed editions reach the newsstands each day. The NFB is also thrilled to announce that El Nuevo Herald of Miami and La Opinion of Los Angeles are now available to blind and vision-impaired Spanish speakers, with more Spanish content to follow soon. Another exciting development in 2004 was NFB-NEWSLINE's partnership with Bookshare.org. Now, in addition to downloading books, subscribers to Bookshare.org can download the daily newspaper to a portable braille device and take the newspaper with them, even without access to a telephone. They can also read newspapers in braille using a portable device, which makes NFB-NEWSLINE's content accessible to deaf-blind people.

Not only are all patrons of NLS eligible to register for NFB-NEWSLINE, regional libraries for the blind and physically handicapped may register patrons for this service by adding the magazine code NWL8 to a patron's profile. This free service is a valuable supplement to the content offered by NLS, allowing its patrons free access to their daily newspapers.

Since March 1, 2002, NFB-NEWSLINE has worked with NLS to provide the daily newspaper to those who cannot read conventional newsprint because of a physical handicap. In addition to expanded newspaper content, patrons of NLS who register for NFB-NEWSLINE can listen to magazines and newspapers in Spanish.

NFB-NEWSLINE was developed by the National Federation of the Blind to allow blind and disabled individuals to enjoy access to the same news at the same time as their sighted friends, family, and colleagues. This free service receives daily data transmissions from participating news papers and converts them via a high-speed text-to-speech engine into an electronic audio format. Users then call a toll-free or local telephone number and use a simple telephone menu to select the periodicals they wish to read.

Because NFB-NEWSLINE is a totally electronic service, its content is available on demand, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Users can search for a particular word or topic; skip over certain articles and return to them later; alter the tone, pitch, and speed of the speaking voice; pause articles; or return to the same sentence they were last reading after hanging up the telephone.

Since June 2004, the content available through NFB-NEWSLINE has doubled, making dozens of smaller local newspapers available to users who want news about their own communities. The New Yorker, the Economist, and AARP the Magazine are now available as NFB-NEWSLINE expands. While magazines are available nationwide, thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia offer access to local newspapers through NFB-NEWSLINE to eligible persons.

For more information, visit the NFB-NEWSLINE web site at www.nfb.org/newsline1.htm, or call the National Federation of the Blind at 1-866-504-7300.

NLS sponsors Italian pianist Enrico Lisi's American debut at Library of Congress

More than three hundred people gathered on the evening of March 23 to hear an Italian pianist play a concert in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The pianist would gauge the size of his audience by the volume of applause; Enrico Lisi of Milan is blind.

Lisi, forty-four, is a piano instructor at La Scuola Statale ad Orientamento Musicale. He was born partially blind and lost all sight by age six. Soon after, he began playing piano at the Milan Institute for the Blind and completed his studies at the Giu seppe Verdi Conservatorio under Maestro Alberto Mozzati. An accomplished, award-winning musician, Lisi has played at the premier venues in the cities of his home country. The concert at the Library of Congress was his debut in the United States.

John Hanson, head of the Music Section at NLS, and Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, gave introductory remarks.

Photo caption: Enrico Lisi performing in the Coolidge Auditorium.
Photo caption: Enrico Lisi performing in the Coolidge Auditorium.

Lisi began with "Drei Klavierstücke," D. 946 by Franz Schubert. Other selections included "Tarantella" from "Venezia e Napoli" ("Années de Pélerinage"), by Franz Liszt; "Los Requiebros" from "Goyescas," by Enrique Granados; "Etude en Forme de Valse" from Six Etudes, Op. 52, by Camille Saint-Saëns; and Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise in E-flat Major, Op. 22, by Frederic Chopin. "Lisi's virtuosity is undeniable," wrote Grace Jean in a review in the Washington Post. "He tackled Saint-Saën's 'Etude en Forme de Valse' from Six Etudes, Op. 52--an acrobatic work requiring full keyboard sprints in thirds, sixths, and octaves--handling it confidently with few misplaced notes."

"These works are dense, difficult," said Hanson, who played a role in bringing Lisi to the Library of Congress.

Lisi also played an original composition, "Improvviso-Rapsodia" in A Major. "It was somewhat similar in pianistic demands to the other works--formidable, extended rapid runs of notes," Hanson said. "Lisi has tremendous technical skills. His own piece continued to showcase those requirements."

Enrico Lisi and NFB President Marc Maurer.
Photo caption: Enrico Lisi (right) and NFB president Marc Maurer enjoy the reception following the concert.

Lisi moved through the compositions rapidly and with great power. He stood after each piece to receive applause that was only slightly more thunderous than his playing. The concert was sponsored by NLS, the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America Inc., the National Federation of the Blind, and the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. Hanson said the concert represents "the fruit" of the kind of work done in the Music Section of NLS. "Lisi couldn't have done what he did without learning braille music--no classical player who is blind could play without it. We provide braille music, and that makes such a concert possible."

Online book discussions engage young readers

On Friday morning, December 3, 2004, students from the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts and the Ohio School for the Blind met online to discuss the book, The Polar Express. Using accessible web-based voice-over IP chat software called Ivocalize, students and staff participated in this first interactive book discussion group between blind students in two different states. The online meeting space was provided by the Cleveland Public Library.

Perkins students in online discussion.
Photo caption: Marilyn Poindexter, children's librarian, leads the Perkins students in the online discussion.

Using the Ivocalize software, a microphone, and a desktop computer workstation, the students and librarians were able to talk to each other, answer questions, offer opinions, and laugh together.

Barbara Mates and Will Reed of the Cleveland Public Library, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Kim Charlson of the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library in Watertown, Massachusetts, were instrumental in coordinating the connections between the two schools. Janell Brown, librarian for the Ohio School for the Blind in Columbus, Ohio, and Marilyn Poindexter, children's librarian in Massachusetts, led the participants in a lively conversation about the meaning of Santa Claus and the holiday season. In Massachusetts, the students gathered around the computer and the microphone was passed from one student to another as they spoke. In Ohio, students went up to the microphone to talk. The students made some very insightful comments and everyone had a chance to contribute to the discussion.During the forty-minute discussion, Steven Rothstein, president of the Perkins School for the Blind, and Louis Mazzoli, superintendent of the Ohio State School for the Blind, dropped in to join the students and participate in the event. Both Rothstein and Mazzoli acknowledged the importance of using technology to expand communication and encouraged continued online discussions. Everyone agreed that it was a great way to talk to new people and make new friends.

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.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the Library of Congress program if:

You are legally blind--your vision in the better eye is 20/200 or less with correcting glasses, or your widest diameter of visual field is no greater than 20 degrees;

You cannot see well enough or focus long enough to read standard print, although you wear glasses to correct your vision;

You are unable to handle print books or turn pages because of a physical handicap; or

You are certified by a medical doctor as having a reading disability, due to an organic dysfunction, which is of sufficient severity to prevent reading in a normal manner.

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: Paula Higgins

Writers: Ingrid Davitt, Lina Dutky, Cory Howell, Ed O'Reilly