Battelle to lead digital talking-book machine design team

NLS has selected a consortium led by Battelle, a leading technology innovation firm, to design and develop its next-generation talking-book player and the cartridges that the machine will play. The contract, signed February 23, 2005, is a milestone in the NLS project to convert its current analog audiocassette system to a flash-memory-based digital format.

Battelle has subcontracted with the HumanWare Group (formerly VisuAide), the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the Trace Center of the University of Wisconsin to develop the new player. The complete playback system will include the solid-state digital talking-book machine and the credit-card-sized flash-memory cartridge that stores the audiobook. These items will be lightweight, portable, and durable enough to survive years of heavy use. NLS has set a reliability goal of ten years in normal daily operation. Mailing container and duplication system concepts are also key contractual obligations or "deliverables."

Battelle is a science and technology enterprise that develops and commercializes technology internationally. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle has been an incubator for technological advances for nearly seventy-five years. The company oversees sixteen thousand staff members and conducts $3 billion in annual research and development at more than one hundred locations. Among the many innovations Battelle has supported are the office photocopier, bar-code technology used in automated retail checkout and inventory control, and medical applications of fiberoptics. The company was also a pioneer in compact disc development.

Powerful allies

The consortium brings together a diverse group of experts. HumanWare, the new business created from the recent merger of VisuAide and Pulse Data International, has designed and commercialized digital talking-book players since 1999 under the Victor Reader product line. The Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin has been a pioneer in technology for disabled people for more than thirty years. And the involvement of NFB ensures that those individuals who will benefit most from the new players have a voice in their design and development.

"This project will enable the blind to actively participate in the development of the next generation audiobook player," says Dr. Marc Maurer, NFB president. "Our community has an opportunity to contribute directly to this important project."

"We are pleased to participate in the first redesign of the NLS audiobook player in the last thirty years and to contribute HumanWare's and our partners' experience toward the launch of a revolutionary player to serve the visually impaired and print-disabled community," says Gilles Pepin, president and CEO of HumanWare's Canadian subsidiary.

The design phase of the contract is expected to last approximately eighteen months, after which a machine manufacturer will be contracted. The design firm is not permitted to bid on the manufacturing contract, but is required to remain engaged for one year more to ensure that the transition to machine production is informed and seamless.

"The digital talking-book system will be designed specifically for blind and physically handicapped users," says NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "Unlike audio players aimed at the general consumer, ours will use tactile features, color differences, and large-print labels to inform users with various kinds of visual impairments about its functions."

Division of labor

The contractor is called upon to develop the playback machine and the cartridge—the "digital book distribution medium"—in tandem, and also to develop concepts for a mailing container and labeling scheme. The contractor must also address the electronic interface that will allow the medium to function easily in the playback machine as well as in duplicating equipment. The contractor will also develop recommendations for cartridge duplication procedures, aiming toward the most efficient and economical modes of duplication.

HumanWare combines two of the industry's most innovative companies. Canada's VisuAide and New Zealand's Pulse Data International have both been recognized as world leaders in their respective fields, with such products to their credit as the SmartView video magnifier and, more recently, myReader, the world's first low-vision auto-reader. The CD-based audiobook players of the Victor Reader family are in wide use throughout the world. The BrailleNote is a leader in the notetaker market today. The companies also produce the world's only commercialized global positioning system and digital maps for blind individuals, Trekker and BrailleNote GPS.

With more than fifty thousand members, NFB works to integrate the blind into society on a basis of equality by removing legal, economic, and social impediments. As a consumer and advocacy organization, NFB takes a keen interest in fostering the use of assistive technology and exploring new paths in technological development that will further their mission.

The Trace Research and Development Center, part of the University of Wisconsin – Madison's College of Engineering, is a pioneer in the field of technology and disability. Founded in 1971, the center has developed widely used guidelines for the design of consumer products to ensure their accessibility to persons with disabilities. According to its mission statement, the Trace Center aims "to prevent the barriers and capitalize on the opportunities presented by current and emerging information and telecommunication technologies in order to create a world that is as accessible and usable as possible for as many people as possible." The center is currently concentrating on ways to bring standard information technologies and telecommunications systems to more people with disabilities, and pursuing research in universal design principles.

National outreach campaign mobilization begins

In recent years, librarians of the NLS network of cooperating libraries have become concerned about their overall ability to manage extensive outreach campaigns. Librarians were facing a shortage of staff, diminished funding, and changes in radio and television stations' broadcast public service announcement policies. At the same time, NLS staff observed that enrollment in the talking-book program had leveled off. Regional library conference chairs convened at NLS in the fall of 2003 to discuss the issues and agreed that help from a public relations firm could be the answer.

"We realized that campaigns could be run nationally more efficiently and effectively on behalf of the network," said Robert E. Fistick, head of the Publications and Media Section of NLS. "In the spring of 2004, NLS began to make plans to contract and hire a national public relations firm," he said.

After a careful selection process, the contract was awarded to Fleishman-Hillard, Inc., to plan, produce, and launch a national outreach campaign. Fleishman-Hillard is an international public relations firm based in St. Louis, Missouri, with more than fifty-five years of experience providing strategic communications counsel to local, national, and international clients. They have assisted the Library of Congress (the Library) in other areas, in particular, the National Book Festival hosted jointly by the Library and first lady Laura Bush, and the national Veterans History Project.

Moving forward

In February 2005, Fleishman-Hillard completed their extensive research and formulated a communications plan outlining a national multimedia outreach program to be initiated later this year. By tapping into media outlets, network libraries, third-party organizations, and congressional relationships, NLS will increase the awareness of the talking-book program, overcome barriers preventing potential patrons from enrolling, and ultimately reach the goal of obtaining seventy thousand new patrons.

"We hope to reach that goal in the twelve-month period after the beginning of the campaign, which is scheduled to launch in mid-2005," said Fistick. By employing representatives such as the Native American Nunyak Alutiiq dancers to visit U.S. cities on behalf of the talking-book program, NLS hopes to reach and influence the key target audiences—seniors, veterans, and the African American, Native American, and Spanish-speaking communities.

Making progress

For the NLS talking-book program's impending transition to digital format, Fleishman-Hillard has developed a series of newsletters and press releases to keep network librarians, key stakeholders, and the media in tune with the latest developments in the digital effort. "The NLS Flash newsletter is one of the two national vehicles distributed by the Digital Audio Development executive committee of NLS to communicate current developments and activities in the national program as we approach the 2008 target date for conversion to a digital system," said Fistick. The newsletters, together with regionally specific press releases, have sparked local and national coverage for NLS in major media outlets, including articles in the New York Times and Denver's Rocky Mountain News.

Fleishman-Hillard has also initiated a national toll-free number, 1-888-NLS-READ, that tracks all incoming calls, provides callers with basic program information and eligibility requirements, and directs callers seamlessly to the regional library they select. The voice-prompt telephone system was tested during the past winter and is now operational.

Online outreach

Fleishman-Hillard believes that NLS has an enormous opportunity to harness the Internet to improve communications with patrons, libraries, media, and even in-house staff. "NLS has always used the technology available to help blind and physically handicapped patrons read. Toward this goal, we see the Internet as just another tool to help NLS make its information more accessible," said Alan Fuller, senior account executive with Fleishman-Hillard Interactive.

Fleishman-Hillard has proposed a multipronged approach to improving NLS's online outreach, which may include banner and search marketing, a campaign communications hub, new web-based patron eligibility forms, a "We Support Talking Books" cobranded logo for third-party web sites, and some integration of NLS web site content with the U.S. Congressional Gateway web site. Many of these proposals are still in the planning stages and are under review by NLS staff as part Fleishman-Hillard's larger strategic plan.

One area of the online outreach campaign that has already been launched is online banner and search-word marketing. Between the fall of 2004 and spring of 2005, online banners have resulted in more than 16,000 click-throughs to the NLS web site, and banners were displayed more than 8 million times. Google Adwords—banners that display when a specific word is entered into the Google Internet search engine—have resulted in viewers clicking through to the NLS site more than 1,000 times, with web pages displaying more than 406,000 times.

"We're very pleased with how well the banners and listings have performed," remarked Fuller. "Our hope is that the prompts lead more people to learn about the talking-book program."

Third-party outreach

In 2004, on behalf of NLS, Fleishman-Hillard conducted a third-party audit of nearly seven hundred organizations that reach seniors and adults who provide care for seniors. The audit found that almost all of the representatives from the larger organizations were willing to help NLS communicate an educational message about the talking-book program. Consequently, strong third-party outreach and media support will be an integral part of Fleishman-Hillard's planned national campaign for NLS. Suggested strategies for greater third-party outreach include creating a specialized NLS communications tool kit, organizing a summit or national event, sending out quarterly educational packets about NLS, and developing a stakeholder database of all contact between NLS and outside organizations.

The third-party outreach campaign has the potential for vastly expanding the scope of outreach through a multitude of channels, and is part of NLS's attempt to explore new avenues. As Robert Fistick noted, "You can't get everybody one way, so you have to try getting them twenty different ways."

Katzmann appointed engineering head at NLS

Michael G. Katzmann
Photo cpation: Michael Katzmann, NLS Engineering head, will work with the design team to develop a new digital talking-book machine.

Michael G. Katzmann, who holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and who has led programs to develop Emmy award-winning technologies in sports broadcasting, was appointed head of the Engineering Section at NLS on February 14, 2005. He will be responsible for implementing the transformation from an analog-based audio system to a digital one by 2008.

"Katzmann will be intimately involved in designing the new system—the next generation player, the flash-memory cartridge, and the mailing container," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director.

Katzmann brings an extensive background in engineering and technology to the position. As the chief engineer of Broadcast Sports Technology, he contributed to the design and implementation of remote-controlled wireless camera systems for the America's Cup race, point-of-view cameras used during the Olympic Games, and wireless systems used in NASA space shuttles. Katzmann led the engineering team that developed the equipment, techniques, and operational procedures that are now the industry standard.

"He brings an energy, knowledge base, and track record for developing new technologies that will be extremely useful at NLS," says Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director. "He knows about building durable devices."

Katzmann will focus on maintaining the complete operation of the current C-1 cassette-machine systems through the transition to digital media and assisting with the design and development of the new digital talking-book player. "I'm looking forward to applying my talents and experience to the mission of NLS and, in particular, the development of state-of-the-art electronics for the digital talking-book program," says Katzmann.

Barnes to head NLS Inventory Management

Derrick Barnes, who has an extensive background with the Library of Congress, has been appointed head of the Inventory Management Section at NLS.

Derrick Barnes, Head of the Inventory Management Section, NLS.
Photo caption: Newly appointed IMS head, Derrick Barnes.

Barnes worked as a team leader in the Library's Book Services Section of Collections Access, Loan and Management Division, for thirteen years. During that time he was responsible for searching and retrieving materials, maintaining the proper location of materials, and supervising the routine maintenance of the materials. Barnes also served as a liaison between the public and the staff of the reading rooms. "I'm extremely impressed with his knowledge of collection management and the way he puts public service first," says Carolyn H. Sung, chief of the Network Division. "He has a strong service-oriented attitude and, because he came out of this background of library service, he understands the impact on the end user."

As the head of the Inventory Management Section, Barnes will be responsible for managing the national inventory of materials used in the NLS program, assisting in the day-to-day management of the the multistate centers' activities, including the web ordering and warehousing system, and in managing the NLS-produced braille and audiobook archive. "His communications and people skills will make him a tremendous asset to the network and, through the network, to the patrons," says Sung. Barnes is in his twenty-fifth year with the Library of Congress. He reported for duty at NLS on January 3, 2005.

NLS joins five states in Unabridged project

State libraries for the blind and physically handicapped in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Oregon, along with NLS, have partnered to launch an innovative digital audiobook service for visually impaired users.

Unabridged ( enables blind patrons to check out and download digital audiobooks directly to their computers. The digital audiobooks can then be played back on a PC, transferred to a portable MP3 playback device, or burned onto CDs.

Member libraries include

The first year of the program will serve as the pilot phase, with a limited number of users in each participating state. Early responses from librarians and patrons have been positive. During the first month of the service, use of the collection has been brisk, and reports of technical problems have been sparse. Lori Bell, director of the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, noted, "I am very excited about this project. Our readers are eager to try digital audiobooks. Through Unabridged they can browse, select a book, and download it directly to their computers."

Unabridged is powered by the new digital audiobook system from OverDrive ( The content is delivered as encrypted Windows Media Audio (WMA) files applying Digital Rights Management (DRM) service. Playback on a personal computer is accomplished using the new OverDrive Media Console (OMC) software. OMC builds on the existing features of Windows Media Player to offer key functionalities useful to digital audiobook users, such as MediaMarkers, which allow nonlinear navigation, bookmarks, and the ability to skip back fifteen seconds in the digital audiobook. OMC also enables variable speed playback, a new feature for a mainstream digital audiobook system designed for the general consumer market. The OMC offers enhanced accessibility and general usability for blind and visually impaired readers.

ASTM honors Bill West, audiobook production specialist

After twenty-one years of outstanding service on the Environmental Acoustics (E-33) committee, Bill West, NLS audiobook production specialist, received an award from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for his efforts and accomplishments.

Photo caption: Audiobook specialist Bill West and narrator Susan McInerney check recording booth ventilation.

ASTM is a voluntary standards-development organization that provides technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services. The organization was formed more than a century ago and, in the early 1980s, West became a member of the E-33 committee. "My involvement with the studios and network libraries are what led to my involvement with this committee," West said.

Sponsored by NLS and the Library of Congress, West travels twice a year to committee meetings held in different parts of the country. At these meetings, the forty members of the group identify needs, propose and discuss new standards, and solve standardization challenges. "They play hardball because it is very serious," West said. "These standards govern a lot of things and affect massive amounts of money in a global market."

So what is a standard? According to the International Organization of Standardization, a standard is "a document, established by consensus, that provides rules, guide-lines, or characteristics for activities or their results." The standards developed by the E-33 committee cover a wide range of disciplines including community noise, office acoustics, speech communications, duct noise, methods of testing, and methods of improving the testing.

How does this translate to NLS? Through his involvement with E-33, West developed and wrote the specifications and testing methods for ventilation systems in the NLS recording studios. He also worked with the Engineering Section to develop NLS's standards for recording-studio acoustics. "Quality audio production is not a simple thing," West said.

When West attempts to bring uniformity to the environment in which quality audio masters are produced, he considers a wide array of elements. Room temperature, lighting, and humidity levels of the host environment and the studio can compromise the final product. "You must have a controlled environment to produce a good master," West said.

As an example, West discussed the importance of lighting in a studio where narrators will be reading for long periods of time. The standard specifies that each studio be equipped with two ceiling-mounted light fixtures with two full-spectrum fluorescent lamps in each fixture. There are even specifications that limit the color-rendering index and color temperature of the lamps. Why is this important? "The type of work done by narrators, monitors, and reviewers is sight-intensive. Although we see best in natural light, full-spectrum artificial light is less trying on the eyes and allows them to work more efficiently for extended periods of time," West said.

But ASTM standards are not the law of the land. "All I have going for me is persuasion and the ability to debate," he said. "I cannot enforce a thing." Only when a standard is included in a contract does it become binding and legal. Whether you are constructing an office building, considering a community design, or in NLS's case, installing a narration booth, acoustics must be considered—and that's where standards play an important role.

NLS Engineering Section standards have taken years to develop. Through trial and error, research, and interaction with E-33, the section has compiled a set of standards that govern the sound quality of NLS talking books. Many of the standards developed through the program have been passed on to other businesses and organizations through West's involvement with ASTM and the E-33 committee. "I believe in standards, and in order to have standards you've got to participate—jump into the arena of ideas," West said.

With the NLS conversion to digital format, many network libraries are installing new narration booths and updating current ones. When they ask for assistance from NLS, West is on hand to distribute the specification documents and share his wealth of knowledge. "NLS and the network have benefitted immensely from the knowledge, information, and experience that has come from ASTM," West said.

NLS Alliance with Mystic Seaport renewed

The cooperative agreement between NLS and its network of cooperating libraries and Mystic Seaport, Connecticut's famed seventy-five-year-old Museum of America and the Sea, has been extended for a fourth year.

A ship in full sail.
Photo caption: In full sail.

The initiative, which began in January 2002, seeks to advance accessibility and expand outreach for museum visitors who are visually or physically handicapped. A key element in the initiative is the free library pass program available to NLS patrons. The year-round pass entitles two adults and their children or grandchildren under eighteen free admission to Mystic Seaport on the day of the week specified on the pass. Response from patrons has been very positive.

Founded in 1929, Mystic Seaport is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. Visitors climb aboard these historic tall ships, stroll through the re-created nineteenth-century coastal community, explore exhibits, and visit a working preservation shipyard in action. For more information, go to

To visit Mystic Seaport . . .

NLS patrons in Connecticut should contact the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Rocky Hill and patrons in Massachusetts should contact the Braille and Talking Book Library in Watertown to arrange for their pass.

Residents of all other states should contact NLS directly: e-mail [email protected] with your name, address, telephone number, and the date and day of the week you wish to visit the Seaport.

You may also request a pass by mail addressed to Mystic Pass Coordinator, Publications and Media Section, NLS/BPH, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542. Postal service to NLS in Washington is subjected to security examination, so write six to eight weeks in advance.

10-Squared Talking-Book Club inducts Robert Qualls of Enid, Oklahoma

Robert Qualls, who will be 102 in April 2005, has been a patron of NLS since the service was first established in 1931. He is a testament to the power of a lifelong pursuit of reading. In January 2005, at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Qualls was inducted into the 102 Talking Book Club. His charter membership is one among many for this pioneer advocate for blind individuals.

Robert Qualls, an avid 
	reader at 102.
Photo caption: Robert Qualls, an avid reader at 102.

When Qualls first learned braille ninety-two years ago, he had to leave his family and take three separate trains and a horse-drawn taxi to travel to the Oklahoma School for the Blind (OSB) in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In addition to his academic subjects, Qualls was taught the trade of piano tuning, a vocation that he still follows.

After graduating from OSB in 1924, Qualls attended Texas Christian University and was the first blind person to be enrolled in the university. At the time, few textbooks were available in braille. "I depended on classmates to read to me," Qualls said. "The early 1930s is when we first got talking books. It was a great find."

Qualls received a BA in English in 1928 and an MA in philosophy in 1929. He also attended the Curry School of Elocution and Expression in Boston, Massachusetts, on scholarship. With the advent of the Great Depression, Qualls returned to Oklahoma to start a piano-tuning business and advocate for the creation of work opportunities for blind individuals.

In the early 1930s, Qualls convinced the Works Progress Administration in Oklahoma to hire twenty-five visually impaired people to teach visual safety in schools, civic organizations, and workplaces. After the passage of the Randolph-Sheppard Act in 1937, Qualls lobbied the Oklahoma State legislature to provide seed money for blind entrepreneurs to start up their own vending operations in county and state government offices. He then spent more than a decade managing vending operations through a program run by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Even when he returned to the full-time business of piano tuning in 1947, Qualls remained actively engaged in the blind community and joined the board of directors of the Oklahoma League for the Blind in 1949. He remains on this board as an emeritus member. In 1953, Qualls became a charter member of the Associated Blind of Oklahoma/Texas Federal Credit Union, a credit union created to help blind people borrow money. A resident of Oklahoma before the territory became a state, Qualls continues to influence the services provided to blind Oklahomans by attending meetings of consumer organizations and conversing with a statewide network of friends.

A voracious reader, Qualls reads several braille and recorded books, magazines, and newspapers each month. He stresses the importance of learning and reading braille for blind individuals. He receives the New York Times in braille and prefers the braille text if he wants to read a technical or detailed article.

"Reading is a link to life and thought for people who are blind," Qualls said. When shown a mockup of the flash-memory cartridge to be used with digital talking books, Qualls was excited. "I think I'll stay around to see this in use."

Great Books and Service Too!

A new NLS poster, "Great Books and Service Too!" is the second in a series of six to be released over several years. It pictures a librarian and a blind patron in conversation at a braille and talking-book library.

New NLS poster: 
	Great Books and Service Too!
Photo caption: New NLS poster features Jill Lewis and Martha Seabrooks at the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

The posters, designed to enhance pub- lic awareness of the free reading program, are intended primarily for use in network libraries, and their themes are chosen on the basis of librarians' preferences and suggestions. The first in the series, "A Good Book Is Worth Sharing," featured a retired couple, husband and wife Bud and Billie Jean Keith, sharing a talking book.

The new poster depicts Jill Lewis, director of Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (MSL) in Baltimore, and Martha Seabrooks, a blind patron and a volunteer at the library, along with Martha's guide-dog, Dodi.

Jill Lewis became interested in the information needs of handicapped individuals while employed at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. As the mother of a child with cerebral palsy, she was already aware of the critical need for appropriate services to aid people with handicaps.

After graduating from the University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies, Lewis was responsible for establishing and organizing libraries in state mental institutions and hospitals for the Alabama Department of Health. Later she worked for the University of Alabama as a social sciences and humanities reference librarian and coordinated library services for blind and physically handicapped individuals. She initiated the purchase of adaptive equipment and work stations and also became active in committees and advisory councils that included students with visual and physical handicaps.

As the director of MSL, Lewis has created innovative programs for patrons, including theatre projects and museum visits. She worked briefly as a contractor for NLS in Washington, D.C., and became acquainted with NLS's staff and mission.

Martha Seabrooks rewinds tapes and labels and categorizes braille books as a volunteer for MSL. She also meets quarterly with members of an advisory committee for improving library services. A participant in the library program all her life, she has enjoyed magazines and both fiction and nonfiction books in braille and on cassette for many years. Her favorite magazines include Ebony and Ladies Home Journal, and she likes Christian fiction. Martha participates in special interest activities through the Maryland library, such as museum tours and travel lectures. She also is involved in religious and bereavement counseling, and is a counselor for the Billy Graham ministry.

Seabrooks obtained her master's degree in social work and is employed by the Social Security Administration in Baltimore. In the course of her work, she attends conferences and participates in workshops and public relations programs. She has one son in the Navy and two grandchildren.

The full-color NLS posters are produced in two sizes, 17 x 22 inches and 81/2 x 11 inches. The smaller size is available with an easel back for stand-up display or without the easel for bulletin-board posting. Each poster can be customized with the name, address, and telephone number of the local cooperating library.

NLS 2005 exhibit schedule

NLS will exhibit at eighteen conferences in fiscal year 2005 as part of its public outreach program. Exhibits are staffed by NLS and local network affiliates. Conferences are listed in order of occurrence. Each entry includes the date, organization name, and location.

January 14 – 19
ALA Midwinter Conference
Boston, Massachusetts
January 21 – 22 TelecomPioneers
International Annual Meeting
San Antonio, Texas
February 13 – 20
Music Library Association
Vancouver, British Columbia
March 10 – 13
American Society on Aging
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
April 2 – 6
Music Teachers National Association
Seattle, Washington
April 6 – 9
Council for Exceptional Children
Baltimore, Maryland
April 14 – 16
National Braille Association
Dallas, Texas
May 1 – 5
International Reading Association
San Antonio, Texas
May 11 – 15
American Geriatrics Society
Orlando, Florida
June 22 – 26
American Optometric Association
Dallas, Texas
June 23 – 29
ALA National Conference
Chicago, Illinois
July 1 – 6
National Education Association
Los Angeles, California
July 2 – 8
National Federation of the Blind
Louisville, Kentucky
July 2 – 9
American Council of the Blind
Las Vegas, Nevada
August 3 – 7
American Association of Diabetes Educators
Washington, D.C.
August 16 – 20
Blinded Veterans Association
Miami, Florida
August 19 – 23
American Legion National Conference
Honolulu, Hawaii
September 29 – October 1
American Association of Retired Persons
New Orleans, Louisiana

Schneider Awards announced at ALA Midwinter

Schneider Family Book Award winners were announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 2005. The award honors children's authors and illustrators of books that portray experiences with disabilities.

Patricia Steelman, a senior collection development librarian at NLS who served as chair of the Schneider Family Book Award committee, was delighted when winners were announced along with the prestigious Caldecott and Newbery Award recipients.

NLS children's librarian 
  Patricia Steelman.
Photo caption: NLS librarian Patricia Steelman with Schneider Award-winning books.

Under the Schneider award program, prizes are given annually to recognize three books, one targeting each of the following age ranges: ten and younger, eleven through thirteen, and fourteen through eighteen. Each award comprises $5,000 and a framed plaque. To qualify, a book must creatively convey the experience of coping with a disability — physical, mental, or emotional. That experience may include living with personal disabilities or with those of family members or friends.

Katherine Schneider, the originator of this award program, is currently a senior psychologist and coordinator of training at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Counseling Service. By recognizing authors and illustrators, Schneider, who is blind, seeks to encourage the writing of children's books about disabilities—partly because very few such books were available when she was growing up.

"I admire her for endowing this ALA award to encourage artists and writers to make the disability experience understandable to children and young people," says Steelman.

The 2005 award recipients are

The 2004 Schneider Award selections were Glenna Lang, Looking Out for Sarah (Charlesbridge Publishing); Wendy Mass, A Mango-Shaped Space (Little, Brown & Company); and Andrew Clements, Things Not Seen (Philomel Books). The 2004 books are available to NLS patrons in braille or recorded editions through the NLS catalog.

For more information on the Schneider Family Book Award and other ALA literary awards, please visit 2005awards or contact Cheryl Malden, program officer, at (312) 280-3247 or [email protected]

Davenport appointed SC director

Pamela Davenport became director of Talking Book Services of the South Carolina State Library in February 2005. "Pamela brings a diverse background to Talking Book Services that will help us build on existing partnerships and look for new ones. These experiences will help us improve and promote the Talking Book Services to South Carolinians," said Guynell Williams, deputy director of the South Carolina State Library.

Pamela Davenport, newly appointed 
  director of South Carolina's regional library.
Photo caption: Pamela Davenport, newly appointed direction of South Carolina's regional library.

Davenport received her BA in English and Education from Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and her MLIS from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Prior to joining the South Carolina State Library, she worked at the Cayce-West Columbia Branch Library, where she began in 1992 as a library assistant and worked her way up to senior branch manager. Her experience includes working with children's library services, public education, and cohosting "Junior Junction," a local Charleston television program.

"I am excited about the challenges and opportunities for Talking Book Services," Davenport said. "We currently serve over 7,500 patrons across South Carolina and look forward to expanding the reach of this wonderful service."

Braille Institute Library celebrates 70th anniversary

Rocelle Krich, author of 
  mysteries, keynote speaker at opening event.
Photo caption: Rochelle Krich, author of mysteries.

The Braille Institute Library Services, in Los Angeles, California, celebrated its 70th anniversary with a weeklong Open House Extravaganza, October 18 – 22, 2004.

The celebration opened with award-winning mystery author Rochelle Krich, who spoke to library patrons and read from her new book, Grave Endings.

Representative Becerra presenting certificate for service to the community.
Photo caption: Representative Becerra presenting certificate.

On Wednesday, October 20, the Braille Institute Library welcomed Congressman Xavier Becerra, who presented the library with a certificate of recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community.

Becerra was joined by Braille Institute Library patron and supercentenarian Marion Higgins, who is the oldest living woman in California. Higgins, who is 111, shared her words on longevity and read some of her published poetry. She is the tenth oldest American, and the twenty-third oldest in the world. Born June 26, 1893, she attributed her long life to eating lots of vegetables and not having enough money to live a "riotous life."

Marion Higgins with 
  Tina Herbison and Henry Chang of the Library.
Photo caption:Marion Higgins with Library staff Tina Herbison, right, and Henry Chang, left.

Jim Miller, NLS equipment control officer, visited the library for the festivities. He met with Braille Institute machine-lending agency staff and provided valuable information to patrons who attended.

In attendance throughout the week were 150 members of the library's community. Various workshops for new patrons and activity directors were provided. Starbucks and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts generously supplied patrons with treats each day. Patrons enjoyed prizes, which included a commemorative 70th anniversary T-shirt and coupons for a local retailer.

Library director Henry C. Chang acted as the master of ceremonies and kept the energy level high, while Tina Herbison, the event chair, managed the successful week.

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. To change address or cancel subscription, please enclose mailing label.

Editor: Ed O'Reilly

Writers: Lina Dutky, Paula Higgins, Irene Kost, Sabreen Madyun


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