Montana Talking Book Library installs digital recording system

The Montana Talking Book Library (TBL) in Helena became the first regional library in the nation to install the low-complexity mastering (LCM) system in its recording studio.

"The LCM is a remarkable system that prepares the Montana Talking Book Library recording studio for NLS's new digital books," said TBL recording studio director Diane Gunderson. "The greatest benefit we have found is the superb sound quality the system produces," she observed.

Gunderson said the LCM system offers many more options in the recording process than the previous analog system. These include such audio text functions as editing, adding, deleting, marking, indexing, and maneuvering throughout entire book files. "The narrator now has the benefit of hearing a section of the previous recording session to get a flavor of the sound levels and rhythm in order to continue with a seamless weekly recording."

Assisted by volunteers Phyllis Herbert, Lea Blunn, and Giles Walker, Gunderson performed most of the training. She was impressed by how quickly the staff and volunteers learned the LCM system. After two months of full production, staff members and the volunteer monitors, narrators, and reviewers were easily operating the system.

The purchase of this system, Gunderson noted, was made possible through donations from dedicated patrons and their families.

Although studio recordings will be mastered and stored in digital format, books and magazines will continue to be issued on familiar analog cassettes until digital talking-book machine technology becomes available to patrons.

[photo caption: MTBL's volunteer Jane Weidler (above) using the LCM system for monitoring. John Holbrook (right) completed narration of Montana TBL's first digital audio book, Six Gun Syndicate by Norman Fox. ]

Texas Talking Book Program (TBP) receives prestigious Blue Pencil award in New Orleans

Roxanne Elder and Angela Funke Taylor accepted the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) first-place Blue Pencil Award on behalf of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) Talking Book Program (TBP). TBP's outreach project, "You Can Read Again," was recognized in the NAGC Shoestring Budget category.

"So many people throughout TSLAC helped us as we honed the vision for the redesign of TBP's outreach literature. It truly took a 'whole village' to win this award," said Elder, TBP's public awareness coordinator, during a banquet honoring the award winners in New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 11, 2003.

Elder and her team started collecting and reviewing samples of exemplary literature from numerous state agencies and nonprofit organizations in March 2002. Her major challenge was to create a wide variety of outreach materials on a limited budget of $10,000. The project was made possible by a special legislative appropriation. Since the funds had to be spent by the end of the fiscal year on August 31, 2002, the summer was a flurry of activity. Ultimately, the outreach project included 14 types of collateral materials (43,100 printed pieces) that were distributed to 538 public libraries and 56 local Talking Book Week organizers throughout Texas. All materials, including large and small posters, bookmarks, tabletop easels, and brochures, were printed in both English and Spanish.

Elder and Taylor, TSLAC creative projects coordinator, tweaked the final design and wording. Elder was especially grateful to Christina Martinez, Hector Ybarra Cleaveland, and Irma Saldana, who assisted with developing the Spanish products. Saldana recalled, "Our team represented Spanish speakers from Central Mexico, South Texas, and Austin. We were looking for the best way to communicate with our Spanish-speaking patron base." Elder noted, "When consensus proved too difficult to achieve, their Larousse Spanish Gran Dictionario served as the final arbiter. Thanks go out for all of their efforts to enhance our outreach to the Hispanic population."

She also expressed appreciation to Kathy Blackburn and Matt Stalzer, who provided invaluable assistance. Other TBP/TSLAC staff members were thanked for their comments and suggestions as well. The NAGC award was given not only for the redesign and distribution of the outreach material, but also for its use as the main component of Talking Book Week 2002. As soon as the literature was off the press, TBP staffer Stephen Miles Lewis supervised fourteen volunteers who assembled and mailed out more than 600 Talking Book Week packets containing new brochures, bookmarks, posters, and applications in both English and Spanish. These kits were a key component for the 56 local communities that helped publicize the program during Talking Book Week, September 22-28, 2002.

Elder and Taylor submitted applications to NAGC for three award categories in December 2002. The applications included notebooks with samples and a narrative analyzing each entry. They were elated when they learned in March 2003 that the outreach project had placed first.

[photo caption: NAGC president Gaye Ferris (left) congratulates Texas State Library and Archives Commission Talking Book Program's Roxanne Elder (center) and Angela Funke Taylor (right).]

Texas library recording added to LOC national collection

The Texas Talking Book Program proudly announced that its third recorded book, Justis Colt by Don Bendell, has been added to the Library of Congress book collection.

"The Texas Talking Book Program recording studio has earned a well-deserved reputation throughout the network for outstanding results and leadership in the field of volunteer-produced talking books," said Multistate Center East quality assurance specialist Christopher Mundy, who reviews the regional recordings submitted for the national collection.

Texas Talking Book Program director Ava M. Smith noted, "This recognition for our recording studio is really a testament to the hardworking volunteers and staff who record books for the enjoyment of our patrons." She explained that approximately 20,000 Texans currently benefit from the Talking Book Program, which provides books in alternative format for people who cannot read standard print because of a disability. "Through our acceptance by the NLS Quality Assurance Program, our Texas-recorded materials will have a national audience," said Smith.

Only ten volunteer recordings have met the stringent national criteria for inclusion in the Library of Congress Talking Book Program, and three of them are Texas recordings. Justis Colt was produced by the narrator-monitor team of Ev Lunning Jr. and Brent Holcomb, the same team that produced the two other titles from Texas Footnotes: A Memoir by Tommy Tune and Trespasses: Portrait of a Serial Rapist by Howard Swindle.

Lunning, an actor and professor, has volunteered with the Talking Book Program since 1992, logging more than 900 hours with the recording studio while narrating 39 projects. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and is currently an assistant professor at St. Edward's University, teaching theater and communications. He appears in and directs theater productions in Austin; he also serves as voice coach and dialect consultant for local productions.

Monitor Brent Holcomb, a teacher in the Coupland Independent School District, has volunteered with the Talking Book Program since 1994, contributing more than 425 hours to the recording studio while monitoring 25 projects. He is currently narrating his first book with the studio, Aztec Love God by Tony Diaz.

At the May 19, 2003, meeting in the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library building, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission formally recognized Lunning's and Holcomb's achievements, in addition to those of the other recording studio volunteers and staff.

Volunteers make a difference at the South Carolina State Library

The South Carolina State Library staff honored the Talking Book Services volunteers at an April 2003 luncheon at the library.

"This was a great opportunity for volunteers to meet other volunteers. Many of them work independently rather than as part of a group," remarked volunteer coordinator Naomi Bradey. "Making this get-together possible is our way of giving back some small portion of what they give to blind, visually impaired, and other library users," she added.

James B. Johnson, Jr., director of the South Carolina State Library, and Christopher Yates, director of the Talking Book Services division, welcomed the assembled volunteers and formally thanked them for their contributions on behalf of the thousands of South Carolinians who use talking books. Bradey recognized the individual contributions of each volunteer, who received a gift bag filled with library memorabilia as a token of appreciation. Copies of Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul: Stories to Celebrate the Spirit of Courage, Caring, and Community by Jack Canfield served as door prizes.

Yates noted that volunteers are a valuable resource for the state library, especially during times of state government budget reductions. He explained that volunteers staff exhibits that inform citizens with disabilities about the wide range of information services available, package and mail thousands of recorded magazines, and help maintain collections by inspecting recorded materials. In addition, the Bell South TelecomPioneer volunteers repair more than 800 talking book machines each year, at no cost to the library. In 2002, South Carolina volunteers donated over 1,700 hours of service to the Talking Book Services division of the library.

Mississippi volunteers honored at luncheon

The Mississippi Library Commission, Blind and Physically Handicapped Library Services (BPHLS), honored Friends of Handicapped Readers and the TelecomPioneers at a luncheon on February 27, 2003.

The Friends of Handicapped Readers, organized in 1979, record books and other materials by Mississippi authors and books about the state of Mississippi. They also provide administrative support addressing newsletters, making database entries, weeding the collections, and checking books in and out. The TelecomPioneers repair NLS equipment in the library's in-house repair facility.

During 2002, volunteers donated 2,384 hours to BPHLS. Seventeen projects were completed, including new book titles; magazines such as Mississippi, Mississippi Outdoors, and Parents and Kids; and the Reading Light newsletter. The Pioneers repaired more than 989 machines, including braillers.

"Mississippians are truly blessed by our vibrant and active volunteer groups, Friends of Handicapped Readers and TelecomPioneers, and especially for all that Lucy Posey and Ed Hill have done to make our state the envy of others," said John Whitlock, patron services director, BPHLS, Mississippi Library Commission.

The catered luncheon was provided by the Jackson chapter of the Mississippi Council of the Blind and featured guest speaker Marsha Meeks Kelly from the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service. NLS network consultant David Whittall presented certificates from NLS, and regional librarian Rahye Puckett presented certificates from the Mississippi Library Commission.

The February luncheon included two tabletop displays. The first showed letters and cards from patrons thanking the volunteers for their efforts to help BPHLS provide its services. The second display was a series of photos of volunteers "on the job." Art works by students of the Mississippi School for the Blind were also on display and became door prizes for the guests of honor. Other prizes were books signed by three Mississippi authors (Bill Fitzhugh, Charlaine Harris, and Martin Hegwood) and pottery made by nationally known Mississippi artists Gail Pittman and Vicki Carroll and by residents of Mustard Seed, an organization serving mentally challenged adults. Additional prizes were donated by other organizations and local businesses such as the Lemuria Book Store, LifeWay Christian Stores, R&A Inspirational Publishing Company, Borders Books & Music, Bumpers Drive-In of America, DeVille Camera and Video, Madison Avenue Day Spa, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and the National Federation of the Blind.

In March 2002, two Mississippi volunteers were also recognized for their services by other organizations. Posey, a member of Friends of Handicapped Readers, was named Volunteer of the Year at the annual meeting of the KLAS (Keystone Library Automation Systems) User Group in Springfield, Illinois. An employee of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Mississippi, Posey began narrating books in July 1997. Once a week she records the Mississippi magazines Mississippi Outdoors and Coast, and books by well-known Mississippi authors Charlaine Harris, Robert Dalby, and Carolyn Haines. She also narrated Due South: Dispatches from Down Home by R. Scott Brunner, the winner of the 2002 Nonfiction Award presented by the Mississippi Library Association. Many of her recorded titles are requested through interlibrary loan via the KLAS online catalog at

Ed Hill, of TelecomPioneers, received the Community Service Award during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Natchez, Mississippi. Hill repairs and maintains, free of charge, Perkins braillers for individual patrons of BPHLS. He traveled to Boston (at his own expense) to learn how to clean and repair these braillers, returning with parts, manuals, and certification for brailler maintenance. Hill adds a personal touch to his repair work by enclosing notes in braille to each patron he serves.

[photo caption: Lisa Popps, former reader advisor, in front of display of thank you letters]

[photo caption: David Whittall, NLS network consultant, chats with Al Williams, president of Mississippi's Friends of Handicapped Readers.]

Volunteers master new skills

During March through June 2003, 82 individuals received certificates in braille transcribing, 76 in literary braille transcribing and six in mathematics braille transcribing.

Literary braille transcribers

Gabriel Fortoul, Phoenix
Silverio Christan Palacios, Phoenix
Michael L. Willis, Wrightsville
Cynthia A. Barrier, Riverside
John O. Bennett, Folsom
Steven P. Byron, Folsom
June B. Crym, Eureka
Marilyn Leslie Dennis, Santa Rosa
Mardi Lu Joaquin, Los Angeles
Thomas T. Kane, Folsom
David Arthur Smith, Vacaville
Linda M. Tanforan, Elverta
Wendy B. Watson, San Diego
Moonset Yu, Watsonville
Charles O. Bush, Colorado Springs
Heriberto Cruz, Cheshire
Juan Ortiz, Wethersfield
Glenn E. MacDonald, Wilmington
Patricia Gray, Jacksonville
Beach Juanita Jones, Odessa
David Shawn Greiner, Hardwick
Nancy J. Olsen, Newnan
Wayne Everitt Jr., Boise
Mike McCurdy, Boise
Kelly Ramke, West Lafayette
Andrew Jay Blair, Anamosa
Frank L. Grzesik, Anamosa
Dick Spence, Anamosa
Katherine V. Conkling, Arlington
Kenneth W. Davis, Lexington
Charles Patterson III, Lexington
Willie F. Scales, Lexington
Donna A. Housley, Boston
Karen K. Bird, E. Lansing
Larry R. Carter, Jackson
Dartrell Effinger Sr., Jackson
Carlos Ortega, Jackson
Mario Genaro DeLara, Las Vegas
Douglas Hill, Las Vegas
David Phillip O'Sullivan, Las Vegas
Jamie O'Neal Sanders, Las Vegas
Scott Wilson, Las Vegas
New Jersey
Frances Margaret Gasman, West Windsor
Cathy Kubarewicz, Fairfield
New York
Donna C. Fahey, Spencerport
Edward A. Parker, Accord
Carlos M. Brown, Grafton
Donte L. Dillard, London
Leslie Foley, LaGrande
Orlando Lallave, Scranton
Katia E. Strieck, Philadelphia
Joan Rollins Tropp, Philadelphia
South Dakota
Cory J. Derby, Yankton
Bob Dale Smith, Yankton
Robert Sorenson, Yankton
Lorraine L. Aust, San Antonio
Retha J. Bacey, Gatesville
Pamela Raenell Bernard, Gatesville
Christine H. Dodson, Gatesville
Marietta L. Elliott, Ft. Worth
Karla L. Elms, Burton
Maribeth R. Jennings, Schertz
Carol L. Lundberg, San Marcos
Susan Rachel Martinez, San Antonio
Twyla G. Painter, Converse
Sylvia Lee Roy, Gatesville
Linda C. Thurmond, El Campo
Betty Vines, San Antonio
Kim M. Engel, Spokane
Kandi Lynn Lukowski, Vancouver
Jeremy J. Armstrong, Oshkosh
Theresa M. Busby, Madison
Raymond E. Graham, Oshkosh
Patt Lang, Sun Prairie
Carol C. McKeough, Milwaukee
Julie A. Sumwalt, Madison
Mathematics braille transcribers
Beverly A. Ferguson, Ohio
Jeffrey Tyrone Marshall, Nevada
David Alan Williams, Nevada
Matthew Williams, Michigan
David C. Wilson, Ohio
Robert K. Wooley, New York

Braille student-instructor dialog

The Braille Development Section receives numerous questions concerning a variety of problems in braille transcribing. This article addresses some of them. The question-and-answer format is intended to give clarity.

Student: I have just completed the exercise for Lesson 9 in the braille transcribing course. In Sentence 36, I used the "one" contraction in the word "baronet." However, when I received my evaluation of Exercise 9, I was told that the "one" contraction should not have been used. According to Section 45A of the official code, English Braille, American Edition, 1994, the "one" contraction may be used whenever "o" and "n" are in the same syllable. In the word "baronet," both the "o" and the "n" are in the same syllable. Could you please clarify this for me?

Instructor: Yes. It is true that in the word "baronet," the letters "o" and "n" are in the same syllable. However, the letters "et" constitute a suffix. Since a contraction should not be used when the usual braille form of the base word would be altered by the addition of a prefix or a suffix, the "one" contraction should not be used in the word "baronet."

Student: The book that I have selected for my 35-page trial manuscript for Library of Congress certification contains an introduction. In print, the introduction appears before the contents page. I have studied carefully the material presented in Lesson 19 of the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, 2000, on preliminary pages. According to Section 19.3 of the instruction manual, it seems that the introduction should be brailled as a text page rather than a preliminary page. Is this correct?

Instructor: You are absolutely right. Section 19.3 of the instruction manual says that braille text pages start with the first print page with narrative text. This may be a preface, foreword, introduction, author's note, etc. Even if theses pages have Roman numerals in print, when you transcribe them into braille they should have Arabic numerals.

Student: Even though the introduction is considered to be a text page, should it still be brailled before the contents page as it appears in print?

Instructor: No. Generally speaking, both preliminary pages and text pages should be brailled in the order that they appear in print with one exception: if narrative text, such as a preface or introduction, is written before the table of contents in print, the page should be transcribed after the table of contents in braille. However, do not add or change the headings, etc., listed on the braille contents page.

Student: I am preparing my contents page for my 35-page trial manuscript. The model contents page in Section 19.2f shows the volume number on line 5. Since my trial manuscript consists of only one volume, do I still write "Volume 1" on line 5?

Instructor: No. If a book contains only one braille volume, the words "Volume 1" should not be written on the braille contents page. Also, the word "Page," which is shown on line 6 in the model, should now be written on line 5 on the braille contents page.

Student: I received a failing grade of below 80 on my first trial manuscript for Library of Congress certification. For my second trial manuscript, I have decided to braille new material from the same print book that I used for my first manuscript. Since I have already brailled the preliminary pages for my first trial manuscript, do I need to braille them again for my second trial manuscript?

Instructor: Every trial manuscript must contain a title page and a contents page. All other pages at the beginning of a print book, such as a dedication, acknowledgments, preface, author's note, foreword, introduction, or prologue, should be included in the first submission only. Therefore, for a second or third trial manuscript, only the title page and the contents page should be included from the beginning pages of the print book.

Student: I am currently transcribing a book in which it is necessary for me to divide a number of words that are plural at the end of the braille line. Unfortunately, the plurals of nouns are not given in my dictionary. Could you give me some guidance on how to divide them?

Instructor: Certainly. Plurals of nouns are not given in the dictionary if they are formed regularly. Therefore, in order to divide such words it is necessary to know that when a plural is formed by adding "s" or "es" to a word ending in the sound of "ch," "sh," "j," "s," "x," or "z," the "es" becomes a separate syllable. Examples: catch-es, bush-es, wedg-es, dress-es, box-es, maz-es. Remember that when an "s" is added to a word ending in "e" but does not form a new syllable, the word cannot be further divided. Examples: games, miles, likes, dislikes, takes, mistakes.

Fresno patrons pitch in as library volunteers

"Sharing Time and Talent" was the theme of the Fresno Central County Library reception honoring all library volunteers on Sunday, March 16, 2003.

The Fresno Talking Book Library for the Blind (TBLB) volunteers were among those receiving special honors at the event, which featured "build your own ice cream sundae" refreshments. While every volunteer received a certificate, those with more than five years of service received ribbons and those with more than 100 hours during the previous calendar year received mugs.

"TBLB's many volunteers are a credit to our branch and we do appreciate all of their time and effort," said Wendy Eisenberg, TBLB director. Patron Sandra Lindley, who was one of the top five finalists for Fresno County Senior Volunteer of the Year, received special recognition and a plaque.

Lindley also received kudos for recruiting her friend Mary Zanarini as a volunteer. Both are retired teachers who had planned to have lunch together once a week, and they do just that on their lunch break from the library! Zanarini, recently commended by TBLB, has been volunteering for about a year now. She helps Lindley with brailling projects by reading out titles and patron information for Lindley to transcribe into braille.

A former special education teacher, Zanarini says she likes the camaraderie and the people at TBLB, and she believes "book aerobics" otherwise known as shelving books helps her to stay fit. She also assists with book inspection and other tasks. "We appreciate Mary's cheerful attitude and all of her hard work," Eisenberg declared.

Mary Jo Wohlgemuth, another TBLB patron, was recognized by the Fresno County Library as an Adult Volunteer of the Year finalist for her work at the West Fresno Crisis Center. When called on, Wohlgemuth helps the police by intervening with victims of sexual assault or domestic violence and with persons considering or attempting suicides. "Wohlgemuth talks the troubled persons through the crisis and connects them with appropriate resources. The Crisis Center nominated her for her dedication and excellence," said Eisenberg. "In addition, Mary Jo is the senior advocate in the Central Valley for the Sacramento Society for the Blind."

All Volunteer of the Year nominees received additional accolades at a luncheon themed "Volunteers: You Are Our Love Song" on April 30, 2003. "It just goes to show that our patrons love to give to others and have a lot of heart," said Eisenberg.

In memoriam

Jean G. Atkinson: Volunteer braille transcriber for more than 30 years

Jean G. Atkinson, one of the founders of Volunteer Services for the Visually Handicapped (VSVH) a nonprofit braille and audiotape transcription organization in Milwaukee died July 14, 2003, at the age of 85 in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Linda Horton, former VSVH braillist and executive director, described Atkinson as her "braille mother." Specifically, Horton said, she was "a mentor and supporter for all of my braille-related work. When I became certified as a literary braillist, Jean gave me a beautiful photograph of a woman's hands reading a page of braille; that picture still hangs on my wall to remind me of why we do the work we do."

Atkinson helped establish the Transcription Center, as VSVH was originally called, with a small group of braillists and braille students dedicated to producing braille textbooks for students in two Milwaukee area schools. The group later decided to make its services available throughout the state and to include recorded and large-print materials as part of its services.

Atkinson, the group's first volunteer coordinator, researched the venture and visited large transcription agencies in other states to learn about training opportunities, equipment and materials, and general office procedures. She and eight other enthusiastic volunteers sought donations from friends and other sources to purchase materials and equipment. Later, the Milwaukee city librarian arranged permanent quarters for the volunteer group in the downtown central library building as an auxiliary facility to the Wisconsin Regional Library for the Blind. VSVH is still located next to the regional library.

In 1965, with five years of experience as a literary braille transcriber, Atkinson decided to use her music education background as a music transcriber. After receiving Library of Congress certification in the braille music code in 1973, she found herself busy with assignments from all over the country. She joined the National Braille Association (NBA) in 1966, serving as a member of the NBA board from 1975 to 1980. In 1991 she earned NBA's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, for contributing 5,000 hours of volunteer service, and in 1996 she received NBA's Fifteen-Year Continuing Service Award.

Over the years, Atkinson lived in several states but continued to take assignments through VSVH for her many "regular clients," using her old Perkins brailler. Returning to Milwaukee in 1983, she graduated to a computer for her transcribing and spent time at the VSVH office embossing her work and enjoying her "braille days."

In 2001 Atkinson retired, at the age of 83, after 38 years as a volunteer transcriber with VSVH. At that time she was one of only 44 active music braille transcribers certified by the Library of Congress.

Dale Anschutz, VSVH executive director, said, "Jean was a remarkable woman, a combination of energy, drive, and determination mixed with a healthy sense of humor. She could be delightfully whimsical, especially about herself, and deadly serious, as she was about the plight of blind children who did not have access to brailled textbooks her reason for helping to found VSVH." Summing up Atkinson's life, he said, "She was a truly special lady."

In Atkinson's honor, the staff and center volunteers of VSVH donated five brailled music books for distribution by the National Braille Association. They will be labeled "In memory of Jean Atkinson."

Avoiding a sing-song pattern in a narration

[Submitted by Susan Barlow, a narrator for Connecticut Volunteer Services for the Blind and Handicapped, Greater Hartford unit]

When I began narrating at Talking Books, I had a wonderful teacher in Gerry Cohen, the Greater Hartford (Connecticut) unit's coordinator. She seems to have x-ray ears and can detect mispronunciation from a mile away. She also can hear a sing-song pattern in my narration long before I hear it myself. Sing-song is a monotonously rising-and-falling inflection as when we recite verse or doggerel. For example, in My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins teaches pronunciation of vowels with "the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

Sing-song is useful in helping us memorize poems such as Mother Goose rhymes and other children's literature. But sing-song's mechanical intonation annoys readers of talking books, and it can cover up the meaning of the text. We have all heard inexperienced TV newscasters use a sing-song style. It clouds our ability to grasp the content. We wish the newscasters could hear themselves. If only some power would give us all, as Robert Burns lamented, "the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It would from many a blunder free us."

Bill West, NLS audio-book production specialist, in a 1995 article posted on the NLS web site, advises narrators to use a conversational manner and to "skillfully convey the sense of the text to the listener including the emotional level and other elements appropriate to the needs of the text through effective use of timing, stress, emphasis, inflection, and other skills." (West's The Art and Science of Audio Book Production is available at, or e-mail [email protected] for the print-friendly, five-page document.)

One way to avoid the sing-song pattern is to spend time preparing a book for narration before going into the studio to record it. Linda Sacha, a narrator with three years of experience, says she spends one hour with the book "really pulling it apart," then another hour the next day "smoothing it out." The goal is to make it all sound natural, so that the meaning comes through to the patron. To do that, we first must understand the book ourselves, and we then need to prepare phrasing that conveys the meaning.

Narrator Dick Sallee advises, "Stay calm, relax, don't be especially dramatic." Overemphasis of some words can result in the dreaded sing-song. With practice, Sallee says, we can emphasize words in a subtle way, establishing a flow of words based on their meaning rather than a rhythmic pattern of words.

When asked how much time he spends preparing, narrator P.K. Allen says it varies depending on the material: "For Marshall McLuhan's books, it takes five minutes per sentence just to find the subject and predicate, whereas you can sight-read a modern novel." Most narrators, he noted, have worked on books with sentences as long as paragraphs and paragraphs as long as chapters a challenge to their skills and to the abilities of the monitors and reviewers.

Sheila Barber, a narrator with twenty years of experience, points out that when "you find the material boring, you must especially try to avoid a sing-song voice. If you find it boring and record it mechanically, the reader will lose out, because the meaning won't come through."

Narrator Art Bradbury, a seventeen-year veteran, says that he has "tried to put something of myself into the narration, though trying not to change the author's intentions and aims." This advice will lead to a more conversational flow.

On the other hand, Gerry Cohen, with twenty-seven years of practice, says, "Forget your own voice. It's the message and your delivery of it that count. Listen to yourself and be patient. Try pretending you're talking into a telephone, explaining the book to someone in a relaxed way."

Several narrators mentioned "slowing down" and not racing through the material.

Good phrasing and good pauses will enhance the delivery of the author's message. Most narrators agree that practice is key. While concentrating on the meaning, we can tap our native enthusiasm for the written word and leave "the rain in Spain on the soggy plain."

Connecticut library celebrates 35th anniversary with gala

The Connecticut State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Rocky Hill hosted NLS staff, patrons, and volunteers at its gala open house on July 12, 2003.

Carol Taylor, director of the library, welcomed NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke, government volunteer specialist Freddie Peaco, narrator Laura Giannarelli, and others to the event. Guests toured the library facility and mingled inside the spacious building or outside in the beautiful sensory garden, created for the library by patron and Eagle Scout James A. Dossot (see p. 12).

"I am delighted to be here with you today," said Cylke. "There are both professional and personal reasons for my delight. First, this Connecticut library is a sterling example of what good service can be, and I am pleased to be able to recognize the fact. Second, I am a Connecticut native with close ties to individuals and institutions here in the state."

He continued, "Since 1968 there have been five regional librarians, with Carol Taylor leading the group in longevity 13 years and growing. Congratulations on successes to date!"

Giannarelli, from the NLS Recording Studio, spoke about her 24 years narrating talking books. She shared some humorous behind-the-scenes stories that offered a glimpse of what goes into making a recorded book. She later noted that the best part of the event "was meeting the patrons. Recording for hours at a time in a soundproof booth, you can sometimes feel a bit cut off from the people who actually use the end product. It's lovely to meet actual folks who have listened to a book I narrated. It was fun to share our reactions to various authors and to hear directly from patrons what they do and don't like to listen to. I heard over and over again how much the library's patrons appreciate all of the narrators who record for the program, and how much they love and depend on their recorded books. It was also a treat to share tips of the trade with some of the Connecticut volunteer narrators."

NLS volunteer specialist Freddie Peaco briefly thanked the volunteers for their dedication and contribution of time and service. She reminded them that because of their efforts, talking-book equipment used by patrons is kept in good working order and available reading materials have increased. Peaco assisted Taylor in presenting tokens of appreciation to the volunteers in the form of beautiful rattan beach/pool/exercise mats.

[Connecticut regional library staff welcomed patrons and guests to the open house celebrating its 35th anniversary. Guests were received warmly and made comfortable in the spacious facility. ]


National Braille Association (NBA)

NBA Professional Development Conference
Sheraton University Hotel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Thursday, April 29 Saturday, May 1, 2004
NBA Professional Development Conference
Marriott Hotel
Memphis, Tennessee
Thursday, October 21 Saturday, October 23, 2004

For more information about these meetings, contact

National Braille Association
Three Townline Circle
Rochester, NY 14623-2513
(585) 427-8260 web site

California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH)

CTEVH XLV Annual Conference
Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel
Los Angeles, California
Friday, March 12 Sunday, March 14, 2004

For more information about this meeting, contact

741 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029-3594
(323) 666-2211
or Dee Konczal, conference coordinator (805) 654-6396

Visual Aid Volunteers of Florida (VAVF)

AVF 2004 Conference of Volunteers
Embassy Suites Hotel
Altamonte Springs, Florida
Monday, May 3 Wednesday, May 5, 2004

For more information about this meeting, contact

Susie Coleman, VAVF President
1826 Bartram Circle West
Jacksonville, FL 32207-2294
voice mail (904) 725-2427
e-mail [email protected]
web site

Eagle Scout candidate creates sensory garden

When James Dossot was looking for his Eagle Scout project, he asked the Connecticut Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to suggest an idea that would be meaningful and benefit others. They decided to plan a garden that would come alive for people with different disabilities and provide a relaxing atmosphere. The design would feature plants with a variety of colors, textures, and fragrances, along with wind chimes and a water fountain.

"What a thrill it has been to see this young man in action, planning and organizing this tremendous undertaking!" said Carol Taylor, librarian. Dossot worked with University of Connecticut landscape architecture students to design the garden and collected donations of plants, stone dust, soil, and mulch from individuals and businesses. He recruited individuals to work on the flower beds and the pathways and to provide equipment.

The garden spans the entire front of the library on both sides of the walkway. Visitors pass by a weeping cherry tree, roses, bee balm, rosemary, lilac, hosta, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, daisies, rhododendron, and other plantings. A stone dust pathway leads to the left, across the front of the building, past a bench to a turnaround for wheelchairs. The water fountain will be added to an area near the bench, and wind chimes will hang under the eaves of the building.

"Jim has continued to monitor the plantings and has discussed maintenance needs with us, so we will have a wonderful garden for our library patrons to enjoy for many years to come," said Taylor. "He has the thanks of all library staff, patrons, and volunteers and their best wishes as he proceeds through the final stages of his Eagle Scout candidacy. He has truly made a dream come true!"

[photo caption: The Connecticut Library for the Blind Sensory Garden provides a relaxing respite for patrons, volunteers, and other library visitors.]


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Posted on 2011-01-10

Posted on 2011-01-10