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NLS Press Release

Blind and Physically Handicapped Readers Share Expectations For NLS Digital Talking-Book System

For Immediate Release:
September 20, 2005
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or

Second round of user tests refine system features that will enhance reading for patrons

In a second round of user-needs tests, patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), the Library of Congress's talking-book program, underscored the need for a system that is durable, lightweight, and easy to use.

"With each round of testing, NLS gains a deeper understanding of user and librarian needs, which helps us further refine player requirements and design," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "Patron and librarian feedback is essential to building the best machine possible."

Sixty-nine current and potential patrons with varied visual, physical, and cognitive impairments participated in the study. Users ranged from children to seniors and were grouped by gender, age, and skill. Testing was facilitated by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in Baltimore and Cleveland and by the Trace Research and Development Center of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Interviews with library staff also yielded valuable insights into the cartridge and player's functionality.

"This series of usability tests was intended to see if engineers are getting the design right from the perspective of librarians and patrons," notes Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director. "From the results of these tests, we were able to validate and refine some requirements and turn them into specifications for the machine."

For the first time, users conducted operational tasks on models of talking-book cartridges and players. The models incorporated suggestions and feedback from initial user tests. While constructed of a special modeling foam, these models had functional buttons that were connected to actual digital talking-book recordings to simulate reading. This study is an essential part of the NLS project to convert its current cassette system to a digital flash-memory format by 2008.

More than 23 million copies of recorded and braille books and magazines were circulated to a readership of 799,718 in 2004. The International Union Catalog provides access to 423,500 titles (19 million copies). Audiobook readers borrow an average of 31 books and magazines a year. Braille readers average 20 books and magazines a year.

An overview of the NLS digital talking-book project may be found in Current Strategic Business Plan for the Implementation of Digital Systems at For enrollment information, visit or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2011-01-10