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NLS Press Release

User Needs Drive Development of Digital Talking-Book Player

For Immediate Release:
December 20, 2005
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or rfis@loc.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress is working with industry leaders in assistive technology, including HumanWare, to develop a digital talking-book system tailored to patron needs. Eight, nationwide patron usability tests will guide system development. NLS plans to begin converting its current analog cassette-book system to a digital format in 2008.

"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."

In order to meet NLS's high standards, the NLS digital talking-book player is undergoing more usability testing than any other digital talking-book player on the market. The machine is being developed for easy usage by patrons with varying disabilities and age. In designing the user interface, HumanWare must consider such accessibility issues as button size, shape, spacing, and tactile markings. The system's improved audio, portability, and navigation features will enhance how patrons experience reading and access information.

"User testing has been very beneficial in showing how patrons interact with the players and finding out which features do and do not work for them," noted Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director. "Each test has afforded some excellent insight into how we can refine the machine to better suit patron needs."

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 www.loc.gov/nls/businessplan/2003.html. For enrollment information, visit www.loc.gov/nls or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

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Posted on 2011-01-10