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NLS Press Release

Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service Recognized as Outstanding

For immediate release
April 4, 2006
Contact: Robert E. Fistick
(202) 707-9279 or [email protected]

The Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service of Springfield has been named "Network Library of the Year" by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. The award was presented on Tuesday, April 4, 2006, in recognition of National Library Week, during a special luncheon in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Sharon Ruda, director of the library service for the blind in Illinois, received 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 award on behalf of all the Illinois cooperating libraries," Ruda said. These libraries the Chicago Public Library Talking Book Center, the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, the Southern Illinois Talking Book Center, and Voices of Vision Talking Book Center were also recognized by NLS. "Thanks to the active involvement of the staff, volunteers, and patrons, the Talking Book and Braille Service is able to pilot many new projects and keep patrons up to date with current technologies."

The Illinois Talking Book and Braille Service is a trailblazer in creating and providing technology-related services to blind and physically handicapped readers. Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL), one of its most ambitious programs, is an initiative that started in the Illinois talking-book community as an accessible web-based book discussion in 2003, and is now popular in libraries worldwide. In 2005, the OPAL web site had more than 44,000 visitors and 30 multitype library members in the United States, Australia, and Norway.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped created the Network Library Award to recognize outstanding accomplishments of the 134 libraries serving blind and physically handicapped individuals across the country and in U.S. territories. Forming the network of cooperating libraries, these state and privately funded agencies circulate NLS- produced braille and recorded materials and provide other services to eligible readers in their communities.

A specially established committee comprising librarians and patrons selected the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service for the award using three criteria: mission support, or the extent to which the library reached or exceeded the American Library Association Revised Standards and Guidelines for Service; creative and innovation in providing service; and record of patron satisfaction.

"The Illinois service for the blind has taken great steps preparing patrons for the NLS digital conversion in 2008 by using technology to provide innovative service," said Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "These efforts and its 95 percent patron approval rating go far beyond the award criteria, making Illinois an excellent choice."

Projects spearheaded by Illinois Talking Book and Braille Service include:

a virtual reference service specifically for blind, visually impaired, and other print-impaired individuals, provided live online or via e-mail
Playaway audiobooks
a program that provides patrons with small, self-playing talking books
a web-based digital audiobook program that permits patrons to listen to books on their computers or download them onto a CD or MP3 player
The Lobe Library
a program that mails eligible readers digital audiobooks on small Otis or MP3 players
The Illinois Kidzone
an online summer reading program and resource web site for young readers, their parents, and their teachers

The Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service is the second recipient of the Network Library of the Year Award; Braille Institute Library Services of Los Angeles was the 2005 recipient. "The network is vital to our mission," Cylke said. "We are thrilled we can give cooperating libraries the recognition they deserve."

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, administers the free program that loans recorded and braille books and magazines, music scores in braille and large print, and specially designed playback equipment to residents of the United States who are unable to read or use standard print materials because of visual or physical handicaps.

NLS administers the program nationally, while direct service to eligible individuals and institutions is the responsibility of cooperating libraries in the various states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Service is also extended to eligible American citizens residing abroad.

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Posted on 2011-01-10