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NLS Press Release

Pennsylvania and Michigan libraries receive awards for excellence in serving blind and physically handicapped individuals

For Immediate Release:
April 17, 2007
Contact: Jane Caulton
(202) 707-0521 or [email protected]


WASHINGTON, DC—The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH), Free Library of Philadelphia, received the third Network Library of the Year Award, during the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, annual awards luncheon ceremony on April 17, 2007, in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The Washtenaw County Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled of Ann Arbor, Michigan (LBPD), received the first annual Network Subregional Library of the Year Award. Both awards carry a cash prize.

The LBPH, Free Library of Philadelphia, was honored for the exemplary service it provides as an NLS regional library. It circulates more than 1,780,000 braille, cassette, and large-print books to over 14,500 individual readers and 632 institutions. The regional library hosts several innovative programs, including the Adult Basic Education and General Educational Development program—possibly the only one of its kind in the country—that provides visually impaired adults with the opportunity to complete high school. The library’s VoPAC (Voice Operated Public Access Catalog) allows readers to select books by telephone. The library’s city-center location permits easy access, allowing patrons to walk-in and browse the collection. These patrons regularly use the Talking Book Center—a collection of workstations equipped with assistive technology. This aids in forging stronger relationships between patrons and the downtown community.

LBPH has an on-site recording facility for audiobooks and volunteer-read materials. Its locally produced audiocassettes include more than 500 titles on local Pennsylvania topics and reach 9,000 readers. Its mobile units deliver talking books to retirement communities and nursing homes throughout eastern Pennsylvania.

The Washtenaw County LBPD was recognized for its unique service record as a subregional library. In addition to providing excellent service, LBPD seeks "to sustain the social, emotional, and intellectual health of people who are blind or live with low vision."

For example, the library’s Book Lovers Club—now in its tenth year—is a bimonthly forum allowing fellow patrons to develop commonality and strengthen friendships. The library presents an open workshop, Braille Instruction and Blind Awareness, for people interested in learning braille and about the lives of visually impaired people. In cooperation with University of Michigan students, it developed the Many Ways of Seeing workshop to help blind and visually impaired individuals create works of art. In addition the LBPD exhibition Visions: What’s New in Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been a focal point for vendors, consumers, and volunteers. The University of Michigan’s School of Information, a strategic partner of the library, found that these programs help LBPD patrons enjoy "a renewed sense of involvement in the world . . . increased personal connections," and "increased intellectual stimulation."

NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke noted, "The Philadelphia and Washtenaw County libraries have demonstrated excellence as regional and subregional libraries respectively. They have raised the bar for providing community outreach and dependable service, and we celebrate their accomplishment."

NLS administers the free program that loans materials to residents of the United States, who are unable to read or use standard print materials because of visual or physical handicaps. Materials loaned include braille and recorded books and magazines, music scores in braille and large print, and specially designed playback equipment. The 131 network libraries—throughout the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands—provide direct service to eligible individuals and institutions. Eligible American citizens living abroad are also able to participate in the NLS program.

NLS presented the awards to the two libraries for outstanding performance at state and local levels. Special committees of librarians and patrons made the selection, based on three primary criteria: mission support (the extent to which the library reached or exceeded the American Library Association Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service), creativity and innovation, and record of patron satisfaction.

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Posted on 2011-01-10