Library Service to Institutions

NLS Factsheets

Library Service to Institutions August 1995


Talking-book service is made available by regional and subregional libraries to institutions and agencies whose clientele might be expected to include blind or physically handicapped persons eligible for materials from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Such institutions and agencies include hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers.


The institution must assign a specific staff member to be responsible for equipment, talking books, and any accessories provided by the network library to an institution. These items are federal property, and institutions are held accountable for their location and condition.


Initial Contact

A request for talking-book service can come from an institution on behalf of its clientele, or can be part of a network library's outreach initiative to eligible institutions in its service area. A personal visit by a network library staff member will provide information about the talking-book service, acquaint the institution with policy and procedures for service, and introduce appropriate institution staff to playback equipment operation and cassette book use. If a personal visit is not feasible, telephone and correspondence contacts will be made.


The director or designee of the institution must complete an NLS institutional application form and return it to the network library. If there are eligible persons in the institution who would benefit from being registered for individual service--primarily those who are avid readers or who would find it difficult to enjoy talking books in a group setting--these persons should complete individual application forms and return them to the network library.

On acceptance and approval of the application, the institution will be placed on a mailing list for catalogs and other NLS publications that announce available titles. Most network libraries will assign a specific staff person to serve as the institution's primary contact for service and information.


The number of talking-book machines assigned to an institution depends upon the number of eligible users to be served and the setting in which the machines will be used. A group may require one cassette machine while some individual users could share another machine. One machine for an average of six users is standard. Accessories such as headphones, pillow speakers, and remote control units, are available, but only where need is demonstrated.

Frequency of Contact

The institution's staff member responsible for book and equipment supervision must maintain contact with the network library, giving updates on changing needs, conditions, and personnel. The library staff member assigned to the institution will also maintain contact at least quarterly by telephone or personal visit. As there is frequent turnover among agency personnel who supervise this program at institutions, it is important that both institution and network library make every effort to stay in touch.

Written Policy

The network library should develop a written policy statement that details both parties' responsibilities and procedures for continued service. The library should provide this policy to institutions applying for service.

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Posted on 2010-08-25