Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

August 30, 2000

NLS International Union Catalog Upgraded for Web-Braille Readers

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has announced a new feature that links its International Union Catalog for braille and audio materials to its Internet Web-Braille system. Web-Braille books may now be accessed directly from the catalog by using author, title, subject, language, keywords and other search parameters.

Web-Braille, introduced on Aug. 24, 1999, became a milestone in the history of library service for blind and visually handicapped individuals by providing eligible braille readers with a direct channel to thousands of electronic braille files. The free Internet braille program has 1,000 patrons registered. More than 3,000 Web-Braille titles are available to individuals, schools and libraries with Internet connections and braille output devices such as braille embossers or refreshable braille displays. The online collection is growing at the rate of about 40 titles every month, and a selection of online national magazines will be available in the near future.

During its first 10 months, the Web-Braille program offered only limited search options; but, because of its unprecedented success, an initiative was launched to enhance the accessibility of available books.

"The enthusiasm that greeted the Web-Braille program called for an accelerated response by NLS to the wishes of patrons for improved search capabilities," said Robert Axtell, Head of the NLS Bibliographic Control Section. "The undertaking involved a united effort by Library of Congress information technology specialists; Judith Dixon, NLS consumer relations officer; and members of the NLS Bibliographic Control Section, all working together to realize for our braille-reading constituency the full functionality of the automated catalog."

Now the fully searchable records of the International Union Catalog contain direct links to the electronic Web-Braille files. For books that are available through Web-Braille, searchers of the catalog will receive a message that notes the availability of the book as a Grade 2 braille digital file. New users of the system are directed to register with a cooperating network library to establish their free user identification and password. Registered readers may proceed directly from the catalog to the online text of the book they want with a single keystroke.

The NLS International Union Catalog is a database of records for finding books in braille and recorded formats. The 325,000 titles listed are from the NLS collection as well as other agencies serving blind and disabled readers throughout the English-speaking world. Readers may search the full catalog of books in all special formats - including an option for books that are in process - or choose to limit their search to Web-Braille titles.

For further information contact: Robert E. Fistick, Head, Publications and Media Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542; telephone: (202) 707-9279; e-mail:

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PR 00-126
ISSN 0731-3527

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