Contact: Jane Caulton (202) 707-0521

June 23, 2010

Library of Congress Talking-Book Program Honors TelecomPioneers for 50 years of Machine Repair Service

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, presented TelecomPioneers, a national organization of telecommunication employees and retirees, with a plaque in recognition of the group’s 50 years of repairing talking-book machines—an effort that has saved U.S. taxpayers an estimated $216 million.

NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke made the presentation in May in Des Moines, Iowa, during the 2010 National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals. NLS provides braille and talking books to a readership of more than 900,000.

"The TelecomPioneers, now known as Pioneers—A Volunteer Network, have made a tremendous contribution to improving the quality of life for people who are blind or physically handicapped," Cylke said. "It is a wondrous service organization, and thousands of individuals have contributed through five decades."

Since 1960, Pioneers’ chapters around the country have repaired 3.6 million talking-book machines. In the 2009 fiscal year alone, Pioneers repaired more than 50,000 machines, saving $3 million, based on an estimated $60 per repair.

Gabe Olah, a New York state Verizon employee and national cochairman of the repair program, received the plaque on behalf of Pioneers. "This plaque represents 50 years of dedication in not only repairing the talking-book machines, but setting up the system, inventing tools and more," Olah said. "It represents all those hours of work that Pioneers have put in to improve the quality of life for people they’ve never met."

Pioneers, originally the Telephone Pioneers of America, began in 1911. Under the slogan "answering the call of those in need," its members started repairing NLS phonographs in the 1960s and cassette players in the 1970s. Now members of Pioneers are being trained to troubleshoot the new NLS digital talking-book machines. About 1,000 members currently volunteer in the program, serving libraries for the blind and their patrons across the country.

Pioneers also was honored earlier this year with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for its work in the repair program. The award came with a letter of congratulations from President Barack Obama.

"Next year we celebrate our 100th anniversary, and we will be around another hundred years to answer the call of those in need," Olah said.

More information about Pioneers is available at its website (external link).

NLS serves residents of the United States and eligible U.S. citizens living abroad, who are unable to read or use standard print materials because of visual or physical handicaps. For more information about NLS, visit its website.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov. Many of the Library’s rich resources may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 10-156
06/23/10
ISSN 0731-3527

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