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NLS: That All May Read

Progress through the Years
Selected Highlights

February 2005






All talking books on discs recorded at 8-1/3 rpm.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull selected and tested as a book-disc combination.


Cassette books produced at 15/16 ips, 2-track.

Tone indexing used for cassette books.

Two multistate centers established.


Flexible disc used for regular production of bestsellers.

Cassette machine prototype developed for 2-speed,
4-track format.

Development of high-speed braille plate embossers sponsored by National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).


Roots by Alex Haley, first 15/16 ips, 4-track cassette book, produced.

Voice-indexing process developed for cassette books.

First edition of machine-readable, computer output audiobook catalog produced on microfiche.

Nonuser survey conducted.

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Round Table of Libraries for the Blind established at the suggestion of NLS.






Introduction to Braille Mathematics produced in braille, and a training and certification program for mathematic braille transcribers initiated.


National Geographic magazine produced in braille from compositors' tapes.

Network-produced books added to microfiche catalog as a step toward a union catalog.

Development of a foreign-language collection begun.

Access National Parks: A Guide for Handicapped Visitors, first voice-indexed book, produced.

Research and development for E-1 (Easy) cassette machine begun.

Standards of Service for the Library of Congress Network of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped published by the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) of the American Library Association (ALA) with support from NLS.


User survey conducted.

Computerized mailing list system (CMLS) made operational for Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review.

Helen and Teacher by Joseph Lash, eight-volume braille book, produced from compositor tapes.

All program magazines distributed directly to consumers by producers.

Special amplifier for hearing-impaired persons developed and made available.

Extension levers for cassette playback machine developed.


Fiftieth year of program celebrated.


International conference on Grade 2 English Braille cosponsored and hosted.

READS (Reader Enrollment and Delivery System) automated circulation system for network libraries conceived.

Solar battery chargers made available for patrons without access to electricity.

Pitch restoration device included in all C-80 cassette machines.

New cassette-container design field-tested.






Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Audio Equipment formed.

First Australian records added to the new International Union Catalog.

Concise Heritage Dictionary, first voice-indexed recorded dictionary, published.


Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service for the Library of Congress Network of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped published by ASCLA/ALA with support from NLS.


IFLA Section of Libraries for the Blind (SLB) meeting hosted by NLS.

READS automated circulation system used by NLS network of cooperating libraries pilot launched.

BLINDPOST label for international mailing developed for IFLA/SLB by NLS.


Rigid discs phased out.

Cataloging completed for Recording for the Blind (RFB) titles in the International Union Catalog.

Extension levers for cassette machines designed.

Lightweight headphones developed.

Brailling of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 105-volume reference work, completed in coordination with National Federation of the Blind (NFB).


Major advances in new playback equipment developed, including the production of an easy cassette machine (E1).

National outreach projects identify improved services to children through a Children's Services Committee and a consolidated NLS project to reach and enroll senior citizens in the talking-book program.

Publication of the first of a planned series of leisure-pursuit booklets, Birding: An Introduction to Ornithological Delights for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals.






Reissue of the acclaimed Alexander Scourby narration of the King James Bible version on cassettes with tone indexing.

National outreach to seniors commenced with market testing of a mass-media broadcast and print public education campaign "Take a Talking Book," the most ambitious public-awareness project NLS had undertaken.

Automation implementation of book production became a reality with the Production Control Management Information System.


Revision of 1953 World Braille Usage published jointly with UNESCO.

The first variable speed talking-book machines produced.

A meeting to initiate a technology search for an improved talking-book medium held in Dublin, Ireland. Participating agencies included Canadian National Institute for the Blind; National Council for the Blind of Ireland; Royal National Institute for the Blind; and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

Telephone Pioneers complete thirty years of volunteer audio machine-repair service.


The Xavier Society for the Blind catalog was added to the International Union Catalog.


Seedlings and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland catalogs added to the International Union Catalog.

Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals of North America, Inc. established in Washington, DC.

Combination talking-book machine and cassette player produced.






A beta test CD-ROM version of the International Union Catalog made available.



The International Yearbook of Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals published by K. G. Saur in cooperation with the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America and NLS.

Volunteer Repair Project launched to establish standards for the repair of audio machines.

The International Union Catalog made available on the Internet.
A manual was prepared to enable users to search the database more effectively.

The National Literary Braille Competency Test released for validation.

Production Control data processing moved to an in-house Production and Information Control System (PICS).

The NLS easy cassette book machine (E-1) awarded Exhibit Honorable Mention because of its ease of operation by persons with limited manual dexterity. The award was given by the American Society on Aging's 1994 New Products for Mature Markets Design Competition.

Promotional video, Meeting the Need, published and distributed.

An Internet electronic distribution list for network librarians established and maintained by the Oregon regional library.


The Telephone Pioneers of America honored in a gala reception sponsored by NLS in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.

Answering the Call: Telephone Pioneer Talking-Book Machine-Repair Program 1960-1993 published. The book describes the development of a nationwide network of repair workshops staffed by volunteers who are members of Telephone Pioneers of America.

An international delegation of thirty representatives from blindness organizations met in Canada to discuss audio technology developments.

Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) honored during its fiftieth anniversary observance with a reception at NLS headquarters.

Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service for the Library of Congress Network of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped published by ASCLA/ALA with support from NLS.

Sixty thousand braille and recorded books from Canadian libraries were added to the International Union Catalog, bringing the total number of titles in the catalog to nearly 240,000.

The ten-thousandth braille book, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, published.

The collection of 33-1/3 rpm discs archived for historical value and interest.

A 52" x 20" educational poster entitled Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals: A World Perspective produced and distributed jointly by NLS and Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals. It was sent to libraries and educational institutions around the world and to individuals and corporate members of the Friends.

A solar-powered unit to charge cassette machine batteries tested.

An Internet mailing list for exchange of ideas among researchers and developers of digital talking books implemented.

Digital Talking Books (DTBs) established to provide an active forum for sharing research results, proposals, comments, and suggestions on the development of DTBs.

New injection molding tool for six-cassette plastic mailing containers to yield savings on container costs produced.

Say How, a manual of pronunciation of the names of famous people and places assimilated over the past twenty-three years published and distributed to NLS producers, volunteer agencies, and interested network libraries.

The first production lot of C-2 cassette machines approved and the manufacturer's performance monitored during full production.

North Dakota Talking Book Services becomes the fifty-seventh regional library to open since the inception of the NLS network.


The Copyright Law Amendment, introduced by Senator John H. Chafee and known as the Chafee Amendment, is signed by President Clinton and becomes Public Law 104-197. The most significant improvement in the national reading program since the Pratt-Smoot Amendment more than sixty years earlier, the new law provides that groups producing specialized formats for the blind will no longer have to gain permission from the copyright holder to begin production.

The Volunteer Repair Project, a national "train the trainer" program, launched in order to train and recognize the Telephone Pioneers of America, G E Elfun, and other volunteer repair groups nationwide.

New Zealand titles added to the International Union Catalog bringing it to 251,000 titles. Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind contributed 1,217 entries.

Biography of the Blind, a compilation of essays about noted blind people, published by the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America, Inc.

Author Daniel Quinn donated 576 audio copies of his book Ishmael.

Web-BLND, an easy-to-use interface to the International Union Catalog, made available on SCORPIO, a Library of Congress online system.

More than five hundred catalog records for cassette books about music added to the International Union Catalog.

For the first time braille books were obtained from the China National Publishing Trading Council.

The NLS Technology Assessment and Research Program compiled Technology in Transition, which described a long-term technical vision and plans to achieve it.

Plans announced to initiate the development of a technical standard for the digital talking-book through the National Information Standards Organization (NISO).

A magazine content study conducted to determine patron satisfaction with the selection of audio and braille magazine titles and to identify potential areas for change.

NLS and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind undertake a pilot project to circulate the French-language edition of The Reader's Digest (Sélections du Reader's Digest) on cassette to interested NLS patrons.

A new audiocassette brochure, My Books Adapt to Me, prepared for promotional distribution at national conferences and exhibits.

A new braille-book mailing container field-tested at the Massachusetts and Oregon regional libraries.

Troubling a Star, by Madeleine L'Engle, became the first digital book narrated in the NLS recording studio.

NLS released bar-code labeling of new C-1 cassette machines and their cartons for equipment inventory control.

The NLS-developed system for producing print-braille labels (P&B Labels) for cassettes implemented.

Andrew Heiskell Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in New York City and the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library in Albany celebrated one hundred years of service.


NISO digital talking-book (DTB) standards committee held its first meetings to begin the process of designing a DTB system.

A three-day forum to review service patterns and to project appropriate approaches to meeting the future reading and information needs of individuals with visual or physical handicaps held.

A two-year validation process for the new National Literary Braille Competency Test begins.

Narrator Mitzi Friedlander honored as the first person in the history of the talking-book program to record one thousand books.

NLS continues outreach to Native Americans; librarians representing several Native American tribes visit NLS and make outreach requests to increase awareness of talking books among Native Americans.

James Wilson's classic edition of Biography of the Blind, which lauds the accomplishment of noted blind people, is selected for the Fifth Biennial American Institute of Graphic Arts design competition.

Two certificates of excellence from the North American Precis Syndicate awarded to NLS for the volume of media coverage produced from public service announcements made in conjunction with the release of two posters in 1996, My Books Talk and At Home with Talking Books.

New specifications developed to enable production of magazines on audiocassette tape.

Two papers on planning digital technology, "Twenty Steps to Next-Generation NLS Technology" and "Ten Steps to Alternative Cassette Book Machines" issued.

NLS began conversion of audio disc magazines to audiocassette with all children's, young adult, and foreign-language magazines.

$200,000 worth of state-of-the-art duplicating equipment, seized from music pirates, donated to the talking-book program.

The International Union Catalog is made available on the NLS web site and the CD-BLND edition goes from prototype to production.
It is distributed quarterly to the network and to subscribers.

More than five hundred additional records added to the International Union Catalog were received from the Jewish Braille Institute. The catalog totals 235,244 records.

A distribution-only electronic mailing list established to post network bulletins and other timely reports to interested network libraries.






The report Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future, which outlined the plans and steps required to develop digital talking books, published.

A pilot test to determine the feasibility of making digital contracted braille book files available to NLS braille readers launched.

A benchmark study to define and explore the provision of educational and professional reading services to individuals with print handicaps launched.

A new brochure Frequently Asked Questions about the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress published.

NLS Reconditioning Procedures for Cassette Book Machines, a new machine-repair video that showed how to recondition a C-1 cassette book machine (CBM), distributed.


Web-Braille on the Internet launched for blind and visually impaired library users. Web-Braille formed a milestone in the history of library service for blind and visually handicapped individuals by providing eligible braille readers with direct access to thousands of electronic braille files. NLS continues to add many hundreds of new titles each year.

A state-of-the-art recording facility which moved the Library closer to digital talking-book production installed.

Digital Audio Development (DAD) committee formed with seventeen members.

" Exploring the Possibilities: Network Libraries in a Digital and Digital Audio Age," a conference on planning library services for the future, was held at NLS.

Thirty-eight thousand bibliographic records from Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) added to the NLS International Union Catalog.

Newly designed braille-book container developed by NLS staff went into production.


NLS International Union Catalog upgraded to accommodate Web-Braille readers. The new feature provides a link for Web-Braille books to be accessed directly from the catalog by using author, title, subject, and language.

A fourth edition of the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing issued.

Thirty thousand bibliographic records from Britain's National Library for the Blind were added to the International Union Catalog, bringing the total to sixty-eight thousand records of British-produced materials.

Braille: Into the Next Millennium, a six-hundred page anthology of articles by more than two dozen international experts in the field of braille, was published jointly by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH) and the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America.

Life-cycle cost-analysis tool, a computer program that allows NLS to compare the cost analog book production with audiobook production, developed.

The Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault became the first digital talking-book master produced in the NLS recording studio.

Six new public service announcements (PSAs) for radio and television in English and in Spanish developed. Actress Rita Moreno was featured in one television PSA and narrated one radio PSA.

NLS Interlibrary Loan System, an online facility that allows network libraries to send interlibrary loan requests over the Internet to other libraries in the network, established.


NISO released for public review the draft digital talking-book standard entitled File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book.

Authors Ernest Freeberg, The Education of Laura Bridgman: First Deaf and Blind Person to Learn Language (Harvard University Press), and Elisabeth Gitter, The Imprisoned Guest:Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) presented their works on Laura Bridgman (1829-1889), a predecessor of Helen Keller by some sixty years. The presentations were cosponsored by NLS, Library of Congress, and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) of the Smithsonian Institution.

NISO voted to approve File Specifications for the Digital Talking Book.

Cincinnati, Ohio, regional library celebrated one hundred years of service on March 25, 2001.

Six Soros Foundation Fellows from Eastern Europe and Russia interned at NLS for eight weeks. The program provided intensive exposure to American practices in providing library services to blind and physically handicapped individuals.

All NLS-produced braille magazines added to Web-Braille.

Nearly two hundred braille musical scores and one music magazine added to Web-Braille.

A student design competition was announced by the Industrial Designers Society of America and NLS. The competition, to begin in 2002, will allow contestants to propose designs for the next generation of digital talking-book playback machines.

A new video, Telephone Pioneers of America: Answering the Call, was produced to honor Telephone Pioneers' contribution and partnership with NLS over the past forty years.


A Low-Complexity Mastering (LCM) System created to ease the transition from open-reel tape to digital recording for volunteer studios.

Cooperative technology initiatives with NFB-NEWSLINE and Bookshare.org helped streamline access to electronic information and expand available services to readers.

NISO approved the national standard for the Digital Talking Book (ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002). This universal standard addresses the requirements of a range of agencies serving users with a wide variety of reading needs.

Lachezar Tsvetanov, a senior from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, won first place and $5,000 for his winning entry titled "Dook," in the Digital Talking-Book Player Competition.

Six student-designed entries and a faculty advisor were named by a panel of six judges following an evaluation of 146 entries from twenty-eight design schools across the country.

Library of Congress displayed in its public exhibit space the six winning entries of the competition to design a prototype playback machine for digital talking books (DTB).

The Jewish Braille Institute (JBI) donated its braille-book collection of nearly eight thousand titles in more than seventy thousand volumes to NLS.

The brochure Frequently Asked Questions: Digital Talking Books published and distributed.


NLS began a pilot program to test delivery over the Internet of digital audio magazines presented in human speech.

Web-Braille grows to more than 2,800 users and almost 5,800 titles.

Development of WB-View, NLS-sponsored software, completed. This software allows Web-Braille users to browse Web-Braille material more easily online and offline.

International Union Catalog migrated to the Voyager Integrated Library System (ILS), the standard bibliographic system at the Library of Congress.

NLS hosted a conference to launch a national outreach program aimed at increasing readership.

Strategic Business Plan for the Implementation of the Digital Systems published. It is a detailed explanation of progress to date and outlook for the future of the transition to digital systems and services.

The New Jersey Library for the Blind and Handicapped inaugurated an Internet service that makes newspapers and special-interest materials available to registered patrons through a Windows Media streaming format. Audiovision Internet Streaming Service provides the programs from the Audiovision Radio Reading Service.






People, Smart Computing, and U.S. News & World Report, selected for a six-month pilot test of web-based audio magazines. Thirty-four volunteer testers were identified to participate. They were selected from a cross-section of NLS program users throughout the country who had expressed interest to NLS in participating in tests of the new digital format.

In response to patron requests, a web site www.loc.gov/nls/narrator/ was created to allow the public to learn more about NLS program narrators.

Revised Standards and Guidelines for Network Library Service for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was updated by ASCLA and NLS network libraries committees.

NLS recording studio developed and installed Storage Area Network (SAN). The SAN is used to store files produced with the Low-Complexity Mastering System, making a simpler method for recording and editing.

The last open-reel narration tape was submitted for review, ending a three year phase-out of analog tapes and assuring that all new narrations are provided in digital format.

A collaborative effort of four regional libraries within the NLS network made available hundred of popular book titles to blind and physically handicapped patrons online through the Unabridged-Digital Audio Books for the Blind web site, www.unabridged.info.

NLS joined Unabridged for NLS staff to study and better understand the digital audiobook needs and wants of users, and to explore
the possibilities related to content markup, protection, distribution, and use.

NLS joined OCLC Online Computer Library Center.

Frank Kurt Cylke, Editor


Sylvia Dye
Robert Jones
Julie Lexcen
Ruth Nussbaum
Carol Ann Strauss

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Posted on 2006-05-30