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NLS: That All May Read

Functions and Responsibilities of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped




In accordance with the authority provided in 2 U.S.C. 135a, 135a-1, and 135b, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH) is responsible for administering a national program to provide reading materials for blind and physically handicapped individuals and U.S. citizens living abroad. The program furnishes books, magazines, and music scores and texts produced in raised characters, in sound recordings, and in other suitable forms.

Functions and Responsibilities

NLS/BPH is responsible for the:

NLS/BPH maintains active liaisons with blind and physically handicapped individuals throughout the country, with cooperating state and local network libraries, with nonprofit and other organizations interested or active in serving blind and physically handicapped persons, and with federal, state, and local agencies. (See also Library of Congress Regulation 1111-1, which concerns eligibility, selection of materials, and loan service to blind and physically handicapped individuals.)

Detailed Functions

Office of the Director

The Office of the Director is responsible for formulating policy, planning, programs, and directing all activities, including coordinating the Materials Development Division and the Network Division; planning and implementing automation activities, including assisting those of the network of cooperating state and local libraries and agencies; coordinating information on research and development projects, evaluation programs, and surveys; maintaining oversight of all technological development; providing liaison with other government or quasi-official agencies, such as the United States Postal Service; providing public information and documents and conducting public outreach programs; and administrative services.


The director, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, is responsible for executing administration, planning, and formulating policy and recommendations; and for directing and coordinating the entire program. The director:

Administrative Section

The Administrative Section is responsible for coordinating personnel transactions and maintaining all official files, including travel, training, and other records concerning personnel administration; planning and implementing postal and telephone services; coordinating fiscal activities; and coordinating the management, operation, and maintenance of the physical facility. The section:

Automation Office

The Automation Office is responsible for ensuring that NLS/BPH has the appropriate information technology resources, now and in the future, necessary to successfully execute its mandate. The Automation Office:

Digital Projects Coordinator

The digital projects coordinator is responsible for coordinating, monitoring and facilitating various multi-year digital projects. These digital projects are designed and developed to transition the NLS/BPH program from audio analog cassette reading materials to audio digital technology content. The coordinator:

Publications and Media Section

The Publications and Media Section plans and implements publishing and public education programs. It produces documents and publications that support the free reading program, including reader selection tools (e.g., Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review) and general information pieces. It distributes information through the media, exhibits, and other public education programs. The section:

Research and Development Officer

The research and development officer directs projects to develop new products or systems for use by NLS and its patrons, network libraries, and producers. The incumbent:

Materials Development Division

The Materials Development Division (MDD) is responsible for managing activities related to the selection, development, production, distribution, control, and repair of reading materials and related equipment; establishing and assuring standards of quality for the products; monitoring contracts with and providing guidance to more than fifty agencies, organizations, associations, publishers, and firms that participate in providing reading resources and equipment; directing the activities of book and equipment advisory committees; and supervising the sections that make up the division.

Materials Development Division Office

The Materials Development Division (MDD) office makes recommendations to the director on policy formulation and program planning for research, development, design, production, testing, evaluation, procurement, initial distribution, inventory control, and logistical support of audiobooks and magazines, braille books and magazines, playback equipment, and accessories. The office:

Bibliographic Control Section

The Bibliographic Control Section is responsible for implementing bibliographic processing, maintenance, and control of reading materials included in the collections; establishing cataloging standards for books in special format for blind and physically handicapped readers; coordinating union catalog activities for cooperating libraries and service organizations; distributing MARC records to cooperating libraries; coordinating development of the online catalog; and participating in professional developments in bibliographic control. The section:

Braille Development Section

The Braille Development Section is responsible for developing and implementing research projects relating to braille; serving as the Library of Congress authority on all braille codes and maintaining liaison with other national braille authorities; developing all technical braille specifications and initiating programs for product improvement; planning and preparing guides and teaching manuals based on the literary, Nemeth (math), and music codes for use by local braille transcription instructors who prepare students for certification; conducting teacher training workshops in the field; and training, certifying, and advising volunteers and others nationwide who produce and process books in braille. The section:

Collection Development Section

The Collection Development Section is responsible for evaluating and selecting appropriate reading materials for the NLS/BPH collections; acquiring print books of titles to be recorded or transcribed into braille; creating and updating database tracking records of books to be added to the collection; maintaining an established flow of selected titles to initiate the book production cycle; requesting copyright clearances as needed; preparing descriptive annotations and preliminary cataloging records for all books produced; identifying titles for replacement as needed; maintaining the NLS/BPH magazine program; chairing all activities of the collection development program and the foreign language program. The section:

Engineering Section

The Engineering Section is responsible for overseeing design, development, production release, and configuration control of all NLS/BPH products, accessories, and processes; determining the method of measurement for all technical specifications; certifying compliance of preproduction models with the specifications; maintaining awareness of state-of-the-art developments applicable to braille and audio technologies; and conducting continual programs for product improvement and innovation. Program objectives include the design and deployment of the digital talking-book system. The section:

Production Control Section

The Production Control Section is responsible for overseeing the production of books and magazines selected for the NLS/BPH program and for executing database operations and administration of the Production Information and Control Systems (PICS) used by NLS/BPH. Responsibilities include supervising and coordinating production and distribution of reading materials in recorded, braille, and other formats; scheduling and assigning materials for production to manufacturers and volunteer agencies; monitoring and controlling the status, cost, and distribution of reading materials and containers in production; financial analysis and forecasting of contracts by media; and providing detailed reports for use by all levels of management and contractors to direct, evaluate, and control production operations. The section:

Quality Assurance Section

The Quality Assurance Section is responsible for guaranteeing that the quality and performance of all braille and audio products and processes meet the standards and specifications of NLS/BPH; for ascertaining that all technical specifications of NLS/BPH can be verified by standard measurements as part of the production process; for ensuring that all potential contractors for production of materials have adequate quality assurance capabilities; for ensuring that all contracts and specifications contain adequate provisions to guarantee that the products will meet the required standards; and for producing periodic reports on the performance of contractors. The section:

Recording Studio

The Recording Studio unit of the Production Control Section provides research and development functions for NLS/BPH, particularly for the Automation and Engineering Sections. The studio serves as a laboratory for experimenting with and refining tools and procedures for commercial and volunteer producers of recorded talking books. To best serve this function, the studio records and produces digital talking books, subject to all NLS/BPH specifications. The studio:

Network Division

The Network Division is responsible for managing activities related to establishing, developing, guiding, and monitoring a network of more than 131 cooperating state and local libraries and machine-lending agencies offering direct library service to blind and physically handicapped residents of the United States and its territories and possessions and to eligible U.S. citizens living abroad; maintaining close and active liaisons with schools, health-care facilities, and other organizations interested or active in providing services to blind and physically handicapped persons, with library schools, and with appropriate state and local agencies; developing and maintaining the NLS/BPH public web site and Internet services to inform the public; developing and maintaining Internet services to communicate with network libraries and cooperating agencies and to enable them to perform various operations online; developing and maintaining a staff web site; determining user eligibility for service from NLS/BPH; monitoring multistate center contracts; acquiring and interpreting consumer input and applying it as feasible to improve services; and supervising the four sections and staff officer that make up the division.

Network Division Office
Consumer Relations Officer

The consumer relations officer is responsible for ensuring that the consumer perspective is considered in all aspects of the NLS/BPH program, including digital development activities; establishing and maintaining active liaisons with individual users and consumer groups; disseminating information about user inquiries to NLS/BPH and network libraries; providing information and reference assistance to readers, as well as guidance on accessibility of NLS/BPH, network, and LC services and Internet activities; and conducting user orientations and tours. The officer:

Inventory Management Section

The Inventory Management Section is responsible for maintaining the count, control, storage, retrieval, and handling of the national inventory of materials used in the NLS/BPH program; distributing equipment, furnishings, and all procurements delivered to NLS/BPH; managing the inventory of spare parts and supplying them on demand to shops across the nation; managing logistics for contract repair; monitoring, coordinating, and evaluating the activities of two multistate centers (MSCs); maintaining a procedures manual for use by the multistate centers and a supplies catalog for use by network libraries; maintaining a web ordering and warehousing system (WOW) through which network libraries and NLS/BPH staff may order supply items from the national inventory; and supervising and evaluating book redistribution procedures. The section:

Music Section

The Music Section is responsible for developing and promoting a national special format collection in the field of music. This collection includes braille music scores and instructional methods, braille books about music and musicians, and the collection of digital braille scores and books available through Web-Braille, as well as other special format music materials in audio and large print. In addition, the section compiles and produces music magazines; develops and maintains a noncirculating print reference collection of books about music and musicians; and encourages the development and use of new techniques and materials for teaching music to blind and physically handicapped individuals. The section:

Network Services Section

The Network Services Section is responsible for coordinating national network activities, including responding to inquiries about network services and coordinating responses to network inquiries; directing the national and international interlibrary loan programs; providing consultant services to identify problem patterns and to evaluate performance in relation to established standards; compiling bibliographies of special media materials; organizing orientation programs for network participants; maintaining a procedures manual for use by network libraries; and providing library service to U.S. citizens living abroad. The section:

Reference Section

The Reference Section is responsible for providing to network libraries, other professional groups, and the general public a national reference and referral service on blindness and physical handicaps, except in the fields of medicine and law; providing special and general reference services to the staff of NLS/BPH; compiling and distributing information on resources in the fields of blindness and physical handicaps for network libraries and the general public; developing a collection of print materials or links to electronic resources on blindness and physical handicaps to support the activities described above; maintaining records and preparing statistical reports on network activities and program developments; coordinating an automated mailing list incorporating data on readers, libraries, and organizations; and providing consultant services on volunteer programs in network libraries. The section:

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Posted on 2008-01-22