Braille Book Review

January-February 2006

In Brief

The following information is reprinted from two issues of NLS Flash, a newsletter created to bring current information on NLS progress in digital technology to patrons, library staff, and other interested individuals.

Flash, October 2005, volume 1, issue 11

Found: Digital talking-book distribution solution

Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? It is when it comes to digital talking-book distribution. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, ended the first phase of its distribution-system study last month by selecting an option that combines mass duplication and on-demand duplication of titles. The NLS Digital Long-Term Planning Group (DLTPG) supported this solution.

"Our top priority was finding an efficient distribution process that suits flash technology and is functional for NLS, network libraries, and patrons," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "After careful consideration of various options, it's clear that a mixed option is the most sensible solution. It should meet the needs of the entire network."

The study, conducted by ManTech Advanced Systems International, recommends that digital talking books be mass produced for the first two to three years. When duplication technology is able to support on-demand production, a hybrid system combining mass duplication and on-demand duplication will be introduced.

When the new system is fully implemented, high-circulation titles will be mass duplicated and shipped to libraries for local storage and loan. Less popular titles will be produced on demand and distributed from duplication centers. High-circulation titles will be weeded as their popularity wanes and will migrate to on-demand production to reduce storage build-up and make way for new titles.

According to Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director, the benefits of a hybrid solution far outnumbered those of other systems. "The shift of some distribution to duplication centers focuses staff resources on reader advisory services. It also reduces the number of cartridges required. These factors translate into cost savings for both NLS and regional libraries," says Moodie. "The only drawback of the hybrid is that it's more complex from an operational standpoint."

A winning combination

Choosing between the mass-duplication and hybrid options was a rigorous process. Each system's impact on NLS, network librarians, and patrons was closely considered. Extensive circulation data collected from nine libraries all varying in size, location, and information system used ensured that many factors affecting distribution were assessed. Each system was evaluated for such factors as cost efficiency, operational complexity, storage utilization, and quality of service.

ManTech presented its findings to the DLTPG comprising patrons, state and network librarians, and NLS staff to gauge whether the process would work well for all parties involved. Group members assessed the evaluation factors used to select the hybrid model and found them to be adequate. The committee also considered the grouping of titles for mass or on-demand duplication.

"The group ultimately accepted the final recommendations," said Jerry Ducrest, ManTech subcontractor. "They were receptive to the hybrid system as long as it is implemented correctly."

The new system will affect librarians minimally at first, as they continue to handle all distribution. Once the hybrid system is implemented, an estimated 20 percent of circulation would move from network library to on-demand-center responsibility. Impact also depends on how easily a library's existing circulation system interfaces with the new model. Patrons will continue to order books through their libraries without any noticeable impact.

Bridge to the future

The move to the hybrid model will be smooth, systematic, and gradual. An extensive transition plan will bridge NLS to the future process. The research-driven plan will be developed alongside system design during the second phase of the distribution study. The plan will address operational issues such as distributing players, balancing quantities of cassettes and digital talking books, and the designing of automated systems. The plan is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006.

Eager to move forward, the DLTPG discussed key transition issues and goals in its recent meeting. Considerable attention was given to how digital talking-book players would be distributed during the first few years. The group discussed this issue at length and NLS will develop guidelines based on its input.

The DLTPG will continue to advise on the transition process in the coming year. "The Digital Long-Term Planning Group's input is very helpful in developing a transition plan that will be functional for the entire network," noted Moodie. "NLS will issue recommendations based on the committee's feedback."

Hybrid highlights

When the digital talking-books program rolls out in 2008, it will be via a mass duplication system. NLS will then introduce a hybrid model two to three years later, combining mass and on-demand duplication. Here is how it will work once implemented:

Mass duplication. High-circulation titles which account for about 20 percent of the total collection and nearly 80 percent of total circulation will be mass produced and distributed to libraries for storage and circulation to patrons.

Duplication-on-demand. Low-circulation titles comprising the balance of the collection yet only 20 percent of circulation will be duplicated on demand at distribution centers. Patrons will continue to place orders for books through their local library.

Flash, November 2005, volume 1, issue 12

An update on digital talking-book features

Expectations are high for the proposed digital talking-book system soon to be introduced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. Librarians and patrons alike have shared their wish lists with NLS, and now the challenging task of implementing a system that balances expectations with the actualities of design and function is under way.

"NLS is making every effort to provide a program that works for all," says Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "In order to create this system, we must carefully weigh each desired feature against the basic needs of librarians and patrons, taking into account other factors such as cost and complexity as well."

The NLS Digital Long-Term Planning Group (DLTPG) made up of patrons, librarians, and engineers has considered a range of expectations and assumptions. One of the highest patron expectations is that the digital player will be smaller and lighter than the current analog cassette machine. The new machine won't be small enough to fit in a pocket or an average-sized purse, but NLS patrons will find the compact, lightweight machine a pleasant change from the current playback equipment.

"Most patrons are realistic," observes DLTPG member Kim Charlson, librarian at the Braille and Talking Book Library, Perkins School for the Blind. "They wish for a player that's small and lightweight, but they also understand it must be large enough to incorporate conveniently spaced control buttons, a speaker, and other accessible features that make it easy to use. Patrons will also find the cartridge easier to insert and remove from the player than a cassette and librarians will have a sturdy, robust medium that will play even after years of use. Users correctly assume that the digital talking-book cartridge will have enough surface area for braille and large-print labels."

Balancing act

In many ways, digital talking books will be preferable to cassette books, providing high-quality sound and navigation options. Most titles will fit on a single cartridge, and cartridges can play through to the end without being turned over like cassettes. The player will also mark a reader's place and start up in that spot when played again, even when readers switch from one book to another and back again. But there are some caveats. While 95 percent of books will fit on one cartridge, extremely large ones such as War and Peace will require multiple cartridges.

Librarians and patrons anticipate correctly that the human aspect of service will not change. "Patrons want someone they may call to connect them with what they need," says Charlson. "Librarians are excited about the new technology and wish to continue to provide a human touch in their service delivery." Librarians will be provided training to field calls, help patrons download books, and solve technical issues as they arise.

Patrons will see the first digital talking books and players in 2008. According to Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director, "Approximately 10 to 15 percent of patrons will receive players in the first year, and NLS will provide guidelines for distribution. We need to manufacture a small number of machines initially and continue to test them. Once we are sure that everything is fine, we can accelerate production. In the meantime, the cassette system will still be supported and available."

Twenty thousand digital titles will be available in 2008. Some will be on flash cartridges and all will be available for Internet download. For those who wish to have access to the collection before 2008, a significant number of the books will be available for download a year earlier. But the first digital talking books will not be on library shelves until near the time the machines are ready. This group will be only a small portion of the twenty thousand titles. After the hybrid distribution system that combines mass and on-demand production is phased in two to three years after the initial launch all digital talking-book titles will be available on flash-memory cartridges, some from libraries and others from the on-demand centers.

Digital Talking Book (DTB) Milestones

  • Completed
  • Start 1/12/04-Finish 10/1/08

    The following ongoing projects, set to conclude in 2008, are shown with start dates in parentheses.

    For information on the NLS digital project contact:
    Jean M. Moss
    Digital Projects Coordinator
    Fax: (202) 707-1690

    To view the Strategic Business Plan on the Web visit:

    Collection Development Advisory Group seeks advice

    The members of the Collection Development Advisory Group wish to thank fellow patrons and librarians for their input concerning the NLS program. Ideas and suggestions from readers are key components in the success of the program and are thoroughly discussed in the committee's deliberations.

    Please continue to assist us by contacting committee members or your cooperating braille or talking-book library with your suggestions. The group will meet again at NLS on May 16-19, 2006.

    Representatives from consumer organizations:

    American Council of the Blind
    Otis Stephens
    University of Tennessee
    College of Law
    1505 West Cumberland Avenue
    Knoxville, TN 37996

    Blinded Veterans Association
    Clyde A. Compton
    P.O. Box 267
    Richland, VA 24641

    National Federation of the Blind
    Ever Lee Hairston
    113 Greensward Lane
    Cherry Hill, NJ 08002-4710

    Readers-at-large representatives:
    Midlands Region includes: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

    Gail Walter
    P.O. Box 22
    Goodland, KS 67735

    Northern Region includes: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia.

    David Stewart
    4000 Tunlaw Road, N.W., No.525
    Washington, DC 20007 ,p> Southern Region includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Virgin Islands.

    Alice Ritchhart
    125 Willow Pond Way
    Brunswick, GA 31525

    Western Region includes: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

    Fred Riggers
    Springs of Royal Oaks
    1800 North Cole Road, Apt. 1208
    Boise, ID 83702-1312


    Sharon Ruda
    Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service
    401 East Washington Street
    Springfield, IL 62701-1207
    (217) 782-9435; fax (217) 558-4723

    Catherine Rubin
    Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    415 Park Avenue
    Baltimore, MD 21201-3603
    (410) 230-2424; fax (410) 333-2095

    Julie C. Harris
    State of North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    1811 Capital Boulevard
    Raleigh, NC 27604
    (919) 733-4376; fax (919) 733-6910

    Christie Briggs
    Montana Talking Book Library
    1515 East Sixth Avenue
    P.O. Box 201800
    Helena, MT 59620-1800
    (406) 444-2064; fax (406) 444-0266 Children's/Young Adult Librarian:
    Cindy Nugent
    Blind and Physically Handicapped Services
    Mississippi Library Commission
    3881 Eastwood Drive
    Jackson, MS 39211-6473
    (601) 432-4116; fax (601) 432-4476


    The following announcements may be of interest to readers. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped reserves the right to publish announcements selectively, as space permits. Items mentioned, however, are not part of the NLS program and their listing does not imply endorsement.

    2006 calendars. Listed below are organizations that produce calendars in braille or print/braille.

    American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
    P.O. Box 6085
    Louisville, KY 40206-0085
    (502) 895-2405
    800-223-1839 Accepts orders by mail, telephone, or online.

    - Braille datebook/calendar in a two-ring binder. Calendar has tabbed pages of durable plastic. Catalog no. 1-07899-06, $53. Calendar insert and tabs only, catalog no. 1-07898-06, $13.

    - APH InSights Art Calendar 8-1/2 by 11-inch large-print/braille (36 point). Includes holidays and moon phases. Features selected art from the APH juried competition. English edition, catalog no. 5-18971-06, $7.50.

    Braille Institute Universal Media Services
    741 North Vermont Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90029
    (323) 906-3104
    800-272-4553 Accepts orders by telephone or online.

    - 8-3/4 by 11-inch large-print/braille (18 point) wall monthly calendar. $5. Includes holidays and space for braille notes.

    Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired
    1170 Main Street
    Buffalo, NY 14209-0398
    (716) 882-1025, ext. 240
    (716) 882-5577 fax
    Accepts prepaid orders by mail.

    - 5-1/2 by 8-1/2-inch braille desk calendar with two days per page and dividers for each month, $40.99.

    Lutheran Blind Mission
    Library for the Blind
    Attn: Lynne Borchelt
    7550 Watson Road
    St. Louis, MO 63119-4409
    Accepts requests by mail or telephone.

    - 8-1/2 by 11-inch braille Scripture calendar. Features a monthly verse from the Bible. Also available as a 8-1/2 by 14-inch large-print (21 point) edition. Free.

    Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund
    3500 North Elm Road
    Jackson, MI 49201
    (517) 780-5097
    (734) 668-1094 fax
    Accepts requests by fax or telephone.

    - 6-1/4 by 3-3/4-inch large-print/braille purse size, spiral bound calendar. Includes a separate listing of major holidays. Free.

    National Braille Press
    88 St. Stephen Street
    Boston, MA 02115-4302
    (617) 266-6160, ext. 20
    Accepts prepaid orders by mail, telephone, or online.

    - 8-1/2 by 11-inch print/braille calendar with Dr. Seuss motif, $12.99.

    National Federation of the Blind
    Materials Center
    1800 Johnson Street
    Baltimore, MD 21230
    (410) 659-9314, ext. 2216
    (410) 685-5653 fax
    Accepts requests by e-mail, fax, mail, or telephone.

    - 6 by 6-1/2-inch braille calendar. Features one page per month, a personal-day page, and a listing of major holidays. Free.

    Society for the Blind, Inc.
    Aids to Independence Store
    2750 24th Street
    Sacramento, CA 95818
    (916) 452-8271, ext. 302
    (916) 452-2622 fax Accepts orders by e-mail, mail, or telephone.

    - 5-1/2 by 8-1/2-inch braille desk calendar with clipboard that shows two days per page. At the top of each page are the day of the week, date, and month. Catalog no. 20-06-01, $55.95.

    The following information is reprinted from Talking Book Topics, January-February 2006.

    Magazine of the Month selections for 2006

    Two NLS programs offer readers samples of magazines not otherwise available through network libraries. Subscribers to Magazine of the Month and Young Adult Magazine of the Month receive a different magazine on audiocassette each month. For a free subscription to either program, contact your cooperating talking-book library. Subscribers may expect to receive some of the following:

    Magazine of the Month
    - Creative Knitting
    - Details
    - Dog World
    - Entrepreneur
    - Fantasy and Science Fiction
    - Jet
    - Marie Claire
    - National Geographic Traveler
    - Natural Health
    - Speedworld Magazine
    - TV y Novelas
    - Wild West

    Alternates: Cat Fancy, Cosmopolitan en Espa ol, Field and Stream, GQ, Home Business, Jane, Oprah, Popular Science, Prevention, Quick and Easy Crochet, Realms of Fantasy, Sea Classics

    Young Adult Magazine of the Month
    - Alternative Press
    - American Snowmobiler
    - Campus Life
    - Cicada
    - Guideposts Sweet 16
    - Gumbo Teen Magazine
    - Junior Baseball
    - Listen: Celebrating Positive Choices
    - Teen Ink
    - Teen Voices
    - Ride BMX
    - Word Up

    Alternates: BMX Plus, Grappling, J-14, Self, Slap, Teen Beat, Teen Newsweek, Teen Times, Teen Voices, Twist, Vibe, YM

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