The basement of the Indiana State Library is home to a very impressive collection of Braille books, which are loaned to patrons throughout the state of Indiana as part of the Talking Books program.
The Indiana State Library has a long history of providing reading materials to the blind population of Indiana. Starting in 1905, the State Library began mailing embossed books to blind residents throughout the state. At the time, the library’s collection consisted of 300 volumes, 200 of which had been donated by blind people eager to establish a library for themselves in Indiana. At the time, the circulation staff of the library sent these embossed books to patrons just one day a month.
Today, our collection has grown from these original 300 volumes to over 19,000 Braille titles (over 48,000 volumes). We have gone from the circulation staff sending embossed books to patrons once a month to having a dedicated Talking Book and Braille staff which send Braille books to patrons every day.
More changes are coming to the Braille collection in January when the National Library Service will implement Unified English Braille (UEB), which will be the first extensive change to the Braille code since it was adopted as the standard in the 1930s.
UEB will help Braille adapt to the 21st century and the technology available today. Karen Keninger, the director of the National Library Service, says “The new code will be especially beneficial to students and other users of technology because it resolves persistent translation errors that occur when, for example, a student’s work is translated to print for a teacher to read or when print material is translated to Braille.” The main changes will include dropping some contractions, different spacing rules, and the ability to translate a wider variety of symbols.
NLS has been preparing for the change to UEB since 2012, since the Braille Authority of North America voted to adopt it. Expect to see the first UEB books to arrive at the Indiana State Library in the middle of 2016. You can learn more about UEB at http://www.loc.gov/nls/reference/guides/brailleliteracy.html.
This blog post was written by Margaret Ansty, Talking Book & Braille Library Supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317)232-3684 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.