Interesting information about the Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library

The Indiana Talking Book and Braille library would like to share some interesting information from our history and our current service. For more information about the National Library Service visit here, or visit the Indiana State Talking Book & Braille Library website.

  • The first embossed books were mailed to Indiana patrons in 1905. This means that the Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library has been serving patrons for 119 years. The Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library became a regional library of the National Library Service in 1934.
  • The original collection of embossed books was made up of 300 volumes; 200 were donated books. The Indiana Talking Book & Braille library now has over 25,000 braille books.

A photograph of an ordinary aisle in the braille room.

  • The concept of a national library for the blind was developed in 1897 by John Russell Young, the Librarian of Congress, when he established a reading room for the blind with about 500 books and music items in raised characters.
  • Congress created the National Library Service in 1931 out of concern for veterans who were blinded in World War I. Veterans still get priority today.
  • On March 3, 1931, the Pratt-Smoot Act established the National Library Service for the Blind and it became part of the Library of Congress.
  • Braille was created by Louis Braille in in 1824 while he was still a teenager. A more uniform system of Braille was established in 1933.
  • The first talking books were recorded as records in 1934. According to the National Library Services web site, among the titles chosen for the first orders of talking books were the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution of the United States; Washington’s “Farewell Address;” Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address;” Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” “The Merchant of Venice,” and “Hamlet;” Kipling’s “Brushwood Boy;” and Wodehouse’s “Very Good Jeeves.”
  • Between 1935 and 1942, as part of the Works Project Administration, 5,000 talking book machines were created.
  • Children were added to the mission of the National Library Service in 1952. Patrons with physical or reading disabilities were added in 1966.
  • The Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library currently has over 23,000 large print books. Public libraries in the state of Indiana are welcome to check out collections for their patrons’ use.

The Indiana Talking Book & Braille library owns a large variety of large print books.

  • In 1979, the American Library Association published “Standards of Service for the Library of Congress Network on Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.” It has been updated multiple times since then.
  • In 1997, the FBI seized from music pirates $200,000 worth of state-of-the-art duplicating equipment and donated it to the talking book program.
  • In the history of the National Library Service, they have provided records and record players, cassette tapes and cassette players, reel to reel tapes, digital duplication of books on demand and digital players and refreshable braille e-readers to the talking book program.

Many different types of talking book players and their media.

  • The Indiana Talking Book & Braille library presents Indiana Vision Expo every two years. In 2023, the event had more than 150 participants. The next Vision Expo will be in September of 2025.
  • In 2023, the National Library Service made braille on demand books available to their patrons. These books are embossed and sent to the patron to keep.
  • In 2024, the Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library will be sending out braille e-readers to patrons who can use them.

A Zoomax Braille E-reader.

  • The Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library has seven staff members working toward getting books to their patrons.
  • In 2023, the Indiana Talking Book & Braille Library had almost 5,000 active users, and circulated more than 400,000 items.

This blog post was written by Judy Gray, Indiana Talking Books and Braille Library supervisor.

A day in the life of the Talking Book and Braille Library staff members

The following details the general day-to-day workings in the basement level of the Indiana State Library where the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library conducts its circulation operations. Those who work in this department help many people who are unable to use standard printed reading material – and may not be able to use the library – gain access to library materials. This allows hundreds of people to take part in the Talking Book and Braille Library every day.

The process begins in the basement of the Indiana State Library, where hundreds of books are circulated to and from patrons. The basement is like nearly any other part of the library’s stacks, with the small exception being that all items are a part of the Talking Book and Braille Library and each item being circulated is a different form of an accessible book. From large print books to audio books to braille, every day there is an ebb and flow of accessible reading material sent out and returned, and here is how it works:

The day starts with requested large print books being pulled from the shelves in the stacks of the basement. They are then checked out to be sent through the InfoExpress courier service to the requesting libraries to be held for their patrons. From there, these books are transferred to the State Library’s circulation desk where they are processed by circulation staff and sent on their way via the courier service. Any incoming books are brought down and checked back in as well.

TBBL staff opening the returned mail to check in the talking books cartridges.

Next, large print and braille books are mailed directly to patrons through the Talking Books and Braille Library. These books are pulled from shelves in the same manner as the other books, as well as checked out, but rather than being sent to circulation, these books are bagged up along with their associated mailing cards and set in mail tubs to be sent out later in the day through the United States Post Office. The cases used for the braille books are tough, black, Velcro-enclosed boxes that help in the safety of the books during transportation. All these books are mailed as “free matter for the blind,” and no postage is paid by the library or the patrons.

After all the outgoing physical books have been finished, next comes the audio book duplication. Audio books are distributed through the Talking Book and Braille Library via Duplication on Demand. USB drives that are larger than traditional drives, and are easier to manipulate, are then placed inside a small machine connected to a computer known as Gutenberg. While connected to Gutenberg, books that have been assigned to patrons are copied onto the USB drives and within a few minutes are ready to be sent out. The cartridges are pulled from the machine, causing their mailing cards to be printed along with the books contained on the device. The cartridges are placed inside their special blue mailing cases, along with their card for the destination, and sent along with the rest of the mail. Every day, anywhere from 100 to potentially upwards of 500 of these are sent out, with each USB containing anywhere from one to around 10 books.

A mail tub with outgoing talking book cartridges.

Alongside the Duplication on Demand cartridges, digital players must be sent out as well for patrons to be able to listen to these books. Players are held on to, often for years at a time, so the amount of players circulating each day is far lower than the amount of cartridges. They are kept waiting on shelves ready to be sent out as needed. Headphones are occasionally sent along with these players and are kept in the same area. Mailing cards are printed for all requested devices and they are checked out in KLAS, and sent out as well. This marks the end of the outgoing materials from the basement section of the Talking Book and Braille Library.

Talking book players are stored here until they are either sent to a patron or sent to the repair shop for evaluation and cleaning.

Next comes the incoming material. Every day, just as hundreds of books split between the three types go out, a similar amount comes in. Mail tubs arrive in the middle of the day at the loading dock. Mail is separated and sorted, and then the process of checking everything in starts. Books are checked back in, making them available to be borrowed again. Duplication on Demand cartridges are separated from their cases and scanned to become available to be overwritten with new books the following day. Players are marked to be refreshed or repaired and placed on holding shelves where they will be sent to the repair group in Fort Wayne. The repair group is a volunteer organization that works with talking book players from the Indiana State Library, as well as a few other states. Once at the repair group they will be checked for any issues, fixed of any that are found, and returned later to become available for circulation once again. Alongside these returned materials from patrons, repaired machines could arrive with this mail as well.

Hopefully, this look into the day-to-day operations of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library has been informative and insightful.

This post was submitted by Derrick Fraser, Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library. 

A brief history of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled and the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library

The idea of a National Library Service for the Blind was first developed in 1897 by John Russell Young, the Librarian of Congress. He created a Braille Reading Room in the Library of Congress containing 500 items, including books and music scores. The Indiana State Library was not far behind in developing a library collection for the blind. Today, the collection is known as the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

In 1905, the Indiana 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 throughout the state who were eager to establish a library. This original collection of books began circulating on Oct. 1, 1905.

One day per month, books were sent to patrons throughout the state by the loan division of the State Library. The collection was slow to grow at this time as braille was not yet the standard method of embossed print; it was mostly able to grow through gifts and hand transcribing projects undertaken by volunteers such as the Junior League.

In 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed into law the Pratt-Smoot Act, which established the National Library Service for blind adults administered by the Library of Congress. They started out with 15 braille titles, the first of which was Woodrow Wilson’s biography of George Washington. Eighteen libraries were also initially selected to serve as regional libraries to better serve people through the country. In 1934, thanks in large part to the existing program that the Indiana State Library was offering, and the support around the state the program had, the Indiana State Library was selected to join the National Library Service as a regional library.

The following year, 27 book titles – including the four Christian gospels, historical documents and a variety of Shakespeare’s works – were made available on long-playing records. Patrons wishing to listen to these titles needed to buy their own phonograph. Records in various forms would continue to be used for more than 50 years. The National Library Service added service to children in 1952 and to people with physical disabilities and reading disabilities in 1966. Talking book formats have changed from records to flexible discs to cassettes in 1968 and in 2009 to digital books, download on demand, and downloadable media for braille e-readers and cellphones. The Library also includes large print titles and braille books.

However, the mission and goals of the program have remained the same, to provide library materials to those people unable to use standard printed materials. In 2019, the National Library Service was renamed the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.

Learn more about the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled here, and learn more about the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library here.

This blog post was written by the past and present staff of the Talking Books and Braille Library. For more information, contact the Talking Books and Braille Library at 317-232-3684 or via email.

Indiana Voices at the Talking Books and Braille Library

A sudden hush… clipped sentences… cheerful replies…

Audiobook aficionados know that a storyteller’s voice can create tangible experiences. Narrating is not just the task of reading out loud, but the art of inviting others into the story. For patrons of the Indiana Voices program of the Indiana State Library’s Talking Book and Braille Library, volunteer narrators do just that.

Together with Indiana State Library staff, volunteers bring Hoosier words and voices to persons who cannot use standard printed materials due to a visual, physical or reading disability, and live in the state of Indiana or across the country. Cozy mysteries, local history, true crime, authors from Indiana and more are recorded in the program. But, what goes into the process of recording an audiobook?

Narrators begin work on their titles outside of the studio, reading ahead for thorny sentences and unfamiliar pronunciations. Once they are confident in their preparation, they arrive at the downtown Indianapolis studio to narrate for an hour. A monitor outside the booth follows along in the text to catch mistakes and alert the narrator.

It may take months to finish a title, but when the back cover is eventually closed, the audiobook is sent to a volunteer reviewer for a final examination. Corrections are recorded, mistakes are edited out and the finished book is made available to Talking Books and Braille Library patrons.

Reading out loud may sound easy, but each title represents up to four times as many behind-the-scenes hours as the total runtime of the audiobook. It takes dedication to bring an author’s words to life!

The most popular books of 2023, so far, that were recorded by Indiana Voices are:

  • “Material Witness: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery” by Vanetta Chapman – Fiction DBC17818
  • “Falling to Pieces: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery” by Vanetta Chapman – Fiction DBC13578
  • “100 Things to Do in Indianapolis Before You Die” by Ashley Petry – Nonfiction travel guide – DBC12182
  • “Born to Build: the Story of the Gene B. Glick Company” by Gene Glick –  Nonfiction Biography – DBC17815

Volunteers are needed to do precisely that. Opportunities are open to join the work of providing Indiana-related titles to audiobook readers. Indiana is made up of many individual voices, representing different Hoosier communities, identities and experiences, all of which contribute to authentic interpretations of Indiana books. Volunteers from all the different communities and cultures in the state of Indiana are invited to apply. Volunteers are expected to work at least one hour every other week.

For those interested in learning more about volunteering with Indiana Voices as a narrator or as a monitor, please visit the Indiana Voices website or contact Hannah Arnold, Indiana Voices director, via email.

Patrons interested in audiobook materials from Indiana Voices should contact the Indiana State Library’s Talking Book and Braille Library via email or at 317-232-3684.

This blog post was written by Hannah Arnold, Indiana Voices director,
and Judy Gray, Talking Books and Braille Library supervisor.

New offerings from the National Library Service

The National Library Service, as part of its braille modernization initiative, has launched a braille-on-demand program which allows patrons to request copies of hard copy braille to keep indefinitely. Patrons may order up to five titles per month. Titles are limited to those that are available on BARD Braille and Audio Reading Download page, and only complete titles will be distributed. The form to request a book can be found here. Patrons may complete the form themselves or contact the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library for assistance. The books are being produced by Clovernook Braille Printing House in Cincinnati. The title requested most so far is “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns” by Barbara G. Walker. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series have also proved popular.

NLS’ Patron Engagement Section now offers a monthly program called The Many Faces of BARD. This program will occur on the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. Eastern time. It will last for one hour and cover one aspect of BARD usage. Each program will start with a brief presentation. The remainder of the time will be spent answering questions about the presentation or other questions related to BARD usage. NLS will announce the topic for the next presentation at the end of each program. These sessions are open to all patrons and can be joined upon request.

This post was written by Laura Williams, supervisor of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

Summer reading with the Talking Book and Braille Library

Summer reading is in full swing at the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library. This year’s theme is “Oceans of Possibilities.” All patrons of TBBL between the ages of 4 and 18 are eligible. The program runs from May 31-Aug. 5. Books are available to borrow from the library in braille, large print and digital audio formats; participants can also download digital audio books and braille files from BARD or use the BARD mobile app available from the iTunes app store, the Google Play store or the Amazon App Store.

Any book borrowed from the library within the time frame will count toward a participant’s total. Note that only books borrowed or downloaded from the library will count towards a reader’s total. Every reader will receive prizes!

We are sending out packets each week throughout the program that include prizes, activity sheets and crafts.

To enroll – or if you have questions about the program – please contact Abby Chumin via email or by phone at 317-232-3684 or 1-800-622-4970.

This post was written by Laura Williams, supervisor of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

Talking Book and Braille book talks now available

The Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library has begun recording book talks and posting them on our Facebook and YouTube pages. Each talk will run between 10 and 15 minutes and include information about plot, characters and themes. The first book talk was about “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah (BR 23299, DB 81189, LP 19795).

This month’s talk covered “The Night Circus” (DB 73783, BR 21370) by Erin Morgenstern.

Upcoming book talks include the following:

You can request a copy of either of these books by contacting Abby Chumin at 1-800-622-4970 or via email.

This post was written by Laura Williams, supervisor of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

 

Talking Book and Braille Book Club October meeting

The Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library will be having a meeting of the Talking Book and Braille Book Club on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Central. We will be reading “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, which is available in audio (DB 81189), braille (BR 23299) and large print (LP 19795).

The novel is set in France, 1939. Vianne Mauriac sends her husband off to war, while her younger sister Isabelle runs off to Paris, claiming an affair. Once there, Isabelle becomes involved in the Resistance. Vianne’s home is occupied by the invading Nazis. Please note that that “The Nightingale” includes violence, strong language and some descriptions of sex. “The Nightingale” was the winner of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for historical fiction and will be adapted into a film starring sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning, scheduled to be released in December 2022.

You can request a copy of “The Nightingale” and let us know you are interested in participating by contacting Abby Chumin at 1-800-622-4970 or via email. If you want to participate via the Zoom app, we will send you a link via email. For those wishing to join by phone, a number will be provided.

This post was written by Laura Williams, supervisor of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

Duplication on Demand transition complete!

In March, the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library completed the transition of its service model from sending patrons one book on one cartridge to Duplication on Demand, which sends patrons up to ten books per cartridge based on their requests and subject preferences. The same player and cartridge are used as before. Each cartridge includes a mailing card that lists its contents. Patrons should not attempt to return this card with the cartridge, but instead discard it or keep it for their records. There is an address sticker on each cartridge that ensures its return to the library.

There are many benefits to this change for both staff and patrons. Staff can duplicate up to 20 cartridges at a time. The number of physical items circulating through the library has decreased, allowing mail to be processed more efficiently. Patrons now have access to newly-published books more quickly, and there are no wait lists for popular titles. Cartridges can be easily customized for patrons wanting a series of books, or several books by the same author. Thousands of older titles that previously had to be ordered from offsite are now available immediately. All the Indiana Voices titles are also available through Duplication on Demand.

To access the titles on DoD cartridges patrons can either use the player’s bookshelf mode or the sequential play feature. Sequential play will play books in the order they have been loaded on the cartridge, while bookshelf mode lets the patron pick what book they want to listen to.

To use the sequential play feature, patrons put the cartridge in and listen to the first book as usual. At the end of the book, closing announcements will play; when they are finished a voice will say “end of book, press play/stop to go to the next book”. Patrons press the play/stop button and the next book on the cartridge will begin playing. They can repeat this step until all the books have played

To use bookshelf mode, patrons turn the player on and put the cartridge in. Next, they hold down the green “play/stop” button for ten seconds, or until the player beeps and says, “bookshelf mode.” Once in bookshelf mode, they use the fast forward and rewind buttons to scroll through the books or magazines recorded on the cartridge. After reaching the desired title, they press the green play/stop button again and it will start to play.

Any patron having any difficulties with Duplication on Demand should contact the Talking Book and Braille Library via email or at 1-800-622-4970.

This blog post was written by Laura Williams, Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library supervisor. 

Explore the Talking Book catalog

The Talking Book catalog has a fresh new look and some fun new features for patrons to check out.
First, when you pull up the catalog you will be greeted by a new menu screen. This screen is easy to navigate and gives you the options Search, Browse, Quick Request and My Account. There is also a login button in the upper right corner.

Search
The search feature of the catalog has been redesigned to be more user friendly. You can now type what you are looking for into the query box and it will search the whole catalog for results rather than you having to select which field to search. Once you have your search results, you can easily use the options on the left hand side to refine your results by selecting the medium you are looking for (e.g., Digital Talking Book), the availability of the book or one of the other listed options. If you find a book you want, you can select it and add it to your book basket. Then follow the prompts to the check out.

Browse
Browse is a new feature in the catalog which will allow patrons to browse books in four categories: recent titles, popular titles, staff picks and Indiana Voices. This is a good option for someone who does not have a particular book in mind but is just curious about what is available.

Quick Request
Quick request can be used for patrons who have the exact book numbers for the books they want. Book numbers can be entered into the quick request box in the following format DB100054, with one book number on each line. When you have entered all of your book numbers, use the quick request button below the box to proceed to the checkout.

My Account
On the My Account page, patrons can see information related to their Talking Book service. Information about books they have checked out now, items they have on request, and items they have had in the past can be found on this page. Patrons can also review their reading preferences, which is the information the library uses to select books to send, on this page.

Patrons who would like to utilize the online catalog can call the library at 1-800-622-4970 for their username and password.

This blog post was written by Maggie Ansty of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.