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Indiana and Michigan Libraries Honored

Washington, D.C.  The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, today recognized two libraries for outstanding service to readers who are visually or physically disabled.

The Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library (ITBBL) in Indianapolis received the Network Library of the Year Award. The Kent District Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, an advisory and outreach center of the Michigan Braille and Talking Book Library, will receive the first Network Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year Award. Each award carries a $1,000 cash prize.

NLS presented the awards at a luncheon ceremony today in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Karen Keninger, director of NLS, said, “This is a special time of year for libraries providing braille and talking book services to people who cannot use print materials. At this event, our community can honor the work these libraries do to ensure that all may read.”

In 2015, ITBBL served 5,137 individual patrons and 460 institutions, circulating 170,775 digital talking-book cartridges, 3,361 braille books, and 8,281 large-print books. The 1,088 patrons who use the Braille and Audio Reading Download online service (BARD) downloaded an additional 55,456 titles.

According to Maggie Ansty, ITBBL regional librarian expressed excitement about receiving the award, “particularly for the hard work we’ve done over the past year.” That work includes extensive use of the NLS duplication-on-demand system, through which the library made books—otherwise only available via the online BARD—available to patrons who do not use the online download service. ITBBL ordered an average of 300 books per month in 2015 and plans to expand the program. The library also began adding its own locally-produced books to BARD after transitioning to new recording software and receiving training from NLS.

Working with the Indiana State Library Foundation, ITBBL presented grants to improve opportunities for serving patrons and the community. The Allen County Public Library received a grant to build a dedicated laboratory space for the Fort Wayne GE Elfuns, a volunteer group that repairs digital talking-book machines for library patrons. The added space enabled the Elfuns chapter to extend its service to network libraries in other states. In December 2015, selected patrons in good standing received $1,000 grants toward the purchase of personal assistive technology devices. “I want to thank you for approving a grant for a Video Eye machine,” wrote one grateful patron. “It makes possible a hundred tasks. I could not do without it.”

In 2015, the Kent District Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (KDL) in Wyoming, Michigan, served 1,029 patrons, circulating 49,037 books and movies and 17,387 magazines. “We were humbled and pleased when we learned we had received the Network Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year award,” said Lori Holland, KDL branch manager. “Accessibility for all our patrons has always been a priority. We know that for many, it is a lifeline to the outside world.”

KDL expanded its offerings to circulating its extensive large-print book service by mail in addition to NLS digital talking books and braille. It increased its described DVD collection by nearly 40 percent and acquired several vital pieces of adaptive technology, including a desktop embosser, screen-magnification software, and a text-to-speech scanner, all for the use of visiting patrons at its local branch.

KDL continues to expand public awareness of its services by maintaining an active social media presence and presenting at multiple conferences. For National Braille Month, Michelle Roossien, head librarian at the KDL Wyoming branch, developed a Braille and Blindness Awareness program for elementary schools and spoke to more than 730 students. KDL used the material from that program to create a permanent Storytime kit to teach sighted children about blindness, accessibility and the importance of braille for use by all 18 branch libraries.

Roossien said, “In 2012, [NLS director] Karen Keninger’s mandate to promote braille offered our branch a unique challenge, spurring the acquisition of new technology and braille literature and the creation of a special outreach program and kit for children.”

NLS created the Network Library Awards to recognize outstanding accomplishments of libraries serving people with visual and physical challenges. A committee of librarians and consumer-organization representatives chose finalists from among the nominated libraries based on mission support, creativity and innovation in providing service, and record of reader satisfaction, as defined by the American Library Association Revised Standards and Guidelines for Service.

NLS administers the braille and talking-book program, a free library service available to U.S. residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or disability makes reading a regular printed page difficult. Through its national network of libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in audio and braille formats, as well as digital audio equipment, directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are available in large print, e-braille, braille, and recorded formats. Selected materials are also available online for download, and are accessible through smartphones. For more information, visit loc.gov/ThatAllMayRead/or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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