Author Archives: David Oertli

Talking Books: Here, Now.

Here is a short (2 minutes 20 seconds) video about talking book service to schools and, of course, to students who qualify for free talking book service.

We hope to target Nebraska school media specialists, special ed resource teachers, and students who experience a print-related disability.  Hope you enjoy it.  Feel free to pass it on!

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2010: A Very Good Year for Talking Book & Braille Service

2010, a fast year, has made me feel grateful. You probably know the Talking Book and Braille Service is now in its second year of transition away from audio cassette to flash memory cartridge. Our Nebraska-based studio magazines now circulate on cartridge; though, except for Nebline, are also being offered on cassette. We are one of the first, if not the first, Library of Congress talking book library to distribute its studio magazines on cartridge. Nebraska-based magazines now circulate 50% digital and 50% cassette.

All new books from our own studios are being circulated on cartridge; and soon new Nebraska books will no longer be offered on cassette. The same will be true for new talking books from Library of Congress. Our Nebraska collection (recorded in our studios) is being transferred to cartridge. Completing this task will require several more years. Our Nebraska books and books from Library of Congress now circulated 45% digital and 55% cassette. We now have 3600 book titles on cartridge, with new titles arriving almost daily; and 59,000 titles on cassette. Still, within months, our circulation on cartridge should match or exceed that on cassette.

To the best of my knowledge, all established talking book borrowers have been contacted at least once about the new Library of Congress digital player. Most borrowers have either welcomed the new players or accepted them. They are encouraged to retain their Library of Congress cassette players until the transition is completed. All new borrowers are being set up for digital automatically. Several hundred established borrowers have postponed or declined the new players, even though they are easier to operate than the cassette players.

For borrowers who have high-speed internet access, the Library of Congress offers a web site known as BARD where audio books and magazines are available for direct download. Many borrowers are navigating BARD independently, and some are receiving help from family members. Borrowers who use BARD can download their favorite books and magazines anytime without waiting for material to arrive through the mail.
2010 has been an exciting year for talking book librarians. 2011 holds great promise!

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Talking Book Digital Player Ready for the Asking

The exciting news is, any talking book borrower in Nebraska can probably be sent a new Library of Congress digital player, almost immediately. Because the Talking Book and Braille Service is receiving allocations of new players on a regular basis, the waiting list for new players has disappeared. Any borrower in good standing can now be sent a new player virtually upon request. This includes individuals, schools, retirement centers, and care facilities.
An individual is in good standing if they have no more than one Library of Congress cassette player in their possession and have not demonstrated a pattern of lost or damaged library materials. The same criteria apply to schools, retirement centers, and care facilities except that more than one cassette player may have been assigned to them at a time.
The digital player from the Library of Congress is easy to use, smaller and lighter than the cassette player, has good sound quality, and comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts up to thirty hours. Books and magazines on cartridge are virtually trouble free, and can be played without the need to change sides or be turned over. Help is available from the Talking Book borrower’s Readers Advisor, plus an easy-to-follow set of instructions comes with each player.
Talking book borrowers are encouraged to retain their Library of Congress cassette player even after they receive a digital player. Many recorded books and magazines are still available on cassette only; and some titles may never be transferred over onto cartridge. To request a digital player, talking book borrowers should contact their Readers Advisor.
Some public libraries have been asking if and when they will be sent digital players for demonstration purposes or as a machine exchange site for talking book borrowers who live nearby. Right now we don’t have an answer to those questions, though we greatly appreciate the interest and enthusiasm from Nebraska’s public librarians as we make this transition from analog tape to digital cartridge.

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For Someone Who Needs Talking Books, You Can Make It Easy!

During 2009 NLA/NEMA conference, we enjoying visiting with you at the Nebraska Library Commission booth. We especially enjoyed showing off the talking books on cartridge and the new digital player. Talking books are a wonderful, liberating resource for someone who struggles with regular print because of visual or physical impairment. But at the same time, talking books frequently enter someone’s life at a point where they are trying to come to terms with macular degeneration, stroke, glaucoma, or some other unwelcome disability. They may feel a deep personal lose and have a hard time accepting that talking book service is a gain.
The good new is: you can make it easy for someone who needs to transition to talking books! A librarian can sign the application form for an individual who qualifies because of visual or physical disability–someone who cannot see regular print or hold a book or turn its pages. It is only reading disability, such as dyslexia, that requires a medical doctor’s signature. Sometimes a prospective talking book reader has no problem taking an application to an optometrist, or a nurse, or a family doctor. But sometimes, in the midst of a suddenly complicated life, a prospective reader struggles with the logistics of obtaining the signature of a medical professional.
So please remember that your signature on a talking book application form is pure gold to someone who needs talking books. If you need a supply of application forms, please let us know. If you would like some of our new rack cards, let us know that as well. E-mail. Toll-free: 800-742-7691.

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Talking Books Without Green Boxes?

Talking book readers are now able to download their favorite talking books instead of waiting for green boxes to arrive through the mail. Library of Congress now offers an expanded test site with over 11,000 recorded books and 37 magazines. Active borrowers of the Talking Book and Braille Service can sign up for this free service if they have access to 1) a computer with email; 2) a high speed connection (sorry, dial-up is too slow); and 3) a digital player that is equipped for the talking book special format, plus a digital card. During this expanded test phase, individuals may sign up, but not facilities, including schools. Facilities will be able to sign up later on, probably by next spring.
Eventually talking book readers will be loaned free digital players, in the same way they are being loaned free cassette players from the Talking Book and Braille Service. But right now, and for at least the next few years, readers would need to purchase a digital player and card in order to access the online books and magazines from Library of Congress. At this moment, there are three models of digital players which can be purchased:
1) The VictorReader Stream.
2) The LevelStar Icon.
3) Braille Plus Mobile Manager.
We wish we had a free Library of Congress digital player to loan to all talking book readers; and that will happen later. For now, if a reader cannot afford one of the commercial players listed above, they can still borrow the very same new books and magazines on audio cassette from us.
Individuals who decide to purchase their own digital player should give us a call, so we can tell them how to sign up for service from the Library of Congress direct download web site. We will also keep current information about any new digital players that could be purchased for use with this site.

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Champion for people with disabilities passes away

Former Nebraskan Alice Hagemeyer is a nationally-recognized advocate of library service to deaf individuals and founder of Friends of Libraries for Deaf Action (FOLDA). Ms. Hagemeyer announced that a colleague and advocate for people with disabilities, Frank Bowe, Ph.D., passed away at age 60. Dr. Bowe was professor of counseling, research, special education, and rehabilitation at Hofstra University.
In 2006, Professor Bowe published research which documented that many Americans with disabilities:
–endured poverty. 75% earn less than $20,000 per year. Poverty rates were greater than 25%.
–(less than half) did not have private health insurance.
–subsisted primarily on Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
–(if still in school) were likely to lag behind their nondisabled peers. For instance, 61% of nine-year-olds with disabilities were in third-grade instead of fourth.
We need serious researchers, such as Dr. Bowe, to cast light upon the impact of disabilities. BTW, Dr. Bowe was a deaf individual.

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Posters for you and your community

Nebraska public librarians would have received two posters and two document stands that promote free talking book services. If you didn’t or you want more, just let me know. We have some supplies on hand. Hope you found a spot for one of the posters within your library–maybe near the audio books or large print. The other one is for you to take at your discretion to some place in the community where senior citizens like to gather–cafe, coffee shop, senior center. Maybe you thought of some place that is unusual. There are all kinds of surprises in Nebraska.
Any thoughts about the posters? How are people responding?

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Making talking book service better known

Wanted to brief you on activities to make the Library Commission’s Talking Book and Braille Service better known to Nebraskans with print-related disabilities. We have just sent out a brochure as a self-mailer to every eye care professional in Nebraska. Will follow this up with a second mailing within a few weeks–this time a packet that includes a brief cover letter and application forms. We are starting to work on a mailing to every public library. This will include two posters and two document holders (or stands). The letter will encourage librarians to place one poster somewhere in the library, such as near the large print or audio book collection, where individuals who struggle with regular-sized print might come to browse. The second poster is provided for librarians to take at their discretion to someplace like the neighborhood cafe where seniors like to congregate.
We are also looking at placing some paid ads in magazines targeting seniors. Ideas on outreach? Would like to hear what you think might work to keep Talking Book and Braille Service in public view.

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