Information about the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

Last week’s blog celebrated National Library Week and shared information about the things libraries offer their community. This week we will discuss the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled. Information for this blog came from the NLS website and product suggestions came from the ILA website.

What is the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS)?

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, administers a free national library program that provides braille and recorded materials to people who cannot see regular print or handle print materials. Established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, in 1966 to include individuals with other physical disabilities that prevent reading regular print, and in 2016 to permit NLS to provide refreshable braille displays. The NLS program is funded annually by Congress, and books and materials are mailed as “Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped” through a separate appropriation to the United States Postal Service. Cooperating network libraries are funded through a combination of state, local, and/or federal sources.

Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may apply for service.

Collections

The NLS Catalog contains more than 281,000 book records, of which more than 74,000 are braille books and braille music scores and 207,000 are talking books.

Books are selected for the NLS collection on the basis of their appeal across a wide range of interests. Approximately sixty-five percent are fiction, and thirty-five percent are nonfiction. Bestsellers, biographies, fiction, and how-to books are in great demand. The collection includes books in Spanish and a limited number of titles in other languages. Books for youth—from preschool to young adult—are provided in audio, braille, and print/braille. Registered borrowers learn of new books added to the collection through two bimonthly publications: Braille Book Review and Talking Book Topics. The NLS book collection and other resources from cooperating agencies are listed in the NLS Catalog.

Currently 51 audio and 40 braille magazine titles, selected for the program based on reader interest, are available through NLS by subscription. Other magazines are available on BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download). Readers may subscribe to such titles as People, National Geographic, and Consumer Reports in audio and ESPN: The Magazine and the New York Times Large Print Weekly in braille. A variety of magazines for children are also available. Current issues are mailed to readers shortly after print issues are released.

BARD and Equipment for Loan

BARD, a free online service, provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music materials. The same materials that are offered on digital cartridge and braille are also available for download in compressed digital audio and ebraille formats. The password-protected service is operated as a partnership between NLS and its network of cooperating libraries. Readers with a personal iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch can download and read audio and ebraille materials with the BARD iOS Mobile app. A refreshable braille display with a Bluetooth connection is required to access ebraille materials. Readers using Android devices, including the Amazon Kindle Fire, may use the BARD Mobile app for Android to access BARD’s audio materials. BARD Express provides NLS patrons with a simplified way to access BARD on Windows-based computers and transfer books and magazines to a NLS cartridge or USB drive.

NLS patrons are loaned playback equipment free of charge for use with talking books and magazines. Players are available in two models (standard and advanced), provide high-quality sound, offer variable speed controls, and have built-in audio instructions. The advanced player also enables bookmarking and navigation, allowing readers to skip to different parts of a book. Accessories for the players include lightweight headphones, adapters to facilitate the use of commercial USB flash drives, and a breath switch. Readers with significant hearing loss may request a high-volume player and headphones.

Devices for Purchase

Some people prefer to own their own equipment to have more freedom and ability to save/personalize their devices as they see fit. If you would rather purchase your own device ILA offers several different options to choose from.

Milestone 312 ACE Book Reader for the Blind: Use Milestone 312 ACE as your daily, portable companion and experience a new simplicity in digital entertainment that overcomes barriers. It represents a new generation of aids for visually impaired and blind people. Milestone 312 is furnished with a Voice Recorder, Music Player, superior Text to Speech voices, NLS-Audio Book Player, Clock, and Alarm. This unit can play Audible.com and National Library of Congress books as well. Milestone 312 integrates enormous functionality in a small credit card size casing. The following formats are already usable with Milestone 312: MP3, M4A, M4, M4V, AAC, WMA, WAV, TXT, DAISY 2.02, DAISY 3.0, DOC, AA/AAX (NLS, Audible, Bookshare, and iTunes).

New Victor Reader Stream: The New Generation Victor Reader Stream is smaller and smarter than its predecessor with new wireless capabilities that will open up the world to the blind and visually impaired. With the new Stream you can receive content from books and newspapers to podcasts and radio. It features a louder speaker, superior text to speech and improved recording. The high contrast tactile keypad and popular Victor Reader bookshelf navigation makes this the easiest to use hand-held player on the market. This new model has been designed to be user friendly, compact, and lightweight. Read books from DAISY libraries, The National Library Service (NLS,) Audible.com, Bookshare, and Learning Ally.

Envoy Connect Book Player: Economical, rugged, and solar powered book player can play any file in an MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG, and FLAC format. Download books from Bookshare, LibriVox, or Open Culture. Navigation on the Connect is simple, with just a few raised, intuitive buttons for Bookshelf, play, volume, forward/back, and sleep timer. Connect has 8GB of internal storage or a microSD card slot for additional storage. High-quality built-in speaker, as well as an earphone jack and ear buds. Comes with an on-board audio tutorial as well as audible user feedback for all buttons. Solar powered or USB re-chargeable. Not DAISY compatible.

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