Washington Talking Book & Braille Library Programs
Library of Congress/National Library Service (NLS) Talking Book and Braille Program
Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS administers a free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail. WTBBL is one of these libraries. WTBBL houses and distributes braille books, audio books, facilitates downloadable digital books, distributes and maintains playback equipment and provides readers advisory and reference services. In addition WTBBL circulates a collection of large print books. These programs constitute WTBBL's core function.
Local braille, audio and digital book production
In addition to distributing NLS materials, WTBBL, with the help of volunteers, produces braille, audio and digital books. Books by local authors or set in the Northwest are particular favorites that are not always available from NLS. Volunteers narrate books for audio production and distribution, just as volunteers transcribe print in to braille for circulation. All locally produced books, braille and audio, are proofread and corrected by reviewers, teams of braille proofreaders, and staff to ensure accuracy and quality true to that of the print edition.
Outreach and Partnerships
We work with schools, library professionals, and Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) with materials, training, programs, and braille advocacy to promote literacy among preschool to high school-aged patrons. We partner with service organizations, educators, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies to recruit the hundreds of volunteers that make our work possible. WTBBL cultivates relationships with organizations serving the disabled and with library systems to expand access to digital audio and braille books for our shared patrons. We support healthcare facilities and retirement communities by encouraging residents to access our services and enhance their quality of life.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
WTBBL was selected as the 2009 Network Library of the Year by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in 2010. The recognition is based on the three areas of service, satisfaction, and innovation. WTBBL received the award for its early embracing and success with the new digital talking-book system. WTBBL was the first library to establish online downloads of locally produced digital talking books and was very successful in marketing the new digital platform to patrons who were long time users of cassette technology. The digital players and downloadable books were warmly welcomed in Washington, especially by the veterans of the armed forces and centennarian patrons who were the first to receive the players. The newer technology has revitalized the joy and well-being benefits of reading for WTBBL patrons. In its first year with the digital system, WTBBL circulated nearly 400,000 books to patrons.
A special concern is attracting children and young people to WTBBL's services. The services are a benefit to youth, but they need to know about it. These services can be helpful not only to the visually impaired, but to kids with learning disabilities. With the proceeds of the WTBBL endowment at the Seattle Foundation, in 2012 a children's librarian was hired to help meet the needs of young patrons and to promote WTBBL and what it can do for children.
A major challenge for the Washington Talking Book & Braille library is providing the outreach necessary to continually find new patrons who can benefit from WTBBL's services. With cutbacks in government funding, WTBBL must increasingly focus on its core services. Yet there are always people who become eligible to receive WTBBL's services who aren't aware of it. Marketing materials and people are needed to go to doctors, schools, retirement and nursing homes, libraries, senior service centers and all the many locations where visually and print impaired people may be found. Age and health related vision loss are increasing with the aging of our population and the Baby Boomer generation in particular. WTBBL needs to be in a position to provide services and support to Washington residents.