- The two libraries are among 94 in the national network of NLS-affiliated libraries
- Each recipient receives a $1,000 award and a commemorative plaque
Libraries in Washington and Florida Honored by the Library of Congress for Outstanding Service to Readers with Disabilities
The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) at the Library of Congress today presented awards to two of its cooperating libraries in Washington and Florida. NLS recognized them for their outstanding service to readers with visual, physical or print disabilities.
The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library in Seattle, Washington, received the 2022 Regional Library of the Year Award, while the Pinellas Talking Book Library in Clearwater, Florida, received the Sub-regional Library/Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year Award.
The two libraries — among 94 in the national network of NLS-affiliated libraries — will be honored during a virtual ceremony of the 2022 National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Print Disabled Individuals.
Each recipient receives a $1,000 award and a commemorative plaque. Both libraries will also be honored at a luncheon in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., at a later date.
“The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library and the Pinellas Talking Book Library couldn’t be farther apart geographically, but they share the spotlight today for the many innovative ways they identify and meet the needs of their patrons and contribute to their communities,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “I admire these libraries for broadening their reach and increasing their usage through inventive programs.”
The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library serves more than 7,200 patrons, including 1,118 new patrons enrolled in 2021. The library, which has been providing services for people unable to read standard print since 1931, transitioned to a duplication-on-demand service model, creating customized digital cartridges of books requested by patrons. This eliminates waiting for other patrons to return books as downloadable versions are always available.
The library used donor funds to hire an outreach librarian who gave numerous presentations to public libraries, service organizations and retirement homes and care facilities. The library mailed letters to 1,500 optometrists and ophthalmologists directing them to a web page where they could request a visit or a call from the library and find a menu of collateral materials to use in their offices. It also produced four promotional videos highlighting various aspects of its operations.
The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library collaborated with the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind to deliver closed-circuit television video magnifiers to patrons with low vision. In addition, it was the first National Library Service network library to participate in the pilot test for the Zoomax refreshable braille display, or eReader, loaning and providing technical support for 130 devices.
"We are very committed to spreading the word about Washington Talking Book and Braille Library and NLS services, improving access to reading materials and connecting as many people as possible with the service — and, once they are patrons, ensuring their service is prompt and they have all the support they need from day one,” said Director and Regional Librarian Danielle Miller.
The Pinellas Talking Book Library signed up 347 new patrons last year, bringing their total to over 4,800. The library continued regular phone and mail service the entire year and reopened its doors last May. When other National Library Service-affiliated libraries in Florida had to close or reduce services due to the pandemic, the Pinellas Talking Book Library picked up much of the slack — meeting the needs of not only its own patrons but of blind and print-disabled readers across Florida.
The library created a new partnership with Preserve Vision Florida and promotes the nonprofit group’s vision screenings on its social media outlets; in return, Preserve Vision Florida gives NLS applications to patients who qualify.
Library patrons get more than books. Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and through 2021, Pinellas Talking Book Library distributed masks to patrons unable to acquire them. It mailed fleece pet blankets to patrons who called and said they had a pet in need. And it created large-print calendars that were mailed to patrons for free.
Established in 1992, the Pinellas Talking Book Library launched a program to reimburse its volunteers — who gave 783 hours of service last year — for their transportation costs to and from the library.
“Everyone has a right to accessible library services,” Pinellas Talking Book Library Manager Meagan Magee said. “The staff of the Pinellas Talking Book Library will continue to find innovative and resourceful ways to provide those services and have a positive impact on our community.”
Created 91 years ago, NLS launched the Network Library Awards in 2004. A committee of librarians and consumer-organization representatives recommends finalists from nominated libraries to the National Library Service director based on mission support, creativity and innovation in providing service and demonstrated reader satisfaction.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled administers the talking-book and braille program, a free library service available to U.S. residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness or print disability makes reading regular printed material difficult. Through its national network of libraries, NLS provides books and magazines in audio and braille formats and playback equipment directly to patrons at no cost. Materials are also available online for download and are accessible on smart devices through the BARD Mobile app. Music instructional materials are available in large-print, ebraille, braille and recorded formats. 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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