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Update from the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library

Presented by Catherine A. Durivage, Library Program Director

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at your convention today. It‘s always a pleasure to share with all of you news about what’s happening at the library. 

Since I was here last, our volunteer recording program has been active recruiting volunteers and recording books. We have around 10 volunteer narrators and reviewers. We have recorded following three new books that are now available on BARD. 

DBC09971  Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman (downloaded 23 times since December 2016)

DBC09973  One-dog collection by Mary Casanova (Includes One-Dog Canoe and One-Dog Sleigh) (downloaded 28 times since July 2017)

DBC09975  The Rockwell Heist by Bruce Rubenstein (downloaded 51 times since April 2017)

Also available on BARD are the following books that were previously only available on cassette:

DBC09972  Murder in Minnesota: a collection of true cases by Walter N. Trenerry (downloaded 23 times since August 2017)

DBC09974  We made it through the winter: a memoir of northern Minnesota boyhood by Walter O’Meara (downloaded 72 times since May 2017)

DBC09984  A country doctor's casebook: tales from the north woods by Roger MacDonald (downloaded 304 times since October 2017)

Our goal is to digitize as many previously recorded cassette titles and make them available on BARD. And we continue to record new content as well. 

If you know anyone who might be interested in volunteering for our recording program, please have them contact the library and ask for Etta Thornburg or me.

I know I mentioned at last year’s convention that we would be offering descriptive DVDs. Well, I’m pleased to finally be able to say that they are available for loan. We’ve have 63 titles available to borrow. Our webpage lists all available titles and you can view the list in braille, audio and large print on our webpage or contact us to have the format you need mailed to you. Because the collection is limited, we will initially send out only one DVD at a time. The loan period is 14 days. We will be ordering additional titles in the future. 

For those of you that still have VHS players, our VHS descriptive video collection is still available for circulation, but we are not purchasing additional titles. 

I know I spoke last year about the library sending out cartridges labeled A Library Book for You, which contains a book that we downloaded from BARD and placed on a generically labeled cartridge and container. Many of you have received one of these cartridges in the mail, but the cartridge generally only included one title on it. This past spring, we did a small pilot project with some of our patrons testing out multiple books on a cartridge. The majority of the response from the pilot was positive, but we still need to work out some kinks in the process. One of the more troubling issues that we discovered was that not all the books duplicated properly, resulting in book error messages. We really want to be sure everything works correctly before moving forward and offering this option to more of you. So, stay tuned. 

And speaking of BARD, there are currently over 1,100 active individual and 63 institutional accounts. From October 2016 through September 2017 almost 3,200 braille items were downloaded and almost 77,000 audio items were downloaded. During the previous year over 4,800 braille items were downloaded and over 75,000 audio items. I’m not sure why the drop in braille downloads, but audio downloads increased by almost 3%. 

And speaking of increases, we experienced an almost 7% increase in the number of items mailed out of the library during these same periods of time. Over 294,000 items were mailed out between October 2016 and September 2017. This figure includes all formats. Again, I’m not sure as to why there was such an increase in overall circulation and much of this increase came from audio books loans, but since we are able to duplicate audio books more quickly via BARD, we can response to your needs sooner and get books to you when you need them. I can tell you my staff definitely felt the increase, but this is a good thing. 

And if you can stand a few more statistics, I looked over the NFB-Newsline® statistics for September 2017. There are over 1,300 NFB-Newsline® subscribers. The average call length is a little over 15 minutes. Minnesota papers are the most frequently accessed content, followed by national newspapers. Local weather and emergency alerts are also popular as are breaking news articles and TV listings.

So now on to less statistics, but equally important information. As I have mentioned previously, we have been working with State Services for the Blind on our own joint application for service. We are very close to have it ready for distribution. Many of you might not know, but the state of Minnesota recently went to a statewide brand. This means that every agency has to follow the same format and accessibility for their documents, webpages and logos, etc. Currently, our application is being reviewed at the Minnesota Department of Education to ensure it meets these new branding and accessibility guidelines. We hope to have it available for distribution by the end of the year. The goal with the new application is to have more information about what services are available from each program. The application will be available to fill out online. We still require a signature on the application, but the application can be mailed, emailed or faxed to the library. NLS is looking into offering secure, electronic submission of applications and to possibly develop an automated certification process that allows frequent certifying authorities to become registered to submit electronic applications. We welcome these opportunities. 

We also having been testing out a new online library catalog. We do have a catalog where you can search for materials in our collection and place orders. Our catalog also offers download links to BARD. The new version will offer better search features and the ability for us to highlight collections, such as large print books or print/braille books so those titles are easier to find. We still have some in-house testing to complete, but hope to have it available in 2018. 

Before I move on to national news, I did want to mention that our last advisory committee meeting for 2017 will be Monday, November 6 at 1:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Department of Education. Anyone is welcome to attend. For more information about the advisory committee, please contact me.

So on to national news. 

NLS retired the C-1 cassette player this year. Introduced in 1981, over 1.2 million C-1 cassette players were manufactured. Additionally, NLS is wrapping up its analog-digital conversion. More than 95,000 digital titles are now available on cartridge and/or BARD, including more than 42,000 titles on cassette that are now available in digital. If you have a cassette player, you can keep it, but contact us if you want to return it and need a shipping box. 

NLS is working on the next version of the iOS BARD mobile app. It was supposed to be ready this summer, but has been delayed. NLS is also working updating the Android mobile app and hopefully plans to incorporate many of the iOS mobile app features into app. 

The publication, Kiplinger’s Retirement Report, is now available on BARD and by mail. Please contact us if you would like to receive this publication or go to BARD to download. 

NLS will be also be undertaking some wonderful pilot projects in the coming months:

NLS will be working with the Perkins Library in Watertown, Massachusetts to study the viability of using braille eReaders to distribute braille materials. The goal is to purchase around 200 APH Orbit Reader 20 refreshable braille devices to test their ease of use and effectiveness. Once the pilot project is completed, NLS will look at producing their own eReader for the program.

NLS is also looking at using synthetic speech in the production of some its audio content, especially material that is more time-sensitive or that is supplemental in nature, like bibliographies or endnotes. NLS will still use human narrators for the majority of its audio materials, but feels that synthetic speech will allow for more content to be available sooner. 

NLS is also exploring wireless transmission of talking-book files directly to patrons' reading devices, creating a loading process that would be similar to the ease of obtaining an album from iTunes or Amazon. While only in early test stages, wireless downloading of NLS material promises significant advancement in ease of use for NLS patrons and the management of the entire NLS system. 

NLS is also working developing of the next generation talking book devices that will incorporate some of the previously mentioned features, like wireless delivery and synthetic speech. 

Source: NLS Rolls Out New Digital Initiatives (

So, as we close out 2017 and look forward, 2018 promises to be exciting. I and my staff look forward to these changes and how they will improve our library services to you.

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