Over eighty years ago the U.S. government started the National Library Service of the Library of Congress to provide Braille and talking books to the nation’s blind and physically handicapped citizens. Technologies for delivering Braille and recorded books have improved. Now electronic files can be downloaded from the NLS libraries for or by the patrons, but the need for such libraries continues. Regular public libraries may have good audio book collections, but they tend toward best sellers. What if a blind person needs a cookbook or a number of print/Braille books to read to the grandkids this summer?
Every year or so, the National Library Service has a meeting where representative patrons and librarians give feedback to the staff on collection development. Here’s an unofficial summary, just my take on things from the recently concluded meeting. Our recommendations will go to the head of collection development for the National Library Service in about a month, and then time will tell how they’re dealt with. If the last set of recommendations is any sample, many of them were followed and other good things happened too. Even though NLS has had a 5% budget cut like most government programs, the good news is they’ve figured out ways to give us more books. The way I look at it, more is always better!
NLS is monitoring 800 series and conversion of books in series from analog to digital continues. Sometimes there will always be holes in series because the book is out of print or such. We’re starting to see more books from outside the U.S., like from Canada; this trend will continue. We’ll also get more books from commercial audio book producers because they’re less expensive and come out sooner than NLS doing the recording. Eventually all books done on cassette will be available digitally. More books and magazines produced by state libraries will start showing up on BARD (our site for downloading).
With the Braille summit meeting coming up, we talked a lot about Braille. Consensus seemed to be some things, like math, cooking, and books you want to read aloud (to name just a few examples) are just plain better in Braille. Because Braille is so bulky and expensive to produce, some books like a dictionary may end up being produced only in web Braille files for downloading. Then the Braille reader can read them on an electronic device or possibly print off the portions they need if they’re lucky enough to have access to a Braille printer.
Only about 15% of patrons are downloading from BARD, but that may rise with the NLS app for those using i-devices. It was a treat to participate (even though I did it by phone this time). The NLS staff and the librarians and patrons on the committee all care so passionately about NLS’s mission “that all may read”.
Here’s where you come in. Please consider signing the petition described in this news release from the American Library Association:

Both major organizations of blind people ACB and NFB have their own petitions, which are more accessible for screen reader users. But if you sign this one on the whitehouse.gov site and 100,000 signatures are gathered, the President will take a stand as I understand it.

Don’t let big companies deny the print disabled access to books. The American Library
Association supports a copyright exception to a World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO) international treaty to increase access to information for people with print
disabilities – those who are blind, have low vision, are dyslexic, have a learning
disability or other disability that prevents them from accessing print.

The exception would ask WIPO member nations to establish a national exception that authorizes the making of accessible copies. This exception would be similar to the
Chafee Amendment (17 USC §121) in US copyright law. In addition, the exception would allow countries to share accessible copies (Braille, large print, digital formats
like accessible e-books) across borders.
Negotiations are reaching a fever pitch with many powerful corporations, including General Electric, Exxon, and the motion picture and publishing industries opposing the treaty. We need your help now.

Sign this petition and let the Obama Administration and the US delegation to WIPO know that you support the right to read for all.
Sign The Petition at: