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The Talking Book Center

Mission: The Talking Book Center’s (TBC) mission is to make accessible and provide guidance in the use of audio resources to fulfill the intellectual, educational and recreational needs of residents who are unable to utilize standard library or commercial materials due to visual or physical impairment, or reading disability.

Community Need: Currently fewer than 10% of published books are available in accessible format for print impaired readers. This lack of access to print material is referred to globally as the “book famine for the blind”.  This lack of reading materials in alternative formats impacts not only individuals who are blind, but also those who struggle with visual, physical, and reading disabilities. Although many public libraries do house a collection of audio book titles, these are limited, and usually skew heavily to fiction best sellers.

The TBC, as a sub-regional library of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, helps fill this gap in free public library service. Specially designed audio book players are given to registered patrons, and unabridged audiobooks are available for checkout. At this time the Talking Book Center house over 22,000 books/cartridges on their shelves. These titles include both fiction and non-fiction, juvenile through adult, as well as Spanish language titles. Access to Braille titles is also available through their service. Patrons also have access to audio and Braille versions of national magazines, including Consumer Reports, National Geographic, Good Housekeeping, Outdoor Life, People, and many more.

Constituents Served: Patrons must qualify for service based on disability (blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, or reading disability). In calendar year 2017, The TBC provided 17,447 audio media serving 399 individuals in who reside in Augusta, Bath, Highland, and Rockbridge counties, and the cities of Buena Vista, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro.

Primary Activities: To ensure that disabled readers in their service area have ready access to books that meet their reading needs, the TBC maintains a comprehensive collection of over 20,000 digital audio books.  Registered patrons receive an audio book player, specially designed for disabled readers, on long-term loan.  The two part-time Reader Advisors who staff the TBC are available by phone to provide patrons with personal one-on-one service which includes: reference service, placing book orders for titles held in other locations, downloading digital titles not held in their collection and circulation of daily book orders.

Two or their main goals this year are to research and implement an effective strategy to distribute National Library Service, The Talking Book Center and community information to Talking Book patrons and; and expand opportunities to promote TBC services to the community.  To achieve them, they are planning to schedule dates at all public libraries in their service area to provide information about TBC services; utilize local media to distribute current promotional and informational materials; expand their social media presence to allow TBC patrons to interact with each other to share information; and develop a directory of senior living centers and communities such as optometry offices, physical therapy clinics and other appropriate venues to create awareness of their services.

Amount Requested: $2,500

Operating Budget: $56,576

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