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Meeting of the Board of Regents | September 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - 9:10am

sed seal                                                                                                 




signature of Jeff Cannell


Cultural Education Committee


Jeffrey W. Cannell


Talking Book and Braille Libraries


September 1, 2009



Goals 4 and 5






Issue for Discussion


The federal National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is implementing a new digital talking books program, which will have significant impact on New York’s regional and sub-regional Talking Book and Braille libraries and library services.


Proposed Handling


The Cultural Education Committee will learn about the NLS national transition from cassette talking books to a new digital talking book program.  The committee will discuss the impact of this important transition on the future of the program in New York State.  In addition, committee members will hear an update on the New York State Library’s Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL) program. 


Procedural History


During 2009, NLS will begin moving to a digital format for the books and players used to provide library services to eligible patrons with print disabilities.  The State Library’s TBBL which serves the 55 counties of upstate New York will be among the network libraries incorporating this format change into their collections and services.  The new digital player (DTBM) and digital book cartridge (DB) represent a significant change for both customers and staff in these network libraries, but the new format is expected to be much easier to use and will provide recorded books with vastly improved sound quality. 


Background Information


  • In 2009, some 385,000 New Yorkers with disabilities are eligible for, but not receiving, library services and materials.  Three important libraries in New York State are officially designated by the federal government to provide library services to New Yorkers with physical and learning disabilities as part of the nationwide program coordinated by NLS.
  • Two regional libraries (TBBL in Albany and The New York Public Library’s Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan), and one sub-regional library (the Long Island Talking Book Library in Bellport) altogether serve over 53,000 New Yorkers a year.  The three libraries provide library services and materials to New Yorkers who are visually, physically, or learning disabled. They lend braille and recorded cassette books, playback equipment, and descriptive videos.
  • The State Library’s TBBL program serves over 37,000 New Yorkers in 55 upstate counties which represent 45% of the state’s population.  TBBL has a distinguished history and was first established as the New York State Library for the Blind in 1896, providing embossed books to blind adults.  In 1931, TBBL became one of the original Regional Libraries in the Library of Congress' national program and "talking" books on long-playing record were introduced. In 1952, TBBL extended library services to blind children and in 1966 TBBL extended library services to physically disabled and reading disabled individuals. In 1995, TBBL was renamed the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library.