A Day for Talking Books

TOPEKA -- January 4 is Talking Books Awareness Day. So, treat it as the first day in 2010 to start spreading the word to those individuals who could benefit from Talking Books.

Kansas’ Talking Books is a division of the State Library of Kansas, and part of a national network dedicated to serving the reading needs of individuals who are blind, have low vision, or have other physical disabilities that make it difficult to read regular print.

January 4th was selected for this special day as it is the birthday of Louis Braille, born on this date in 1809 in Coupvray, France. Braille only lived to be 43, but at the young age of 12 he created an amazing reading method for the blind using a simple raised dot pattern. He published the first Braille book in 1829 at the advanced age of 20. The Braille reading method was recognized in France in 1854, two years after his death. By 1868, the Braille method of reading for the blind spread world-wide.

Talking Books came into being through the Federal Pratt-Smoot Act of 1931, which established free library services for blind adults, administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress. That legislation started an amazing program that feeds the intelligence of thousands of Kansans.

In the early years, Talking Book Services were offered to Kansans through the St. Louis Library and the School for the Blind Library in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas network serving the print-impaired was established in 1971. Today the program serves patrons through a network of six local service centers, located in Emporia, Norton, Great Bend, Manhattan, Topeka, and Wichita.

Talking Books Director Toni Harrell said, “more than 40,000 Kansans are eligible for this service. We are working every day to reach more patrons and to keep them connected with their great love of reading.
More than 100,000 titles are available including books, magazines, and newspapers.”

In September 2009, new digital talking book machines started making it into Kansas homes, going first to veterans and centenarians. By the end of January, all currently registered users of the service will have the new machines in hand. The new players resemble a flat, book-sized box, with large buttons, a single built-in speaker, weighing about two pounds. The players have excellent sound quality plus the capability of speeding up or slowing down the tempo of the narrator without distorting the speech.

The books come loaded on a digital cartridge that is about the same size as a cassette tape, but connects to the player via a USB port.
Each cartridge can hold 46 hours of audio. Since the typical book is 15 hours long, the new format means all but the longest books can be contained on a single cartridge. For users, this means there is no need to flip tapes over, remember to hit the toggle switch or ever rewind a cassette tape.

All talking book services are delivered free through the US Postal Service.

For more information on Kansas Talking Books, visit www.kslib.info/talking/ or call 800-362-0699.


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