Services for impaired flourish

Since 1931, library service for the blind and physically handicapped in the United States has been delivered through a network of libraries and agencies coordinated by the Library of Congress’s National Library Service. Funding for the program is provided by a combination of federal and state funds. There is no direct cost to eligible readers.

The State Library of Ohio’s Talking Book Program coordinates the Ohio program and serves as the machine lending agency. To help in this effort, there are sub-lending agencies to loan the machines to eligible citizens in their area, as well as to assist with applications and help with questions.

Locally, Tiffin-Seneca Public Library offers this service.

Talking Books gives those who can’t see regular print, hold a book or turn pages an opportunity to continue to enjoy reading and provides free recorded books and magazines.

These recordings require the use of specialized playback equipment, which also is provided. Any U.S. resident who is unable to read or use conventional print material as a result of a visual or physical limitation may receive the benefits of this free program. Some examples of such limitations are impaired eyesight or other malfunction of the eyes, the inability to hold a book or turn pages or the inability to hold printed material steady enough to read it.

Following years of planning and development, the transition from talking book analog tape machines to digital talking book machines was launched recently.

The new digital machine has a USB port and uses flash drives in special cartridges that are easy to handle. Some advantages of the new machines include improved sound quality and the ability to listen to an entire book without changing discs or turning over cassettes.

Enhanced capabilities to navigate through paragraphs and chapters or insert bookmarks for easy access also are improvements.

The program is able to provide a range of books similar to any public library collection. Best sellers, classics, mysteries, poetry and informational reading are just a few of the wide variety of categories that can be borrowed. Complete books are recorded by professional narrators, and the digital book collection continues to grow.

Catalogs and special booklists, updated regularly, keep readers informed about new books available.

All recorded books, magazines and catalogs are sent directly from the regional library to the reader’s home through the mail as “Free Matter for the Blind.” Returning materials are sent the same way, with no postage.

The regional library in Ohio is located in Cleveland. Last year, the Ohio Talking Book program circulated more than 703,000 items to 14,400 active readers.

Anyone who is unable to read or use conventional print materials may receive the benefits of this free service. Reading is one pleasure no one has to lose because of failing vision or physical limitations.

For further information, call us at (419) 447-3751.

Janet Kimmet heads the extension department at Tiffin-Seneca Public Library.