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National Braille Literacy Awareness Month: A Look at Local Resources

January is National Braille Literacy Awareness Month, and what better way to celebrate than to help spread awareness about the local braille resources that are available here in Indianapolis. Did you know that the Indiana State Library, located in downtown Indy, houses The Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL)?

For this week’s blog post we’ve invited Margaret Ansty, a Regional Librarian at the Indiana State Library, and the Director of the Talking Book and Braille Library,  to share some information about the TBBL and how you can support this invaluable local resource.

What is the basic function and purpose of the Talking Book and Braille Library?

We provide free library service to residents of Indiana who cannot use standard printed materials due to a visual or physical disability. Our library has audio, braille, and large print books that we send to patrons all over the state; patrons can also download their audio and braille books if they prefer that option. Our library is part of the nation-wide National Library Service for the blind and physically handicapped from the Library of Congress.

How does the Talking Book and Braille Library serve children?

We have a lot of library materials for children. We have audiobooks that we can send to children or they can download them to play on a mobile device. We also have twin vision braille books for kids, which are children’s books that contain the print version of the book with a braille overlay. We also try to make sure schools are aware of what we do so that they can get books for any of their students who might need them. Finally, we have a summer reading program that our young patrons can participate in.

What unique programs or events does the Talking Book and Braille Library provide?

Every other year we hold the Indiana Vision Expo at the library. The Vision Expo provides an opportunity for people with vision loss, their friends and family, and service provides to learn about the resources available that help promote independent living. This year, the Vision Expo will take place at the library on Saturday, September 14th. You can find more information on the event as it gets closer on our website at https://www.in.gov/library/indianavisionexpo.htm.

Can you speak more on the Reader Advisory service, and how exactly it works and runs?

Sure, the library has 2 full-time staff members dedicated to providing Reader Advisory for patrons. Patrons can call us from 8-4:30 (eastern time), Monday-Friday to speak to a Reader Advisor if they would like to order specific books by title or author; patrons can also call and let us know what type of books they like and we can help pick some things out for them.

What do you think is the most widely used service or type of material used at the Talking Book and Braille Library?

Audiobooks are by far the most popular material that we provide. Each month we send about 15,000 audiobooks to patrons throughout the state. The second most popular service we provide is probably BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download), which allows patrons the ability to download their own braille and audiobooks directly without having to wait for their books to come in the mail. Patrons download approximately 6000 books a month in Indiana through BARD.

Are there any fun facts you’d like to share about the Talking Book and Braille Library?

I don’t know about fun facts, but I always find it fascinating that the National Library Service and the Indiana State Library have been providing Talking Books through this program since 1934.

Also, a fun extra service that we provide to patrons through the Indiana State Library is Indiana Voices, our local recording program. Through Indiana Voices we record books by Indiana authors or books about Indiana that otherwise would not be available in an accessible program. There is a studio director who runs the program through the help of volunteer narrators, editors, and reviewers. We have recorded over 200 books through this program. You can learn more about Indiana Voices by visiting our website https://www.in.gov/library/2399.htm.

Finally, how can someone help to support the Talking Book and Braille Library?

There are a number of ways that people can support the Talking Book library. The Indiana Voices recording program is always looking for new volunteers. You can check out the current opportunities here: https://www.in.gov/library/2364.htm.

In addition, the Indiana State Library Foundation provides a great deal of support to the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library. You can support us by supporting them.

Most importantly, you can support the Talking Book library by telling your friends and family about the service. There are so many people around the state who could benefit from the program who do not know about it that any way we can get the word out is hugely helpful.

For more information please feel free to email us at tbbl@library.in.gov, visit our website at https://www.in.gov/library/tbbl.htm, or call us Monday-Friday from 8:00-4:30 at 1-800-622-4970.