Volume 25, Number 3, 2003

Lobe Offers Digital Books to Readers Who Are Visually Impaired and Physically Challenged

The Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service (TTBS), a division of the office of Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White, is overseeing and participating in a one-year, multi-state pilot project offering digital talking books to visually impaired and physically challenged library users.

The Lobe Library is offering digital talking books to readers from July 2003 to June 2004. Patrons participating in the TBBS Talking Book program who have a temporary or permanent physical or visual inability to read regular printed material are eligible to participate in the pilot program. They receive a handheld mp3-type player by Audible that is loaded with a digital audio book, headphones, an instruction sheet, a bibliography of available books, and an order form. Patrons may test the player for three weeks. In June 2004, a national electronic book expert will write an evaluation report based upon the experiences of readers who participate to determine if and how the service will be continued and whether it should be expanded.

Currently, patrons receive talking books on cassettes and use cassette recorders. Digital talking books would allow users to access more modern and convenient technology. The goal of the Lobe Library is to ensure that the print disabled population has the same access to new technologies as sighted persons. If the pilot program is a success, it is hoped that TBBS would eventually be able to offer digital talking books on a permanent basis.

Four of Illinois' regional Talking Book Centers located in Pekin, Carterville, Chicago and Geneva are also participating in the program, along with libraries in Hawaii, New Jersey, Montana and Mississippi.

For information about the Lobe Library, visit the Lobe Library Web site.