Volume 26, Number 3, Fall 2004


A Treasury of Talking Books: Preservation of Our Audio Heritage

Edwin L. Pitts Jr.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has undertaken a project to conserve and restore more than thirty-four hundred archival sound recordings on LPs from its collection. The conservation effort will include inspecting and physically cleaning each title (disc and container), cataloging each title and author, and implementing optimal storage-area environmental controls, including temperature, relative humidity, lighting, and air circulation, along with protections against insect infestation and pollution.

In the framework of the larger project, NLS plans to compile a selection of unique recordings of famous authors who have read specifically for the free reading program from their own works at the recording studios of the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind.

These incomparable historical recordings will be restored to their original sound quality using audio preservation techniques and digital remastering technology at the facilities of the Cutting Corporation, and twenty-four ten-minute excerpts will be gathered together as A Treasury of Talking Books. The compilation will be available on a single cassette so that listeners may enjoy hearing these celebrated voices from the past on current NLS equipment.

Literary luminaries, political figures, radio personalities, and screen stars include:

  • Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970
  • Desi Arnaz, Desi Arnaz, A Book, 1977
  • Red Barber, Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat, 1969
  • Victor Borge, My Favorite Intermissions, 1973
  • Ilka Chase, Worlds Apart, 1973
  • Marchette Chute, Jesus of Israel, 1961
  • Alistair Cooke, America, 1973
  • Joan Crawford, My Way of Life, 1972
  • Robert Frost, Reads His Own Poetry, 1959
  • Herbert Hoover, The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, 1959
  • Bob Hope, I Never Left Home, 1945
  • Emily Kimbrough, Forever Old, Forever New, 1964
  • Eva La Gallienne, With A Quiet Heart, 1954
  • Lin Yu Tang, My Country and My People, 1942
  • Archibald MacLeish, A Time to Speak, 1941
  • Christopher Morley, Where the Blue Begins, 1943
  • Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, 1942
  • Ogden Nash, Everyone but Thee, 1963
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 1950
  • Jean Shepherd, In God We Trust, 1969
  • Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1941
  • Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions, 1956
  • Glenway Wescott, The Pilgrim Hawk, 1944
  • Jose Yglesias, In the Fist of the Revolution, 1969
A Treasury of Talking Books should be completed in time for the next National Conference of Librarians serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals, May 2006 in Portland, Maine.

For more information, contact Edwin Pitts, Production Control Specialist , NLS, Library of Congress, by phone: 202-707-9322, or by e-mail.

Based upon a presentation at the National Conference of Librarians serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals, on May 4, 2004, Rapid City, South Dakota.