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Friday, May 26, 2006

Reading is for Everyone

No one should be denied the pleasures and treasures of reading. For those with disabilities that prevent reading standard print, a free library program assures they can enjoy books and magazines in audio or braille format. 2006 marks the 75th anniversary of the Pratt-Smoot Act establishing a national library service for blind adults administered by the Library of Congress. Over the decades the program has expanded to offer music materials, to include children, and to include individuals with physical disabilities other than blindness.

Services are provided by a network of cooperating libraries coordinated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Eligible residents of Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church receive NLS audio materials through the Access Services branch of the Fairfax County Public Library, which also offers other special services to local residents with disabilities. Braille materials are available to Virginia residents through a regional NLS library located in Richmond.

All library materials, including playback machines for talking books and magazines, are loaned without cost to borrowers. Materials are mailed to borrowers as "Free Matter" through the U.S. Postal Service and may be returned to the lending library by mail, also at no cost.

NLS audio recordings are currently on four-track, half-speed cassette tapes playable only on machines designed for this format. During 2007-2008 the program will begin a transition from cassettes to digital talking books (DTBs). The new DTBs will be available as downloadable audio files and as recorded books contained on flash memory cartridges. A new playback machine for DTBs is being developed.

If you would like more information about NLS programs or about FCPL's Access Services Library, call 703-324-8380, or post a comment below.

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