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NLS Music Section at the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival

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2016 National Book Festival
2016 National Book Festival

NLS music section was at the 16th Library of Congress National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday, September 24, 2016, to greet visitors and explain about our services. This event provided a wonderful opportunity for outreach, and we were able to talk to a wide variety of people who were not aware that a service such as ours existed.

Our visitors, most of whom have never heard of braille music were fascinated to learn about how it worked. Many were equally amazed to hear about the instructional recordings specifically designed for the blind and visually impaired. Many people could readily think of family members and friends who would benefit from our services and excitedly picked up application forms for them.

About an hour before closing, a middle-aged lady eagerly approached our table with her eyes fixed on the sample large print music on the display table. She hastily asked whether we have chamber music parts in large print. As we talked, I learned she was a musician who had several colleagues who were no longer able to participate in chamber music because of their deteriorating eyesight. As a musician who enjoys the warm feeling of connectedness and camaraderie ensemble playing brings, I felt sad to hear this. Making music together promotes a sense of wellbeing, which is especially important at a time when people start losing social contact due to retirement, declining health and mobility.

Although we have over 700 titles in our large print collection, compared with the 35,000 braille titles, it is but a drop in the bucket. This is not surprising considering that we have a far greater demand for braille music than large print. The size of the large print collection will grow in response to the number of patrons requesting the particular format.

Music Materials on Display
Music Materials on Display

When we receive a request for a new title, we evaluate whether the item is something other patrons will be likely to use.  When we determine we can justify adding the title to our collection, we obtain the copyright permission to have it transcribed in large print. Whenever possible, we purchase the digital copy of the title to avoid overcrowding the stacks. As you can see, it takes time to go through the process of acquiring new music but the impetus comes from our patrons.

Do you know of musicians who need large print music? Please tell them about our services. We would like to help people continue making music even when they can no longer read regular print copies. Contact us by phone or email and read about our services at  We are here to serve you. 


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