About a month ago, NLS Music Section received 11 international guests who were visiting the U.S. under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. We happened to be the first destination in their month-long itinerary, and they were eager to hear about the music services we provide for our patrons. The guests consisted of mostly young professionals who are currently working in the music industry or in music education in their home countries. Most are interested in starting music outreach programs. Although many of them spoke some English, they were accompanied by an interpreter who translated what was being said through a microphone to the earpieces of the guests.
First, we gave a presentation in which we talked about the history of Music Section, our music collection, BARD and our digitization efforts for both the braille music and audio recordings. In addition, our braille music specialist Gilbert Busch shared his experiences as a blind musician and a patron of NLS. Our presentation was met with excited questions and exclamations. Among the visitors was a blind pianist who became very animated as we showed her the NLS digital talking book player and demonstrated one of our instructional recordings. She was also eager to learn about BARD, which delivers braille music to your fingertips within a matter of minutes.
We had a brief Q&A session after the presentation. Among the questions we received, two stood out because they made me think about how privileged we are in this country to be able to offer such a unique music library service.
The first question was, “Did you ever consider commercializing your service?” At first I thought there was a component of the question that I didn’t understand, but the questioner meant just what he asked. We told him that this is a free service available to every U.S. citizen who is blind or visually impaired and that no one pays for the service.
The second question was if we would consider extending the service globally. One of the librarians answered that NLS utilized international interlibrary loans to and from other countries in the past, but it was discontinued. The man asked again, “So there is no way to get this service in our country?”
We concluded the visit with a tour of the stacks and music section. As we said our goodbyes to our enthusiastic visitors, the translator told us that the guests were impressed with the NLS Music program and library services. Indeed, we are fortunate to be able to provide the music service so “That All May Read.” Although there is no plan to globalize the program at the moment, I am glad that our visitors are now aware of the resources available to help blind and visually impaired musicians learn, teach and work. If in the future our visitors want to start their own library programs for the blind, they know one source to direct their questions to.