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The NLS Music Section is looking to an exciting new technology to improve the accuracy and speed of its braille digitization project.

The Music Section has been exper­imenting with techniques and tools for digitiz­ing the NLS braille music collection—the largest of its kind in the world—since the early 2000s. Once braille scores are digitized, they can be downloaded from BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download website. That makes them more easily available and allows us to keep the fragile and often rare paper copies safely on the shelves.

Digitizing braille music scores is a detailed, time-consuming process; so far only about one-fifth of the collection is available on BARD. The Music Section currently uses two methods to do this: Optical Braille Recognition (OBR) and DotScan. Both have their chal­lenges. OBR scans quickly and can capture both sides of an interpoint braille page in a single scan, but requires fluency in braille music code to proofread. DotScan pro­vides a visual interface that allows sighted employees to proofread the image on the screen against the physical document, but it handles interpoint braille and braille with uneven spacing poorly. (You can learn more about these methods in two previous blog posts: Digitizing Braille Music Summer 2018 and Digitizing Braille Music 2018.)

But recently the Music Section began working with the Library of Congress’s Digitization Services Section to improve the digitizing of braille music using laser and 3-D technologies. This type of imaging holds the promise of providing a nearly 100 percent accurate rendering of what’s on a braille page. This is extraordinary, since neither of the braille scanning methods we now use provide that kind of exactness.

The two pictures below, from the Digitization Services Section, show a laser scanning a page of a braille music score:

Laser scanning a braille score page.
Laser scanning a braille score page.
Laser Scanning Braille Score Page, Detail
Laser scanning a braille score page, detail.







The next picture shows the detail of a scanned image from an interpoint braille score page. The colors in these images assist with visualization of data values of the relative height of the surface features.

Scanned braille page, detail
Image of a scanned interpoint braille page, detail.

The next step will be to build a prototype laser scanning machine. That effort got a big boost this fall with a substantial gift from Susan D. Diskin, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, California. The donation establishes the Tiby Diskin Memorial Fund in honor of Dr. Diskin’s mother and a significant part of the gift will support the braille digitization project.

“My mother revered knowledge, reading and education,” Dr. Diskin said in a letter to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Accordingly, it seems appropriate to honor her at the world’s largest repository of knowledge, the Library of Congress . . ..”

“We’re so excited to receive this generous gift from Dr. Diskin and honored by her recognition of our work,” NLS Director Karen Keninger said. “It will allow us to advance our efforts to digitize NLS’s world-class braille music collection much faster and accurately than we had ever anticipated—a real benefit to the students, teachers, performers and music lovers who use our braille materials.”

On behalf of its patrons, the Music Section joins the Library and NLS in expressing its gratitude to Dr. Diskin for this exceptional gift.

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