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Accessing Materials on BARD

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One of the most common ways patrons of a Regional Library and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled receive materials is through circulation in the mail. However, this is not the only means of obtaining braille and audio books and magazines. There is an online alternative called the Braille Audio Reading Download service, or BARD. This service gives patrons the ability to not only download materials from their Regional Library, but also provides them access to special collections like those gathered by the NLS Music Section. To use the service, patrons will need a computer, perhaps access to a screen reading software such as JAWS for Windows or NVDA, a cartridge adapter and blank cartridge and/or conventional USB flash drive to transfer materials to their Digital Talking Book Player or braille display, and a high-speed Internet connection. In this post, we will discuss how to get set up on BARD and sign in for the first time, perform a search, and download materials for reading or listening.

Before using BARD, patrons will need to provide some verification. This process is quite simple, especially for patrons who are already receiving materials from a Regional Library. Patrons will need to contact their Regional Library and request to be set up with BARD. An email address is required to create an account. This address will be used for sending occasional emails relating to the account including, but not limited to, password resets, account warnings, service disruptions, etc.

When patrons sign up for BARD, they will provide their email address to their Librarians. After a BARD account has been created, the patron will receive an email containing a link to set a password. It is strongly advised that the password be written down by the patron for safe storage and retrieval to lower the risk of being locked out of BARD. If the password is forgotten, it can be reset by selecting the Reset Password link on the login page.

After setting the password, the patron will need to acknowledge the BARD Pledge. This will only need to be done once, unless directed to renew in the future. At last the BARD Main Page loads.

The BARD Main Page is the central hub for searching for materials in almost any subject. Patrons can browse through available titles in a myriad of ways including:

  • by author’s last name
  • book title
  • and subject

Keyword searches can also be conducted from this page. A language filter allows patrons to specify the language of delivered search results.

In addition to the BARD Main Page, there are also two special collections. These are Music and Magazines. The Music Collection, as its name suggests, allows patrons to browse and search for music scores and books in braille or audio format. Braille scores can be downloaded in Braille Ready Format (BRF) to read on a braille display or emboss in hard copy braille by patrons if provided access to an embosser. Audio books can be downloaded in the same way and copied to external media for playback on a Digital Talking Book Player. The two main categories the audio books in the Music Collection cover are learning an instrument by ear and music appreciation. Some examples of music appreciation titles include, but are not limited to:

The history of classical music DBM02881

Understanding the language of music: a beginner’s guide to music, history, theory, and structure DBM01304

The Arrival of atonal music DBM00207

The Bard of Tin Pan Alley: Irving Berlin. DBM00945

Gospel, jazz, blues, and rock: African music becomes the most ubiquitous in the world. DBM00137

and even

Rock ‘n roll DBM00729

To search for music materials, patrons must first go to the Music Collection page. The easiest way to get there with a screen reader is to perform the Links List command. In JAWS for Windows, this is accomplished by pressing Insert+F7. A heading is also provided to make navigating to this collection easier. Once in the Links List, use the arrow keys or first letter navigation to locate the link called Music Collection. Press Enter to activate.

When the page loads, the structure will resemble that of the BARD Main Page. However, the Music Collection page is reserved exclusively for browsing NLS music materials. Just like the BARD Main Page, one can search for something specific, or can browse the collection in several different ways (such as by composer’s last name, song title, or by subject). The NLS Music Collection is also home to a magazine known as Popular Music Lead Sheets, or PMLS for short. Each issue contains five selections from the big band era to the present in braille format. These are great starters for those who have completed a course in braille music and are looking for something simple to dabble in.

On all BARD pages, patrons have the ability to add materials to their Wish List for later viewing or downloading. To add titles to the Wish List, open the link corresponding to the book’s title, and navigate to the link labeled, “Add to my Wish List.” To view the Wish List, navigate to the BARD Main Page using the return link provided at the bottom of any page on the website, and navigate to the Wish List by either pressing the letter H to move by heading or using the Links List command in your screen reader.

It is worth noting that there are  additional materials in the Music Section beside those on BARD. To access the entire collection, as well as see what exactly is available on BARD, visit the NLS Catalog. A link is provided on the BARD Main Page for quick reference. To find music materials, use the book prefix BRM for braille and DBM for audio to limit search criteria to titles within the NLS Music Section.

Let us now conduct a simple search for practice on BARD using JAWS. We will use the keyword, “Haydn” for our search. To ensure we get correct results, we must be certain we are in the Music Collection. We can check this by using the title bar command in JAWS, which is Insert plus T. Press the letter E to move to the search box and activate with Enter. JAWS makes a sound to indicate we are in Forms Mode. Type the keyword “Haydn” without the quotes and press Enter. A list of results will populate, with audio books at the top and braille at the bottom. We can jump quickly between braille and audio by using the number one on the number row. This will move us between headings on Level One. There are several heading levels on the page, each allowing for finer increments of scrolling as the numbers increase. To move among all headings, press the letter H to go forward or Shift plus H to go backwards.

To download a book, we can either navigate to the download link underneath the description of the title, or we can press Enter on the title link and follow the same process as we would to add to the Wish List, except we would go to the Download link instead.

By default in Windows, files are saved to the Downloads folder. Once titles are downloaded, they will have to be unzipped. This can be done without using any special software. Simply navigate to the downloaded file, press the Applications key, which is the key to the left of the right Control key. If your keyboard does not have an Applications key, press the keystroke Shift plus F10. From the context menu, choose the Extract All option and press Enter. Then, follow the instructions in the wizard to extract the files. Braille books can be saved on a USB flash drive or SD Card to read on a braille display. One advantage of digital braille music is that it does not wear out and is much easier to carry than hard copy books. Plus having the one-line braille display means one will never ask the question, “What line was I on again?” as the braille display will stay exactly where it was left when trying to assemble those difficult passages.

Audio books can be saved to a thumb drive or blank cartridge after they are unzipped for playing on your Digital Talking Book Player. If using a blank cartridge, a special adapter will be needed to connect the cartridge to the computer via a USB port. The braille eReader from NLS comes with such an adapter, or one can be obtained from a patron’s Regional Library. The player has a USB port on the right-hand side for playing content saved to USB thumb drives. Remove any coverings from the port, insert the drive, and the player will either start playing the book if only one book is present, or announce the total amount of books on the drive if more than one title is downloaded. When playing books saved to a blank cartridge, insert the device into the slot at the front of the machine as you would for those you receive in the mail.

For more information and to sign up for BARD, please visit the following page.

Welcome to BARD – National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) | Library of Congress (

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