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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.

A Community Music School for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 2

Continued from last week. Part 2 My second day at the school, which was a Saturday, was spent observing private lessons and group classes. Saturday at the school is mostly reserved for the youth programs. I was eager to attend as many lessons as possible and what I saw was fascinating and memorable. I attended […]

A Community Music School for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 1

The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School train the teachers on accessible music technology and braille music so that they are better equipped to work with students with vision loss.

New BARD Additions: October 2018

This is a guest post from Hannah Noel, a West Coast native currently living in North Carolina. She is a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, where she earned her MSLS and focused her studies on archival work in an arts and museum-specific context. She is interning at NLS at the […]

Digitizing Braille Music Summer 2018

The digitization project at the NLS marches on and currently it is in the hands of a summer intern! This is a guest post from Hannah Noel, a West Coast native currently living in North Carolina. She is a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, where she earned her […]

Digitizing Braille Music 2018

This is our fourth blog on the digitization of braille music. So, what is new with this project? First, we are boosting our production by outsourcing the proofreading of scores scanned using Optical Braille Recognition (OBR). Our braille music specialist Gilbert Busch continues to review all the scans completed on DotScan so we can provide […]

Tactile Staff Notation

Today’s post is about the braille books in our collection that explain to blind readers how staff notation (print music) works. In case you are wondering why blind musicians need to know staff notation, two important reasons come to mind. First, music teachers who are visually impaired must be able to help their sighted students […]

Aiming Beyond Graduation: Creating Inclusive College Music Courses for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 1

Part 1 The end goal for most college music students is to develop and cultivate skills to prepare for a successful musical career after graduation. For some music students with visual impairment (V.I.), just getting through the college degree program can be challenging.  Here are some common reasons: inability to learn a large amount of […]

Interview with a NLS Engineer & Music Patron

As part of a continuing series introducing blog readers to facets of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), I recently spoke with NLS Senior Staff Engineer and music enthusiast, Lloyd Rasmussen. By interviewing Lloyd, I hoped to answer two questions: 1) What does an engineer do in a library? 2) […]