This post was written by Tamara Rorie of the Library of Congress.
Describe what you do at the Library of Congress.
I’m the Braille Officer for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). I work as a liaison between various sections of NLS as they interact with our braille products. I am part of the group at NLS that produces braille books and I work with the quality control section that reviews the final products before they are released to the public. I am also developing requirements and specifications for a new braille reader that NLS hopes to distribute in the near future, and I oversee the contract for our braille instruction and certification courses, which train braille transcribers seeking employment in school systems.
What is your favorite item from the Library’s online collections?
I am most apt to access the collections provided by NLS. First, since I am totally blind, I am a patron of the services and have been since I was very young, so I use the materials as a consumer. I am an avid and voracious reader, and I regularly use the braille and audiobook collections. However, the braille and audio magazine collection is probably the most useful for me as a consumer. Accessible books may be available from other sources, but the NLS magazine collection is unique because the periodicals include all of the articles and are completely accessible (unlike online periodicals) and exclude advertisements and pictures. When there is an important picture, image or figure, (unlike the information that can be accessed online) it is adequately described and therefore more usable.
What’s one thing that users don’t expect to find in the resources available from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped?
It is widely known that NLS offers the world’s largest collection of accessible music for blind and low vision users. However, most people are surprised to know that the music collection includes a large amount of self-instructional material for a variety of instruments. Even material not necessarily developed for the blind can be uniquely suited to the blind if it adequately describes fingering and provides audio examples of what it should sound like. This instructional material is particularly important to the blind population since most instructional videos assume that the user is looking at the demonstration. The descriptions are unique to the NLS material.
Explain how the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped can support teachers and media specialists in their daily activities.
The services at NLS can be particularly useful for teachers of the visually impaired or media specialists who need information or resources on or for people who are blind or have multiple disabilities. These services are especially helpful for educators who do not generally work in the area defined as exceptional children. NLS has a reference department that specializes in assisting the public with finding information about blindness. Upon request, NLS can also provide teaching resources such as braille alphabet cards to assist in explaining how braille works.
What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers?
Regardless of where you live in the U.S. you can get immediate services and resources for your students – and NLS services are free! NLS is unique in that it provides support for local area libraries which provide the direct services to our patrons. Every state and territory has at least one local library, possibly more, that is directly connected to NLS and provides NLS’s braille and talkingbooks on loan to the patrons in their local areas. Because the network libraries are local, the services can be provided in person if that’s necessary.
Second, as mentioned earlier, as with many other areas of the Library of Congress, NLS has a staff of reference librarians who are not only experts in finding resources and information about blindness and any other print related disability, but also prepare and distribute excellent reference materials on a wide variety of issues. These materials are comprehensive, up-to-date and free upon request.
Finally, I think it’s important to mention that braille that comes from NLS has been rigorously proofread. Therefore, educators who provide our books to their students can be assured that the transcriptions are as technically correct as possible. This is particularly important for younger readers who are just learning the braille code.