Dots & Decibels 2008 Spring
Dots & Decibels Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library Newsletter
The Perkins Library, with help from the TDC Corporation of Boston, recently drafted its Long Range Plan for 2008 - 2012. This plan places outreach initiatives, broadening patron engagement, and increasing patron satisfaction as high priorities for the upcoming years.
The initial information gathering began in the summer of 2006, when the Library sent out patron surveys. The 2,700 responses helped the Library and TDC sculpt a clearer picture of who our current users are and what services we are excelling at, as well as which to improve. Next came a series of focus groups of current patrons, after which the Perkins Library management team sat down with TDC, armed with the newly gathered information, to create a vision for the Library in the next five years.
The goals the plan outlines for the next five years are:
- Reach a broader and more diverse audience who can benefit from the Library's services
- Deepen engagement of current and future patrons
- Actively pursue enhanced technology for access to and administration of materials
- Secure the staff, facilities, and other resources required to operate successfully
Each of these goals was broken down, and targeted strategies were developed to insure success on these objectives.
The plan also introduces Perkins Library's revised mission statement which reads, "The Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library provides accessible library services and resources that enable all people who are unable to read conventional print due to a disability to experience the joy of reading and lifelong learning."
The Perkins Library's 2008 2012 Long Range Plan is available from the Library in large print, braille, on cassette, and electronically via email. Please contact the Library if you would like a copy of the Plan.
Many Library borrowers have been hearing about the "next generation" talking book and machine for several years. The digital transition will begin in late 2008 with the initial distribution of digital players. The rollout of digital books and machines will be gradual, so no need to worry; cassette books will still be around. We will still have our faithful cassette books and cassette players for many years to come, but new technology is allowing the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (NLS) to move forward in a very positive way with digital books and equipment.
Massachusetts has been selected as one of the states to participate in the final phase of user testing in late summer of 2008. We will receive approximately 200 digital players for identified borrowers to use with a small sampling of digital books, to allow users to give their feedback on the ease of operation of the new equipment. The Library will accept names of anyone interested in participating in the usability testing of the new equipment. You can contact the Perkins Library and request that your name be added to the usability digital test list. Not everyone will automatically be accepted into the test, as we must ensure that there is a diverse user group for viable feedback. However, we will do our best to give everyone interested an opportunity to try the new equipment.
Over the next couple of years, machines will be distributed to interested borrowers as they are made available. Initially there will not be enough machines for everyone to have one, and we will establish procedures to ensure fair distribution of the equipment.
By law, one priority category to receive equipment first will be veterans. If you are a veteran of any branch of the U.S. military, be sure to let us know this information, so we can place it in your reading record for the future.
We are very excited that Massachusetts continues to play an active role in the launch of digital talking books, and we will keep you posted on developments as they take place.
Digital Book Download
One aspect of the digital transition is that it is now technologically possible for borrowers with internet access to download Library of Congress digital books and play them on a small digital commercially-available player. The download pilot book and magazine program is open to patrons who are active readers and who have purchased a third-party digital talking book player to read NLS digital books. Currently, the only player that can play digital talking books is the Humanware Victor Reader Stream. The Stream is now available for purchase from Perkins Products.
The Stream is entirely accessible with onboard speech that tells you exactly what button is pressed and what function you are executing. It also has a built-in speech synthesizer that will allow you to read text files (such as Bookshare files or Word documents), and it comes with a rechargeable battery designed for longer playing life and fast recharge.
The Stream offers advanced technology that is very easy to use. The numeric telephone style keypad allows you easy navigation through various levels of audio files (such as DAISY) and also to obtain information about the Stream itself (such as battery level).
You can play books from audible.com, books in the DAISY file format (such as those from Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic), and WAV and MP3 file formats. At this time you cannot play books from the Unabridged collection, but we believe this feature will be coming soon. You can purchase the Stream now to access downloadable digital talking books. Once the NLS digital player is made available for free loan, purchasing the Stream is no longer required to access digital talking books.
The Victor Reader Stream is available for $329. You can contact Perkins Products directly to place an order for the Stream at 617-972-7312, or through the Perkins Online Store at www.perkinsstore.org. Library staff have created a Getting Started Guide for the Victor Stream to assist in learning how to use the device.
Signing up for the Download Project
Once you have a Stream, you can sign up for the NLS download project. This service is free of charge and requires no additional software to download. In order to use the download service at this time you must have purchased a Victor Stream. Please contact the Perkins Library for information about how to sign up for the digital download program.
Are you signed up for Unabridged? Unabridged is a separate downloadable audio book service which provides a totally accessible web-based library of narrated digital audio books. We are thrilled to introduce a new collection of books to the Unabridged program. The new School Download Library offers 740 titles, organized by grade level.
This collection features a diverse selection of classics, modern literature, math, science, and picture books. Authors in the collection include Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, and Margaret Atwood. These books are always available - anytime, anywhere.
Books can be enjoyed on a variety of devices that you already use. Once downloaded to a laptop or PC, you can transfer the book to many MP3 and CD players that are compatible with OverDrive audio books and eBooks. Contact the Library to sign up for Unabridged.
Tom Sullivan, notable Perkins alum and accomplished author, musician, actor, and athlete, is one of those people who knows how to turn a disadvantage into an advantage! He shared his many secrets of success at this year's Perkins Founder's Day ceremony held on November 15th when he enchanted an audience of over 100 Perkins trustees, alumni, staff, students, and library patrons and described how he learned at an early age to view his blindness as an asset, living life to its fullest and developing his many extraordinary talents.
Perkins students listened in awe as Sullivan described his school day adventures at Perkins, which included a chance meeting with 80 year-old Helen Keller, whom he happened to encounter as he was being disciplined in the Perkins Director's office on a past Perkins Founder's Day. With a great sense of humor, Sullivan described how Keller had cheered him on for his exuberant (if sometimes willful) spirit that later allowed him to pursue his many dreams. Sullivan's stories illustrate his refusal to let his blindness stand in the way of accomplishing great things in his life.
Sullivan has appeared as a special correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America and in shows such as Fame, Mash, and Mork and Mindy to name just a few. He recently trained the well-known actor, Ben Affleck, on playing the part of a blind person for Ben's 2003 film Daredevil.
People enjoyed listening to Sullivan's piano accompaniment while sharing his original songs. Sullivan pointed out that although it has been difficult for him in ways, blindness has also enabled him to use his other senses more fully, allowing him to develop his true passions and devote himself to his interests. His motto, "I can" was an inspiration to staff and students, and the voices of members of the audience heartily echoed these words.
Sullivan has written many books, and we have several in our collection. His newest title, Adventures in Darkness, was made available at the event in both print and cassette by Newtonville Books and is now available on cassette from the Perkins Library (RC 63856). Adventures in Darkness will be coming out as a film this summer. Two other titles are also available through the Library: If You Could See What I Hear (RC 35991, BR 2848), which later became a major motion picture and Seeing Lessons: 14 Life Secrets I've Learned Along the Way (RC 63861).
On stage, Sullivan made it a point to credit his Perkins teachers and classmates with giving him the confidence and skills to succeed in his many varied endeavors. His presentation was extremely interactive and creative and was a joy for all who attended.
When Leon Bethune of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) needed some of his agency's materials produced on tape, he turned to the Perkins Library for assistance. In addition to recording books for the Library's collection, the studio is able to assist outside agencies on a fee-for-service basis in getting their publications into an accessible format. By utilizing our talented narrators, the studio was able to produce three publications for the BPHC in both an English and Spanish audio.
The "Healthy Homes" brochures help you to learn what you need to know about asthma, lead and other household injuries to assist you in protecting your family's health. What you might not realize is that some of the major health risks (especially for children) are often found right in the home. This resource guide explains about the risks and hazards found in and around your home, what you can do about them and who to call for help or more information.
"Healthy Yards" is a publication with information about how to grow a healthy lawn and a healthy garden without using pesticides. Published in collaboration with the Neighborhood Pesticide Action Committee (NPAC) and the BPHC, the brochure answers basic questions about pesticides, gives tips on how to effectively and safely protect your lawn and garden from pests, and lists a range of resources.
To request these informative publications on tape (in English or Spanish) call either the Perkins Library or the Boston Public Health Commission (617-534-5966), and a tape will be sent to you that does not need to be returned to the Library.
If you would like to have your agency's materials recorded, please call the Perkins Library Studio at 617-972-7316.
On December 11th, Perkins School for the Blind hosted a reception to welcome Mike Festa to his new position as Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA). Attendees braved the blustering cold to receive warm smiles from Festa. Many people from the elder field attended, including staff members of the Perkins Library, Perkins Outreach "Strategies for Life", and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. Festa gave brief remarks, highlighting the great work that is being done across the state by different agencies serving elders, and further emphasizing the need for collaboration between EOEA and other organizations such as the Library.
On Friday, December 7, the Perkins Library sponsored the third annual studio volunteer workshop. Twenty-three people attended the event. The guest speaker and workshop leader was Marilyn Rea Beyer. Beyer, who is the Media and Public Relations Director at Perkins, has a Masters Degree in the oral interpretation of literature from Northwestern University and is a voice-over artist and a former speech and drama teacher. She presented narration techniques such as warming up the voice, reading with emotional intelligence, and dealing with dialogue. At the workshop, narrators read for Beyer and received individual coaching.
The Clive W. Lacy Recording Studio, established in 1987, is part of Perkins Library. The studio works closely with NLS (National Library Service), following professional standards developed for network recording studios. We supplement the approximately 2,000 books recorded by NLS each year and provide books that are of particular interest to Massachusetts and New England patrons books - on the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the Celtics, for example, or books about local personalities, past and present such as Isabella Stewart Gardner, Mayor James Michael Curly, or Whitey Bulger.
All of the studio narrators are volunteers who have passed an audition. Once accepted, volunteers work together in teams to produce books. They typically spend two hours a week in the studio, plus one to two hours more in at-home preparation time. Reviewers are volunteers who mark any errors they find which will later be re-recorded and edited back in.
There are currently thirty narrators working in the studio, including five people who have been narrating for over ten years. While a children's book can be recorded in one session, full length books take many months, and a very long book might take more than a year to complete.
Recent Audio Books from the Lacy Recording Studio:
American Freemasons; Three Centuries of Building Communities by Mark A. Tabbert.
There are two million Freemasons in the US and famous members include Ben Franklin and Paul Revere. This book explores the history of Freemasonry from its origin in 17th century Scotland to today.
Gone, Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane.
A little girl is missing from Dorchester and her aunt talks private investigators into taking the case. Their investigation will put their relationship and their lives at risk.
Rhubarb by Craig Silvey.
For Eleanor Rigby, with her overprotective guide dog Warren, life changes when she meets reclusive cellist, Ewan Dempsey. Gradually, these two people reach out to each other and manage to connect.
We are delighted to announce two additions to our roster of circulating magazines. Each magazine is published once every two months. Please contact the Library to start your subscription today.
Audubon is the publication of the National Audubon Society, one of the nation's oldest organizations founded to protect wildlife. The magazine features inspiring and informative articles about birds and animals, their habitats, and efforts to conserve them. Its goal is to promote appreciation, understanding, and protection of the natural world. From how to attract birds to your backyard, to stories about wolves, to discussions of environmental issues, Audubon brings exciting information and ideas about nature to the reader. Audobon is available on cassette.
Dialogue is an international news magazine written by and for people who are experiencing vision loss or who are blind. It is published by the nonprofit organization Blindskills, Inc., based in Oregon. The magazine's purpose is to encourage and facilitate independent living. It provides a wealth of useful information and hints to make life easier. Many topics are covered, including: finding transportation, starting a career, managing illness, traveling, participating in sports, accessing computers, and adapting the home environment. Dialogue reviews low vision aids and devices, provides tips on coping with vision loss, reports personal experiences of people living successfully with sight loss, and interviews professionals in the field. Dialogue is available in multiple formats: cassette, large print, braille, and electronic.
In order to keep your service uninterrupted, please contact the Library with your new address. Do you winter somewhere warm? If so, we can forward your books to your temporary address or put a hold on your service until you return. If you have permanently moved out of state, please let us know so we can transfer your service to your new local talking book library.
The Perkins Library relies on the support of the United States Postal Service (USPS) for delivery and return of your books and equipment. The "Free Matter for the Blind" mailing classification has been in existence since 1904 to provide for the mailing of braille, large print, talking books, and equipment to eligible individuals.
As a way to recognize the contribution of the USPS, and particularly the contribution of those dedicated mail carriers who deliver materials to borrowers' homes every day, regardless of the weather, the Library is doing the second Talking Book Mail Carrier of the Year Award. What better way to recognize the contribution of the USPS, than to acknowledge the important role of the individual mail carriers.
If you would like to nominate your postal worker as an outstanding mail carrier, just send a letter or email to the Perkins Library with your name, address, and phone number, along with the name of your mail carrier. If you don't know your carrier's name, feel free to call your postmaster and tell him/her that you want to nominate your carrier for a special award. In your letter, tell us what your carrier does to make you feel that he/she is exceptional. The award will be presented at a special ceremony at the Perkins Library later in 2008.
The Library has braille and cassette versions of the 2008 Red Sox Season Schedule available upon request. Don't miss a game of the beloved Red Sox because you didn't know what time the game was being played. When you request a schedule, you're name will be added to the list to receive next year's version automatically. Go Sox!