Frequently Asked Questions

This guide is also available in braille, on cartridge, and online. Contact the Library for a different format.

1. How do I contact the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library?

Call: 800-852-3133 or 617-972-7240
Email: library@perkins.org
Fax: 617-972-7363
TTY: 617-972-7690
175 North Beacon Street, Watertown, MA 02472

A staff member will assist you during regular library hours (8:30am - 5:00pm Monday-Friday except holidays).

At other times, please leave a message and a staff member will follow up with you during regular business hours.

2. May I come to the Library to pick up books?

Yes, you can visit the Library during regular business hours. The browsing area contains a variety of audio (digital and cassette), braille, and large print titles and playback equipment. A public access computer with adaptive technology is available by appointment.

The Braille & Talking Book Library is located on the campus of the Perkins School for the Blind. The Library’s GPS and physical address is 141 Riverside Street, Watertown, MA 02472. Contact us for directions via public transportation.

3. Now that I am signed up with the Library, what happens next?

When we approved your application, we sent introductory material and the books and equipment that you requested. Equipment and materials may arrive in separate shipments. Contact us if you have questions about what you received, or to order more books.

4. How much does library service cost?

Library service is free of charge to registered patrons.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Perkins School for the Blind provide funding. Books and equipment are provided to us through our partnership with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress.

Funds are also appropriated by Congress for “Free Matter for the Blind” mailing classification.

5. How often will books be sent to me?

An initial shipment of books will be sent. You may continue to receive titles automatically, or you may choose from a variety of service options, such as by request only or monthly service. Contact us to tailor your service plan to meet your needs.

6. What other materials and services does the library offer?

In addition to over 75,000 digital and cassette titles, 20,000 braille titles, 100 audio and braille magazines, and 12,000 large print books, the Library offers audio-described VHS and DVD movies, downloadable books and magazines, a braille awareness kit, museum passes, and instructional music materials.

We have a reference librarian available to answer your research questions. Materials are also available in over 60 languages.

Through Newsline™, you can listen to the newspaper, magazines, TV listings, and job announcements over the telephone, online, downloaded to an approved portable device, or via email.

Contact us to access these materials and services.

7. How do I order materials?

Free bimonthly catalogs list the newest titles: Talking Book Topics lists audio books and Braille Book Review lists braille books.

Bibliographies and catalogs of our large print, audio-described video, and jumbo braille collections are also available. These catalogs are available in audio, large print, in braille, by email, and online.

You may order books from the catalogs, pick out books in person from the browsing area, or call, email, mail, or fax in your book requests. You can order books online at www.perkins.org/library.

8. How do I order books online?

You can access the Library’s holdings from the Online Public Access Catalog at www.perkins.org/library.

A number of search options are available, including title, author, keyword, medium, and language. You can add items to your request list and up to three selections will be shipped out immediately.

To order books, you must enter your user ID and your password. Your user ID is composed of six letters and two numbers, and is printed on your mailing card. Example: Harry Potter – POTTEH01. Your password is your birth year. Institutions should contact the Library for their password.

Contact the Library with any questions about ordering books online.

9. Can I download audio books from the Perkins Library and play them on the machine?

Yes, registered borrowers can download digital audio books to play on the machine loaned by the library or on other players that are available for purchase. The download program, BARD (Braille & Audio Reading Download), is a free service for active patrons through our partnership with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress.

The BARD website offers over 22,000 books and over 40 magazine titles for adults, children and teens, and more books are added weekly. Through downloading, you can have access to materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To use BARD, you need to have a computer with high-speed internet access, email capability, and the ability to download and extract compressed audio files into folders on a digital cartridge or flash drive. Some users may also need assistive technology.

You can sign up for BARD and download your own materials, or have a trusted family member or friend download on your behalf. To obtain your user name and password, visit nlsbard.loc.gov/ma, review the enrollment information, and complete the short application. Your request will be authorized by Library staff within two business days.

10. How long can I keep materials?

We urge patrons to borrow audio and braille books for no longer than six to eight weeks so we can promptly fill other requests for the same titles. Large print books are loaned for four weeks, and videos circulate for two weeks.

Please return both books and magazines with shared subscriptions as soon as possible because many others are waiting to read the books and current magazine issues.

11. How do I return materials?

Return materials in the same mailing containers in which they arrived. Remove the address label from the container and flip it so the hole is in the upper right-hand corner and the Library’s address is showing. Slide the label back into place. Materials can then be returned through the U.S. mail postage-free.

Please check to be sure that materials are placed inside the correct containers. Identify any defective materials by placing a rubber band or piece of string around the damaged item.

12. May I lend my books and equipment to someone else?

We discourage lending of books and equipment to others. By law, library service is available only to eligible individuals whose applications have been approved. Lending books to others will prevent us from filling requests for specific titles, and may also disrupt your own service.

If you know of someone who is unable to read print books due to a disability, contact the Library or visit the website for an application and information.

13. Why do I need special equipment to play the talking books?

To comply with copyright laws, audio books from our library are created to be played only on our own players.

Read or listen carefully to the operating instructions supplied with your equipment. Instructions are built into our digital players. Press each button when no cartridge is in a player, and the machine will state the button’s name and function. Contact the Library with any additional questions.

14. What do I do if my equipment or books are not working?

Contact the Library for replacements if your materials are not working or have been damaged, lost, or stolen. Our trained technicians service our specialized equipment. Please do not attempt to replace batteries or repair machines yourself.

Please return defective materials in the same mailing containers in which they arrived. Place the address label so the hole is in the upper-right corner and the Library’s address is showing, and return the container through the U.S. mail postage-free. Identify defective materials by placing a rubber band or piece of string around them.

15. Does the Library offer special services for students, children, and young adults?

The Library’s collection contains many classics, biographies, popular fiction and nonfiction books often assigned by schools. We do not carry textbooks, but can refer you to other agencies that may carry them. Our reference librarian can assist students with research questions.

The Library conducts a Summer Reading Program for children and teens. The PerKIDS webpage and newsletter are available for all children, young adults, families, and teachers. Contact the youth services librarian for more information.

16. Does the Library offer reference services?

Our reference librarian can assist you with questions and requests for specialized information. The results of the librarian’s research can be provided in a format most easily utilized by the borrower, including large print, braille, or electronic format.

In addition, reference librarians from a number of talking book libraries around the country provide InfoEyes, a virtual reference service which features email reference. More information is available at www.infoeyes.org.

17. What if I live in Massachusetts only part of the year, or if I go on vacation?

Anyone who resides in Massachusetts at least six months of the year is eligible for service from our Library.

We can send books to your Massachusetts address or alternate service between your two addresses. Contact the Library if you would like us to place a temporary hold on your service while you are away, or if you would prefer books sent to a temporary address.

18. What do I do if I move?

Whether moving within Massachusetts or out of state, please contact the Library with your new address and telephone number. If moving out-of-state, we will transfer your service to the talking book library in that state. Please let us know if you would like to take your equipment with you.

U.S. citizens moving out of the country may also make arrangements to continue borrowing books no matter where they reside in the world.

19. Can I continue to receive library service if I am in a hospital or nursing home?

Yes. Please let us know as soon as possible of your change of circumstances, and your library service will continue uninterrupted.

20. May I borrow Perkins Library materials from my local public library?

Some public and private libraries have a collection of our materials for eligible patrons to borrow. If your library does not have a collection, ask a librarian to contact us to establish one.

21. How do I find out what is new at the Library?

Our newsletter, Dots & Decibels, contains Library news and other information of interest. It is sent to all patrons in large print, digital cartridge, braille, via email, and/or online.

A children’s newsletter, PerKIDS, is sent to all younger readers in large print for sharing with families and teachers, and also on digital cartridge, in braille, via email, or online. Our Spanish newsletter, El Narrador, is available in large print, digital cartridge, and via email.

Contact the Library to sign up for the General Announcements e-newsletter for messages about activities and updates. Please contact the Library if you want to change the newsletter format you receive.

The Library website, www.perkins.org/library, and the website of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, www.loc.gov/nls, are other resources for Library news.

22. Does the Library offer any book lists via email?

The Recommended Reads monthly email is a thematic bibliography created by Library staff, featuring current titles and old favorites.

The New Releases from the Recording Studio email lists recently produced titles from the Clive W. Lacey Recording Studio at the Perkins Library. Please contact the Library to subscribe to either publication.

23. How can I help spread the word about Perkins Library?

Our patrons are our best ambassadors. Please feel free to tell people about the Library. You are invited to tour the Library on the second Tuesday of each month at 10:30 AM. Contact the Library to reserve your space in the tour.

The Perkins Library Outreach Coordinator is available to speak to groups about Library programs and services. Please call 617-972-7376 or email Debby.Smith@Perkins.org to arrange a group presentation.

24. Are locally recorded books available?

Yes, the Library’s recording studio produces local interest audio books utilizing specially trained volunteers as narrators, monitors, reviewers, and editors. The books cover topics such as Massachusetts history, people and places, culture, personalities, sports teams, trivia, books by Massachusetts authors, and other titles of a broader New England interest.

The books are produced on digital cartridge and many are also available in braille. All titles recorded in the studio are available via download through the SHELF (Shared Electronic Files) project, the online catalog of locally recorded titles.

Access the SHELF Project through the online catalog, and download the titles to play on your Library of Congress player on a cartridge or on a Victor Stream, BookSense, PlexTalk Pocket, BookPort Plus or other compatible third-party purchased player.