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My favorite digital library resources for low vision

Ten of my favorite digital library resources for accessing a variety of content like music, books, videos and more.

Even though I can’t read the majority of the books on the shelf at my local library due to a print disability/low vision, I can access a ton of amazing content through digital library resources and eLibrary tools that are available at no cost for cardholders. Because of reciprocal agreements in my area, I actually have over a dozen different library cards in various locations, and have been able to explore several digital library resources for low vision. Here is a list of my favorite digital library resources for low vision that I use at least once a week, if not more often.

eBooks, magazines and audiobooks: OverDrive/Libby

Libby is a free application that allows users to link their library card and check out digital copies of books, magazines, audiobooks, and more- these are the same audiobooks that are provided to Audible and other premium audiobook services. Libby is used to read content from the OverDrive digital library service, which is available 24 hours a day and in over 90% of public libraries in the USA/North America, as well as 78 different countries. Depending on the library policies, users can check out content for 7 to 21 days at a time and request titles to be added to their digital collection.

Another strategy I use for OverDrive is to check out the curated lists of books and then search for the titles on Bookshare- this has been one of my favorite ways to find new novels to read.

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eBooks and audiobooks: Sora

Sora is an eBook and audiobook application powered by Libby that is targeted at kids and teenagers. Some books are available with instant access, while others require users to place a hold for the title they want to read. Sora is available through many different services including schools, libraries, and curated collections from websites, such as their summer reading program.

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Streaming music, audiobooks and video: Hoopla Digital

Hoopla is a digital service that allows users to check out 10 different items per month from their large library of music, audiobooks, movies, graphic novels, and other books. I use Hoopla to check out music albums that I’m considering buying or downloading, since there are no holds and I can check out each album for seven days at a time. I’ve also enjoyed reading graphic novels through this app that aren’t available on Bookshare or similar platforms.

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Technology tutorials: Hoonuit

Hoonuit, formerly Atomic Learning, provides free software training and support tutorials for over 150 software applications, as well as assistance with job searching and career skills. The videos can be watched in order, or users can choose to watch a small segment of a tutorial to learn a specific concept. Videos are available 24/7 and are updated regularly, and users can watch as many videos as they want, and as many times as they want. The process for accessing Hoonuit varies from library to library, so I recommend looking up this information on your library’s website.

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Streaming documentaries and video: Kanopy

Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video platform for public libraries and universities that offers films and documentaries for registered cardholders as well as professors and students. There are over 30,000 different films available ranging from classic films in the Criterion Collection to documentaries from all around the world. Kanopy is free for cardholders, students, and professors at participating libraries and universities, and features a lot of popular documentaries and streaming videos.

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Music downloads: Freegal Music

Freegal Music allows users to download 3-5 songs from their catalogue each week that users can keep “forever”- I use this service to download songs for my iPod. Depending on their library’s plan, users can also stream music for three hours a day, or get access to ad-free unlimited streaming and playlists. There are over 15 million songs in the Freegal Music catalogue covering a variety of genres and popular artists, including Top 40 musicians.

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Tutoring: Brainfuse

Brainfuse is a tutoring and e-learning company that provides free live tutoring and educational resources for cardholders at participating libraries, schools, and universities. Users have access to tutors during times set by their institution (mine is 2 PM-11 PM) where they can have a live hour-long session to go over concepts from class, homework problems, or work on studying for a test.

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Language learning: Mango for Libraries

Mango Languages for Libraries is a free service available through public libraries and colleges worldwide that allows library card holders to learn a new language through interactive lessons, though users can also purchase access to the service for $19.99 a month. Mango Languages lessons focus on developing practical conversational skills and using repetition to reinforce different concepts of each language. Mango Languages is designed for beginning and intermediate language learners, and has over 70 different languages available.

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Children’s books: TumbleBooks

TumbleBooks Library is an app and website that features a curated selection of narrated children’s books that are brought to life with animation. There is a mix of classic and familiar titles as well as new releases, along with options for Spanish and French language titles. Users have unlimited access to all of the books in the database, and can replay books as often as they want with no holds required.

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Reading newspapers: Newspaper Access

My library offers users free access to popular newspapers like Washington Post, The New York Times, and other regional newspapers by having users create an account and logging into their library account once a week to activate the free subscription. This has been extremely helpful for research and making it easier for me to read different articles.

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Concerts and music: Qello for Libraries

I discovered Qello last year and have been using it to watch a variety of concerts, documentaries, and other music themed content from my favorite bands and singers. At my library, Qello is accessed as part of the “Extras” section in the Libby app, and users can get an all-access pass for unlimited streaming of content for 7 days, with options to renew the pass an unlimited number of times. Some of my favorite musicians that I have found on the Quello app include Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Genesis, The Beatles, Queen, and many others.

Related links

Other digital library resources for low vision

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Posted updated July 2023; original post published December 2016

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