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Advisory Committee to the Nebraska Library Commission
Talking Book and Braille Service

Nebraska Library Commission
1200 N Street, Suite 120 Meadowlark Room
Lincoln, Nebraska
Thursday, June 12, 2008, 9:00 a.m.

The Advisory Committee to the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service held its regular meeting Tuesday, June 12, 2008, at the Nebraska Library Commission, Lincoln, NE. Notice of the meeting was submitted to local newspapers (Lincoln Journal Star, Omaha World Herald), and posted on the Nebraska Library Commission Web site.

Members present: Brenda Elson, Marjorie Harrison, Ana Kalin, Robert Kalin, Nancy Larimer, Shirley Schmidt, Mary Trenerry, Joan Davis. Staff present: Annette Hall, Dave Oertli and Scott Scholz.

The meeting was opened by Dave and introductions of all of the members present were given, including each individual 's interest in Talking Books. Minutes from the October 16, 2007 meeting were read by Joan and approved.

Dave asked for nominations for a chairperson and vice chairperson to preside at meetings. Mary volunteered to be the chairperson and Ana volunteered to be vice chair.

There was discussion about the new digital players. The first ones should be available by mid-winter with first priority going to U.S. military veterans.

Scott demonstrated the new Victor Reader. This allows for digital conversion and is one of three players that can access direct download. The Victor retails for $350; the second player is produced by American Printing House has a PDA format that holds 40 gigabytes and retails for $1400; and the third reader is a Level Star Icon PDA, which has a built in memory and retails for between $1200-1500. Right now access to Library of Congress digital books requires the use of commercial products.

Scott explained about the Victor and not only is it the most cost effective, but it is also very efficient as a recording and reading device. He went on to show the form that is needed by the user. It can be found on the Library of Congress web site and needs to be filled out to ensure the person downloading the books is a certifiable user in order to protect copyright laws. The user is then given an authorization key which encodes and gives the borrower an encrypted code. The materials are updated five days a week and include best sellers and classics. There are over 10,000 books currently available. Discussion was held on how long it takes to listen to a book (average=18 hours). Once again the topic came up on the importance of visually impaired people learning Braille. Ana pointed out that it is sometimes difficult listening to an artificial voice. Natural readers are much more interesting. She was pleased to listen to the voice on the Victor, as it was very pleasant.

With the Victor machine, books can be downloaded to a person 's computer, and then downloaded on a type of zip drive, that Scott said is smaller than a postage stamp. The zip drive can hold up to 30 books and once the books are on the zip drive, they are there for as long as a person cares to store them. Although the Victor is currently retailing for $350, digital players from the Library of Congress will eventually be available free for people who need them. Scott downloaded an issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to show how one can download from the site. Ana and Robert both commented on the clear and pleasant reading voice.

Joan asked if there is any government program where money might be available to help people defray the expense of the Victor before it is available for free. Dave said, unfortunately, no.

Ana and Robert remembered that during the 1970 's the four track was such a welcomed improvement over vinyl records, and continual improvement is always welcomed. It was acknowledged that some will adjust better to the new technology than others, but that is always the case. Dave commented that young people seem to have no problem with new technology. Nancy wondered if Public Library Support might be able to help people download onto their computers, but Scott said that many public libraries have policies about downloading onto their computers.

Scott did point out that for the past five years many books (10,000+) have been digitally mastered, which means damaged copies of book can be replaced more easily. Mary expressed concern over the workload of the staff at Talking Books. She pointed out that with the number of people who will be converting to the new system, they will need help with downloading a book. In Nebraska about 500 books have been downloaded so far. Currently there are hundreds of thousands of books circulated through the mail on a regular basis.

The topic was then brought up about public schools. Dave referred to students as 'digital natives. ' Students use MP3 players, etc. and don 't give the technology a second thought. The Victor Reader is something that ESUs around the state should know about. The teachers in the group strongly felt that the Special Education budget could easily afford to order a Victor for its visually impaired students. Mary mentioned that right or wrong, for some students using the large print books, especially the ones that are extremely cumbersome, are sometimes hard for students to use for social reasons. Downloading onto a small device, such as a Victor, might alleviate some of this. While Ana understood she very much believes a blind person needs to learn Braille in order to live a full life. She gave the example of an eight year old girl she met in Arizona who was so excited about reading her books on tape, but didn 't know any Braille. Ana pointed out that this girl, and many like her in the technology age, are not learning Braille, and therefore not learning how to spell and the other rules of the language. Robert also pointed out that one might not want to listen to a tape for hours on end, but that same person might be very content to read a book in Braille for many hours. Both Robert and Ana gave good reasons and expert points of view on why it 's important to use all of the opportunities available to educate the visually impaired.

Nancy suggested that Staff Development days for teachers might be a good place for education and demonstration of the Victor. Nancy volunteered to try to find contact people who are in charge of staff development at the various ESUs around the state. Brenda will be attending the Learning Disability Conference in October, and as a board member, she will bring up the possibility of a demonstration of the Victor.

Dave reported that with the Federal Budget, it is hoped that there might be a shorter transition time than the six years originally given for new players. Scott pointed out that it is frustrating to advertise the new player when it is not available to many for six more years. 2010 will be the last year for cassettes to be made.

Dave shared a postcard from the Nebraska Library C omission that was designed for Talking Books. All agreed it is a good thing to show people and it might be beneficial to send to care facilities. Ana suggested that newsletters might be a good place for the ad for Talking Books, too. Nancy commented that it is a strong picture on the card with minimum print and necessary information.

How to get word out to the people who need the services, but might be unaware of them came up. Dave and Annette said that a mailing was done earlier with an endorsement by an optometrist. Talking books had asked for an endorsement by two different ophthalmologists, but no response was given by either.

Shirley will be presenting to the Health Department in Columbus on June 19 and would like ten postcards to share. Margie suggested taking the postcards to care facilities and visiting with an administrator before leaving the postcards might be helpful. Shirley said she lives in a care facility for people ages 59 and up and said she thinks care facilities would be a good place to advertise. It was mentioned that groups like Rotary, Lions, Sertoma, etc. are always looking for speakers, and Talking Books would be a good topic for a presentation. Robert and Ana would be glad to make presentations as borrowers to different organizations. We were reminded that there are a variety of reasons people can be print impaired including dyslexia, stroke, even a broken arms can make a person temporarily in need of the services offered. Shirley asked if Talking Books has a place for referral on the 211 helpline. Some other suggestions for advertising this valuable service were: Interview on Lincoln Live to talk about this service, KFOR radio, one minute PSA for Talking Books or something on public access.

A Public Service Announcement might only have to be done once, and then sent around the state. It was mentioned that Time Warner allows use of its studio. It was brought up that a video of any kind will take a lot of planning and organizing and perhaps this should be a long terms goal.

Ana asked if it would be possible for the Library Commission Appreciation reception be moved to the fall, when the weather is generally more cooperative.

Plans for the next meeting were discussed and Dave will send some dates in September.

Brenda moved the meeting be adjourned and Mary seconded.

Respectfully submitted,

Joan Davis

For more information contact Scott Scholz, Director, Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service.
Scott Scholz

For more information, contact Scott Scholz.