Braille and Beyond!

Braille and Beyond!


Please join Alice O’Reilly, Chief of the Collections Division, National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), for a fun and informative conversation. With so many new and exciting things happening at NLS, it’s a great time to get to know what’s going on at the nation’s free library for people with visual and print disabilities along with how it might be a great resource for your clients. Alice will give an overview of what NLS has to offer in audio and braille as well as how to enroll with the NLS cooperating library in your state or territory and share some book lists to get your clients started!

Contact Information

Alice O'Reilly


Phone: 888.657.7323

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Jennifer Ottowitz: Welcome to OIB-TAC’s monthly webinars, where our presenters share valuable information and helpful resources to support professionals working with older adults who are blind or vision impaired. Let’s check out this month’s webinar.

Alice O’Reilly: My name is Alice O'Reilly, and I am Chief of the Collections Division at the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. And I've worked at NLS for a long time now, over 17 years, and I can tell you it's a fantastic program, and I'm really excited about the work that we're doing.

In this presentation, I'm going to talk all about the tremendous new things that NLS is doing and how we can help older individuals who are blind discover all kinds of great reading resources. Whether you're reading for pleasure and you want all the new bestsellers just sent to your house right away, or you like to pick your own books and discover new areas of interest, we’re the place to come.

We're constantly adding new books and magazines, and I know that no matter what you want to read, we have something for you. So, just in case there are some people out there who don't know about NLS, let me go over the basics really quickly. NLS is part of the Library of Congress, and we've been around for over 90 years.

We work with a network of cooperating libraries in every state to provide library services in accessible formats for anybody who's print disabled. Now, print disabled can be because of blindness or low vision, but also a physical disability like Parkinson's or arthritis or paralysis. It can include a limb difference that makes it difficult to turn a page or handle a print book. And it can also be a reading disability like dyslexia.

Print disabilities cover a lot of people in the United States, and we want to make sure that everybody knows if they qualify for a service that, they can get great library materials from NLS. And when I say accessible formats, for NLS, that largely means audio and braille. But we also have some print braille available, which is usually for a print reader and a braille reader to read together. Sometimes, it's called twin vision.

And we also have some network libraries with large print materials that you can borrow from them directly. A lot of people might think that all audio books are accessible books, but there are some important differences in NLS books, such as enhanced navigation and narrating supplemental material. And our braille books are really high quality transcribed and proofread by certified professionals.

So, you've heard me refer to our network libraries a lot already, and they really are the key to this whole operation. Working with network libraries is one of the ways that NLS is able to provide excellent service to patrons. Each library has reader advisors to help patrons find the books that they want or help them figure out how to use other parts of the library.

Many of our network libraries have super fun programming like book clubs and tech support, and stuff for younger readers like summer reading and newsletters full of great information. There are some network libraries with recording studios so they can produce accessible content of local interest. NLS really values the contributions of each of the network libraries.

The contributions of each of the network libraries, and we know that our patrons do too. So, in order to get library services, people who qualify for a service need to sign up with their network library. You'll need to have someone certify how you qualify. So, what print disability do you have? But you don't need to go to the doctor for that. Librarians are able to certify that you're qualified for service, but so are other professionals, like physical and occupational therapists, rehab professionals, and, of course, educators, doctors, and other health professionals.

And once you're in, you're in. You only have to check out a book or get a magazine once a year to keep your service active. or get a magazine once a year to keep your service active. You can even subscribe to the NLS calendar, which you'll get annually, and that'll keep your status active. And if I haven't mentioned it yet, it's a completely free service.

There's no charge to anybody. So, once you're a patron, what can you expect from NLS? So, once you're a patron, what can you expect from NLS? Yeah. What do we have to offer? Well,  first, we have a huge collection of titles available both in audio and braille. And one of the exciting things about our collection development at NLS is that we collect for the whole country across all genres and ages.

It's super important for us that our patrons can see themselves in the collection and are able to read books that give them both that window into other people's perspectives but also a mirage of their own. So, we're really proud of the diversity in our collection, and we really strive to maintain that.

We collect all the bestsellers, of course, and huge numbers of westerns and serials and of course mysteries and romance. And some of the books that we produce are narrated in NLS studios. We have studios both in our offices in Washington, D.C., but we also work with producers who narrate titles for us. But a lot of the books that we do are available commercially.

So, we have relationships with audiobook producers who make their content available to us at no cost, which is amazing and is a huge part of the reason why we're able to make, last year we made over 12,000 titles available. So, using these audio files that are provided by publishers saves us both time and money.

We don't have to pay for the narration of the titles, but also we don't have to spend time doing the narration, so we can release them closer to that release date in the marketplace, which is super important for highly-anticipated titles. And all the titles that are in like book clubs and things like that.

So, like I mentioned before, all of our braille is transcribed and proofread by certified braille transcribers, and our audio is all human voice narration. And I'll talk a little bit more about our international collection later, but we have many languages available in the collection. It’s primarily Spanish, and that's also in audio and braille formats.

So, we also offer great programming like the summer reading program and some great monthly and quarterly, very patron-focused programming that's sponsored by the patron engagement section here at NLS. And you can attend these monthly conversations. They’re all online, they're like a Zoom call. And you can get technical skill building and you can learn all about how to better use our awesome download service. It's called BARD.

It stands for Braille and Audio Reading Download, and it's where patrons can immediately access the collection and most of our electronic titles, which is most of the books created in the last 20 years. So, we've got lots of technical skill-building opportunities. We have people on staff who are technical experts, accessibility experts, and we try to give as many programming opportunities for them to work with patrons so we can make sure that everybody has the skills that they need to access the content that they want to check out.

So, downloading is just one of our ways to access our content. It's super popular because, unlike other reading platforms that you might have at the library, our books never expire, and you never have to return them. So, there's lots of reasons to check out our BARD app. And we have got lots of support available for people who might want some technical assistance with that.

So, it's not just about BARD. You know, we have lots of other ways to access our NLS content. So, just like with the books and magazines, you know, all the devices are free. We make them available just, you know, if people need access, you know, they don't want to necessarily use BARD, or maybe they want to have multiple ways of accessing their content.

So, we've always provided devices. So, we started out with record players, and then we had years and years and years of cassette players, and now we have the Digital Talking-Book Machine. And that plays our audiobooks on cartridge. So, these are digital talking books. And they come to you on a USB memory device.  

It's kind of like the size of a deck of cards.  It's got a plastic shell on top of it, and it can easily hold tons of books. And so, they are mailed through the they just come through the postal service at no cost. And then when you're done with it, then you just turn over the mail card  and mail it right back to the library.

So, it's a great system, and we've used it for decades. So, it's proven to work, and it's something that's super popular for people who like to get their content that way. So, we also have a braille e-reader, so patrons can use that to access electronic braille using the BARD system as well. But we also have braille on demand, and that's for hardcopy versions of those electronic titles.

We'll talk a little bit more about that later in our braille modernization conversation. And we always have our hard copy circulating braille. So, our goal is to provide patrons with the content that they want in the format that they prefer. And, you know, by continuing to have conversations with patrons and our network libraries and try to keep understanding that you know, how people are reading books, what's changing, you know, what's available, we're able to really adapt and remain a vital and useful service for our patrons.

So, one of the really exciting things that's happening at NLS is our braille modernization project. And it's a complete rethink of what we thought we knew about braille production and distribution, as well as a commitment to ensuring that the goals and objectives related to braille receive the attention and the funding that they deserve.

So, braille modernization has been elevated internally as an NLS performance school. And that might not mean a lot to people on the call, but it's definitely something that's important at the library. It gives it a lot of visibility, but also a lot of support, you know, at the highest levels of decision-making. So, we've really made it clear that braille is important to us. You know, braille modernized is something that we want to commit to, and we want to be able to, you know, track and have oversight over and really demonstrate our commitment to that.

So, we're excited, needless to say, to have braille modernization be such an important project for the library. And we're working really hard to achieve our targets. So, overall, we're developing ways to improve all the elements of braille production and distribution. And we know that our patrons are a sophisticated group of library users and expect to have like a similarly sophisticated braille collection available to them.

So, we're working with experts in the field, both in the U.S. and overseas, to learn more about how different libraries are creating and circulating braille. And we're always thinking about the goal of ensuring patrons have access, you know, easy access, independent access, complete access, and informative access to our braille.

And, of course, you know, audio materials. So, the NLS reader was one of the very beginning of the braille modernization at NLS. So, of course, you know, e-readers and note takers and refreshable braille displays have been around for a while. But NLS patrons were always in kind of a BYO situation, bring your own, when it came to accessing a lot of electronic braille files.

But luckily, our now-retired director, Karen Keninger, saw this as a real opportunity to expand the services that NLS offers to our patrons. And she worked with our Office of General Counsel to expand our legislation to allow for e-readers, not just audiobook players, but braille e-readers, to be made available to our patrons, which is awesome.

And it began a real braille revolution for us at NLS with so many patrons downloading so many more braille titles from BARD, it was easy to see that, you know, there were a ton of braille readers who were really excited about having this instant access that the e-reader provided. So, just for reference, you know, the e-reader connects to your computer, and you can download titles directly.

You can also use like a cartridge, and you can download titles. But basically what happens is, you know, previously braille books would come, you know, one book at a time, and they would be in huge amounts, huge volumes. And they would just take up so much space. And once you ordered one, if you didn't like it, it turns out you're kind of, you know, out of luck, because this was the book that you had, and it was huge.

So, it was such a commitment, right, to choose a book. And we only had so many books. You know, if one person had it checked out, then, you know, another person would have to wait. But the e-reader really changed all of this because you could have any title that was available on BARD. You could download it to your e-reader and then read the first page and decide you didn't like it and, you know, not continue reading it.

So, you could also access, you know, 300 books in one day if you wanted to check out a bunch of different titles. And there was really no like space commitment and there was no waiting. So, it really was a game changer for so many people who have kind of like been used to that traditional library model of circulating hardcopy braille. Changing to the e-reader was really fantastic.

And then, you know, it was really great to see so many people were downloading so many titles right away. Like these e-readers are really getting a workout. So, we were super excited about that. And then we, you know, for the production side, we worked with two well-known braille device manufacturers.

So, the products that we offer a very similar to the ones that people are familiar with, which probably cut down on some of the learning curve. And it really helped integrate them into our suite of services. But we also spent a lot of time in pilot mode, you know, learning about how people experience the e-readers, you know, how well they were able to use them.

We did a lot of feedback documentation, adjusting parts of the rollout, and training. And, you know, we rolled out the e-readers state by state to make sure that each state had the right training and support. But now we're happy to report that every state has e-readers. And if there's anyone within the sound of my voice who is interested in an e-reader, you can just reach out to your network library for access.

And, you know, this is an especially great service for kids and people who are provided their assistive tech through the schools. I was visiting last year the Oklahoma School for the Blind, and I was talking to the kids about how getting the NLS e-reader is something that they could like take home on breaks and they can put their recreational reading on it.

And it's also something that you can keep after you leave school. So, you know, once you are signed up for NLS services, you maintain your status as a patron. If you signed up in school, you know, you don't, you know, age out of it. And so you can keep your e-reader and you can keep that assistive technology even after you leave school. So, braille e-readers can also access bookshare material.

And I know a lot of states subsidize patron access to bookshare. So, that's another really great advantage of the e-reader. Overall. It's just it's a great way for us to kind of like kick off this braille modernization project. And it really set the stage for some other things that we were able to do later. So, one of the natural outcomes of the e-reader was a little bit of worry about the future of hardcopy braille at NLS, which totally makes sense.

You know, hardcopy is such a great way to read. I know I much prefer turning pages to swiping when I'm reading books. And as it turns out, you know, braille readers feel the same way. So, this is where our braille on demand project really came in as a lovely like complement to the e-reader. So, braille on demand will let an NLS patron order up to five books a month in hard copy braille, and they'll be sent directly to that patron, and then that patron can keep them and use them until they're finished with the book.

And sometimes people keep books for a really long time. So, these books have to be BARD, right. They have to be in electronic format so that we can emboss them. Actually, we work with a producer for that. But that's really the only limitation. You know, we have had people order the whole Harry Potter series. You know, people have been ordering, you know, their favorite books.

Maybe they order some reference books. Cookbooks have been super popular for people since it's so much easier to read a recipe in hard copy. But I also think a lot of people are using the e-reader more to maybe like check and see if they're interested in a book, maybe check that first chapter and if it looks compelling, like, you know something, you want to commit the space to, right, then they can order hardcopy version of those titles.

So, you can see the combination of the e-reader and braille on demand is a really awesome and, you know, modern way of approaching braille distribution. And since we started the little braille on demand project, we've produced almost 7,500 unique books for over a thousand people. And I think that that's super exciting for us and for braille, too.

You know, it's great to see people engaging in braille and trying new things and, you know, committing to some titles and, you know, really committing to maybe even getting back into reading braille if that was something that they got away from. And I said it before, but I really mean it. We really want people to be able to read the books that they want in the format that they prefer.

And that really extends to e-readers versus hardcopy. You know, you should have access to all of the titles, and you can read them on the e-reader, you know, if you're traveling or if that's the way that you prefer it or, you know, if you want to explore something in hardcopy, then that's another great way to do it.

So, having electronic braille and braille on demand has been a really wonderful combination, especially as it relates to titles acquired through the Marrakesh Treaty, because those titles are exclusively digital, aka electronic. And so, 2023 marks ten years since the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty, which allows for the exchange of accessible works across borders. And statutory and regulatory changes were necessary before NLS could exchange books.

We had to get the Copyright Office to work with us and the Office of General Counsel to get these updates made available. And then in July of 2020, we began exchanging books with the world. Hooray! And since then, NLS has added over 6,500 books. It's 6,585 exactly at the moment that I made this presentation to the collection.

And so those 6,585 books were obtained from over 32 other countries under the Marrakesh Treaty, and they include accessible audiobooks and braille books and braille music scores. And they're in 26 different languages, and, you know, vice versa NLS has shared nearly 200,000 titles in those same formats, and we share them through the Accessible Book Consortium's Global Book Service Catalog.

And you might hear us talk about ABC or GBS, and that's what that is. So, these titles that we've shared have been downloaded almost 12,000 times by groups either libraries or organizations for the blind in almost 49 different countries. And the books that we have acquired through Marrakesh are also really popular. Our download statistics are a way that we can kind of track what people are interested in.

And it seems like, you know, patrons have a real interest in books that we've obtained via the Marrakesh Treaty, which is fantastic. So, of those, you know, 6,585 books that we have added to the collection, they've been downloaded over 113,000 times. I mean, that's really that's quite fantastic. So, these numbers are really great to see. And you can see that the Marrakesh Treaty has been great for us.

We're able to add a lot of titles to the collection, and they're really interesting. But there is also a financial advantage to not recreating all of these books by being able to go and, you know, access them from the ABC portal. You know, we don't have to necessarily, you know, pay for them to be created. We do have to do some, you know, turn them into our format and stuff like that.

But that work is that's kind of almost more administrative work than it is, you know, the narration work that goes into creating an audiobook or the transcription that makes a braille book. So, there's this super great financial advantage, like I said, to not recreating every book. And so I've got a great story. I think it's a great story about how the exchange of books has really helped NLS and also helped other libraries for the blind.

So, a while ago, we did this very wildly popular but extremely long series, The Song of Ice and Fire, which you might know as Game of Thrones. I guess they changed the name to put it on TV. And we made it in braille, right. And we had tactile maps and it was like a gazillion volumes. It took almost a year to make for the transcription and proofreading, and it took about half a million dollars.

And you know, that was a big commitment, right. So, the next time there was another big one, Outlander, is a similarly-sized series, and even though we had received numerous patron requests, we you know, we were really thinking twice about making this Outlander series because it required this huge amount of time and money.

So, it would suck up a bunch of other books, you know, to make this one book. But fortunately, the Royal National Institute of the Blind in the United Kingdom was similarly situated. They had made Outlander in braille, but they were interested in the Game of Thrones. So, we were able to exchange them across borders. Thanks to Marrakesh, we provided them with, you know, through the ABC portal with the Game of Thrones book, and then we were able to have access from them to the Outlander series.

So, this exchange, like I said, would have been prohibited just a few years ago. But it saved NLS and RNIB tons of money and tons of time. And then also all of the other participating countries, you know, were able to take advantage of these titles as well. So, it's been really great, especially for some under-resourced countries, but also, you know, just people with kind of like realistic budgets.

These books are really long. It's great when we can exchange, you know, small books also. But this one is a particularly great example, I think, because of the popularity, but also just because of the size and the time and the money commitment. So, we really were able to double our money thanks to Marrakesh. So, patrons can, if you're interested, you can get these books, you can get the Game of Thrones books or the Outlander book or any of these other books from Marrakesh.

You can either download them to your e-reader or, you know, if you're anything like me, you'll order them braille on demand. So, check those out and see how great it is for us to, you know, be able to work with these other countries. So, a lot of books that we've gotten from Marrakesh are in English. But, you know, NLS also serves patrons who prefer to read in languages other than English.

And, you know, we've always collected in international, well always the last couple of decades, you know, we've been collecting in international languages, but it's been difficult to do. So, you know, we have, thanks to Marrakesh, been able to fulfill far more patron requests for items in languages like Albanian, Croatian, Finnish, Hebrew, Somali, Urdu, and many others.

So, prior to Marrakesh, we would have had to decline these requests, or it would have taken just years to track something down. But now, when patrons ask for items like this is for real Nietzsche in Spanish or Tolstoy in Finnish, you know, we can obtain those books and make them available to patrons within weeks, if not days.

So, patrons who lost their sight later in life are now able to read in their native language after thinking they might never be able to again. So, that's really exciting for us. And we're also able to, you know, say to people who might not have considered NLS before, you know, hey, we've got books in your preferred languages in the collection.

You know, it's something that you should check out. So, Marrakesh has been really exciting. It's a new thing for us and, you know, our e-reader and our braille on demand system work really well with that. So, we would encourage people, you know, to explore all of the new titles that we've been able to acquire internationally. So, that's a little bit about how much we've accomplished.

So, let me tell you some more about some of the things that we're planning on piloting this year, 2024. So, the first is tactile graphics. Now, you may say to yourself, hey, you've been doing graphics for years, this isn't new. But that is one of the cool parts of our braille modernization project, is that we're rethinking all the things that we've done for years. And tactile graphics have been waiting for a rethink for a while now.

So, traditionally, NLS has used tactile graphics to represent essential images from a print book, like a map. And my favorite example is back to the Game of Thrones, where the map is really key to understanding the whole story. But there's only one map, and it's in the front of the first volume of the hardcopy braille, and it's the circulating hardcopy braille.

So, what if somebody lost the volume? You know, getting another one is pretty impossible. And also, what if you're an audiobook reader, you're never going to have access to that map. So, we're thinking, what if we reimagined tactile graphics and took them out of the hardcopy book and let them stand by themselves?

So, this way you can still have access to this information. It's a map or drawing or a chart or graph or whatever. Even if you prefer to read an audio or you like to use the e-reader, or maybe you ordered the book braille on demand and it doesn't have the graphics in there. So, if we made tactile graphics its own product that can be ordered no matter the book format that you prefer, then I think we're one step closer to the content that you want in the format that you prefer, which is, you know, my goal for everything.

So, practically, we're starting the pilot program in 2024, you know, we love a pilot, right. And we are going to work out the details just like we did for the e-reader and the braille on demand. And pilots are a great way for us to be able to experiment with outcomes. Kind of learn from our inevitable mistakes and improve the product. And I want to expand our tactile graphics, though, not just from like a tiger or maybe some sort of like embossed collage or something.

I want to expand our tactile graphics into 3D printed objects, especially for things that are abstract, like clouds or like maybe dangerous, like bees. I think we could really help people, including students and teachers, have a new way to access library materials. And all we need to do is think a little beyond, it’s the braille and beyond what we're doing currently.

So, you know, braille and beyond is our theme for today. So, reaching for that sense of the beyond is really important to me. And I think that you can see what we hope to get from it. So, another beyond moment is also another pilot project. We like these. We're calling it Express Braille.

Basically, it's the result of us doing some more of that rethinking. So, traditionally, really since the beginning of the program, NLS has used hardcopy braille books or hardcopy print books as the source for braille materials, which worked great because that's really all there was. All the books were, you know, created in hardcopy print format.

So, eventually we got so fancy as to use like OCR software so it would chop up the print book and then scan it to get an electronic version. But even then we have been really limited in the number of books that we can produce annually because each book requires so much time from proofreaders, transcribers and proofreaders.

And that's been great on one hand, because our braille is really high quality. But like I said, it's kind of a bummer on the other hand, because the number of titles that we're able to add to the collection is really small relative to the number of audio titles, but also to the number of titles that are, you know, made available in the world in print.

So, now we've got another e-books, right. So, flash fast forward, you know, however long, but now here we are and there are e-books and there are really great braille transcription software. And we think it's time to expand our braille production methods to leverage the things that weren't available then, but are very much available now.

So, for Express Braille, what we're going to do is create essentially a new product, which is also very much an existing product, you know, electronic braille. But we're going to think about do it, creating it in a different way. So, we're going to select titles that require very little human intervention.

Like, that's a real key to this is that we're really looking for those like very linear reads, Danielle Steel, James Patterson, John Grisham, just straight reads without complex formatting, no charts, no tables, no images, nothing that we really need a transcriber to get in and create or recreate in a braille format.

So, we are also not going to do that same level of proofreading, which is 100% proofreading at the producer side. And that's going to give us a chance to do more books because there'll be less time required and therefore the cost will also be lower. So, we are really taking advantage of this kind of like e-book to braille format change using kind of like really reliable transcription software and choosing books that will lend themselves to that process.

So, we don't want to choose a book that's going to, you know, cause a failure or not provide all of the information. We really want to make sure that the books that we select for Express Braille are appropriate for that, and it's going to help us kind of like shift our limited capacity in production to something, you know, a larger number of books.

But I think another thing that's going to help us with, it's going to help us use the money that we have for our braille production and save it for a much more complex material that really do require that human transcriber and proofreader. So, I don't think that we're ever going to move away from that, you know, experience with the human transcriber and proofreader, making sure that the everything makes sense.

And, you know, the way that the book is laid out is good and it, you know, comports with all of the standards. you know, comports with all of the standards. But I think for these certain types of books, like I said, for these very linear kind of like novels, this Express Braille is going to give us a chance to create more content for less money, which is, you know, going to be able to expand our braille collection, which is really important as part of the braille modernization.

And that brings us to just another goal that's worth mentioning, which is part of, you know, our suite of modernization, you know, ideas, and that's braille and audio parity. And I'm always really careful about how I pronounce that so no one thinks I'm saying parody. So, just to be clear, we want to accomplish producing braille and audio in equal numbers.

Historically, braille has always had much lower numbers than the audiobook production, and I really want to have those produced in equal numbers. And it's going to take us a while to get there. That much I know. But projects like Express Braille are really going to help us augment our current production numbers and improve that ratio of braille to audio.

So, you can see these things kind of build on each other and then they're all of these are helping us achieve, you know, different goals and improve the program as we go along. And so expanding our braille content, like the type of braille books that we do, is also something that I want to mention as part of our modernization and improvement of the collection. So, we've begun producing probably in the last couple of years, books that are both audio and braille.

And this is we call them hybrid braille and audio. And they're worth mentioning, even though we've so far have really only used it for language learning books. So, like the audio portion is obviously audio, but then you can order the hard copy, hard copy braille as a workbook, or maybe you want to read it on your e-reader, but that will give you a chance to really dig into that spelling and grammar and know more about the language that you're learning, not just from the audio side.

So, that's one of the ways that we're kind of leveraging this capacity to do braille and audio together. And another project in that same kind of idea of braille and audio that working together. It's a project that we've recently started is this creation of braille It's a project that we've recently started is this creation of braille versions of audio scripts that we use for graphic novels.

So, what happens is when there's a graphic novel that we want to create in an accessible format, we write a script. And it's made up of the print material from the images, you know, like the little text bubbles of, you know, the things that the characters are seeing. And it's interspersed with the descriptions of the art. So, it's a really nice, it flows really nicely.

It works really well. And in fact, I'd encourage anyone who's interested in reading a really good example of this. It's a grown-up comic book, but it's Maus, M A U S, and I think you'll really enjoy it if you're interested in kind of like getting a sample about how these books are created. And so what we have done is we've realized that we've got this great script right, and we've made it in an audio version.

But we were thinking that making it in a braille version would also be useful because I'm sure that there are some people who prefer to read braille books, but they also want to get the described images right so you can have the advantage of reading this completely described graphic novel but in a braille format. So, we've started doing that with some of our more sophisticated graphic novel audio scripts.

And I think it's a really fun way to read comic books. And I would encourage people to, you know, check those out just as an idea about ways that NLS or kind of expanding its content and looking for ways to, you know, provide patrons with lots of like cool content that's maybe a little bit different than things that we've been traditionally making.

And then just one more other type of hybrid book that we produced at NLS, it's in an audio format, right. So, I mentioned earlier, and I'll bring it up again just in this context, is that books that are made for, like the commercial marketplace are not necessarily accessible. And if there's an audiobook that includes recipes for examples, the recipes are usually not narrated.

They're provided as a printed supplement like as a PDF. And we really want to make sure that our patrons have fully accessible experiences. So, we narrate those print parts and then we stitch them together with the commercial audio to create like an entirely accessible book. And this way no information is left behind, and we're still able to take advantage of the excellent narration and production quality of the commercial content.

But, you know, we're also able to provide for our patrons an audio version of the otherwise print material. So, that's another type of hybrid where we're kind of like leveraging things that are from two different sources, but combining them to create a much more fully accessible experience. So, as far as expanding the sources that we get content from, you know, we're always looking for ways to expand, you know, who we're working with, meeting new people, other braille producers.

And so we are always looking for, like I said, groups who make high quality braille that our patrons would be interested in so we can see about, you know, leveraging some of their work and adding it to the collection. It's kind of like, you know, domestic Marrakesh. And so we are always looking for those types of things.

And that's another way that we are expanding the content or the sources of content. So, we are working with network libraries and like I said, other braille producing organizations to be able to, you know, add additional braille content to the collection. We'll be making that available to our patrons as well.

And all of those are also available for the braille on demand program, which is really nice. So, I have a couple of book recommendations to close out my presentation. Would it be a library presentation without some book recommendations? The first ones are technology books. I thought that would be fun for the T and T A C. So, we've got Video Chatting for Seniors. We've got Windows 11 for Seniors, we've got iPad for Seniors, and something called Is This Thing On?, which is all about how to use Zoom technology and do conference calls and stuff like that.

So, those are all available in our collection. Some are braille, and some are audio. I've included the book numbers in the slide and those are great, recommended by one of our collection development librarians. And then we've also got some finance books. I noticed on the website that that was something that was of interest to this group.

So, I thought I would include some of those. We've got Estate Planning 101, New Retirement Savings Time Bomb. Wow, that sounds scary. Downsizing the Family Home and then Everyday Law For Seniors. So, this is just a little sample of some of the books that I thought might be interesting. Not a lot of books, but on these slides, I have to say.

But we have tons and tons more books in the collection, and any reader advisor at your network library would be happy to help you find books that you're interested in, be they technology books, or maybe financial planning kind of books or novels or, you know, graphic novels, you never know what you might be interested in.

So, we have tons of content, and we've got a lot of people around the country who would be really interested in helping you find something good to read today. And so, how can you get started? I've included our 888 number here, as well as links to our website. Our 888 number is 888-657-7323. And hopefully, you'll be able to access these slides.

They have hyperlinks for the websites and then also access to our Spanish language websites, entirely in Spanish. So, that's really helpful for people who prefer to read, read their websites in Spanish. But I'll also give you my email just in case you don't have access to those slides or the hyperlinks aren't working, and it's

So, that's my email at work. And if you have any trouble accessing your network libraries, or you want to sign up for service and you need something, or maybe you have some other information that you think I should have, I'd love to hear from you, some other information that you think I should have, I'd love to hear from you, that'd be fantastic.

So, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to talk to you about NLS Braille and Beyond. And you can see that we're working on all kinds of new things, and we're always thinking about how we can make a better library service for anybody who has a print disability. And, you know, the motto of NLS is That All May Read, and I hope that I've given you an idea about what we're doing now to make that a reality. Thank you so much.

Funding statement: The Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC) is a development of the National Research & Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) at Mississippi State University, focused on agencies serving older individuals who are blind. This grant, H177Z200001, is funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) under the U.S. Department of Education. 

Contact us: To contact the presenter, Alice O'Reilly, email For more information about OIB-TAC, please visit our website, Also, visit our other NRTC websites, and Visit NRTC on Facebook at and on X/Twitter at Our mailing address is P.O. Box 6189, 205 Morgan Avenue, Mississippi State, MS 39762. Our phone number is 662.352.2001.

Jennifer Ottowitz: This has been OIB-TAC’s monthly webinar. Thanks for tuning in. Find recordings of our past webinars on our YouTube channel, and discover all of our many resources at O I B hyphen T A C dot O R G. That’s Like us on social media and share our resources with your colleagues and friends. Until next time.

Suggested Reading From NLS

Check out these examples of book lists prepared by NLS.  Patrons of NLS programs may contact their local network library to request a book list on a topic of their choice, including preferred formats. In the lists provided, reference numbers beginning with the letter D are audio books, while those beginning with the letter B are in braille format. Books may be ordered online or by contacting the local network library by phone. Refer to the contact information above to find the local network in your area or to access online catalogs and order forms.

Technology Books

  • Video Chatting for Seniors by Nick Vandome: DB 104705/BR 23912 (BR in process)
  • Windows 11 For Seniors for Dummies by Curt Simmons: DB 109228
  • iPad for Seniors for Dummies by Dwight Spivey: coming soon (in process for narration)
  • Is This Thing On? By Abigail Stokes: DB 75394

Finance Books

  • Estate Planning 101 by Vicki Cook: DB 104993/BR 23909
  • New Retirement Savings Time Bomb by Ed Slott: DB 103133
  • Downsizing the Family Home by Marni Jameson: DB 95085
  • Everyday Law for Seniors by Lawrence Frolik: DB 71877

This downloadable book list contains titles of stories written by people who are blind or vision impaired about their lived experiences.  Recommending one or more of these titles may be helpful for individuals as they discover a “new normal” and navigate the path to adjustment.



Headshot of Alice O'Reilly, a woman with red hair wearing a light brown top with a beaded necklace.Alice O’Reilly is the Chief, Collection Division at the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled, Library of Congress. She works with an amazing team creating accessible content in audio and braille form for people who are print disabled. Alice has worked at NLS for over 15 years in various roles, each focused on accessibility and content creation. Before coming to NLS, Alice studied at the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oregon School of Law.