A 2006 Report from our Library

A 2006 Report from our Library

By Catherine Durivage, Director, Minnesota Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Faribault

(Editor’s Note:  This presentation was given at the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota annual convention on September 30, 2006.)

I want to thank Joyce Scanlan for extending an invitation to me to speak at your conference this year.  New Ulm is a wonderful city.  I have been here a couple of times before.  One time was around Christmas.  I enjoyed visiting all the shops; which I hope to do yet today.

We are in the process of writing our next newsletter.  I am trying hard to produce four per year.  It has been hard the past year or so with personnel changes and a new automation system.  This next one should be out sometime in October.

I generally do not rattle off a bunch of statistics when I go out and speak to groups.  Sometimes that can get quite boring.  However, I think it important to note just how busy the library has been the last couple of years.  Between June 2005 and June 2006 we have seen a 15% increase in the number of active readers of the library.  An active reader is someone who borrowed an item from the library, whether that item is a book or magazine.  Now, this figure only includes what our computer system tracks.  Not any other item we may mail out, like a catalog or application.  We currently serve over 11,500 patrons.  The other statistic I would like to note is that when you compare the months between October 2004 and May 2005 to October 2005 and May 2006, you will find an 8% increase in our circulation.  We average between 1,200 to 1,500 items mailed out every day.  The library is a busy place.  We like that, but it can result in us getting behind in checking materials in. I am happy to report that we do not have that problem now, but we did over the summer and I know it was frustrating not to have books set out as quickly.  I instituted some changes to correct the backlog and if another one happens in the future, we have ways to deal with it.  I want to express my appreciation for your patience and understanding.

Now, for some exciting news.  The Library was a recipient of some grant money from the State Library Agency at the Minnesota Department of Education to purchase some self-playing digital books called Playaway.  I brought some with me so that you can try them out if you would like.  The Playaways are about the size of a deck of cards.  They hold anywhere from 6 to 20 hours of recording.  All you need to listen to them is a set of headphones that we can provide, if requested.  Otherwise, you can use almost any headphone, speakers or car adaptors because the device comes with a universal headphone jack.

The Library will loan the Playaways, hopefully starting in October.  A list of titles in braille, large print, audio, and on the web will be available.  Like I indicated earlier, we will provide headphones, but we ask that you keep them because we do not have the means to sanitize them.  We will also loan the devices with one battery, which should be enough to listen to the book one time.  However, if the battery does run out, feel free to replace it.  It takes one AAA battery.

The title selection is pretty vast.  There are current bestsellers available as well as children and classics.  I am excited to be able to offer the Playaways to you as the means to be introduced to the digital format.  They are nice in that they are self-contained and very portable.

We still loan descriptive videos.  We updated the large print listing of titles and are in the process of updating the braille version.  You search our online catalog for available titles and a list of titles also appears on our Web site.  We purchase new descriptive videos every couple of months.

The Library still participates in a virtual reference service called InfoEyes.  InfoEyes offers people with visual impairments the ability to communicate with librarians over the Internet using screen readers, text and voice chat and email.  You can use this service to ask just about any question, whether it is about this service or something entirely different.  You may have read about this service as it was featured in the July/August issue of Talking Book Topics.  For more information about this service, visit www.infoeyes.org.

I know that many of you are interested in knowing more about the move to a digital format.  I attended the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped conference in Maine last May.  The focus of the entire conference was pretty much about moving to a digital format.  The National Library Service (NLS) still expects to introduce both a player and digital book by 2008.

I will share with you some information about the player and the cartridge.

Digital Player and Cartridge

  1. Smaller machine-1/3 the size of current cassette player with cord storage
  2. Lighter – ½ the weight of current cassette player
  3. Player more durable; no moving parts
  4. Easier to clean as there are no sharp corners or ridges
  5. More portable-recessed handle; can add straps (will not be included or offered from NLS)
  6. Significantly better audio quality in both high and low frequencies
  7. Simpler to use than easy cassette player
  8. Autoplay feature
  9. Audio description for each key when no cartridge is loaded
  10. Less force is needed to operate keys (no extension lever needed)
  11. No slide knobs, instead up and down buttons
  12. Jack for headphones; adaptor will be available so existing headphone stock will work
  13. Advanced machine will have more features like skipping through chapters and adding bookmarks; will remember bookmarks (saved in player)
  14. Can run by remote control
  15. Longer battery run time-greater than 15 hours on battery
  16.  Can player MP3, WAV, AMR-W+ (NLS), Daisy formats
  17. Can find out the number of battery charge cycles so you know when to replace batteries
  18. Low-battery announcement
  19. Machine can remain plugged in as it will remain cool
  20. Machine shuts off after 30 minutes of inactivity
  21. Sleep mode program—will stop after a preset time-must be set
  22. On/Off switch
  23. Instructions will be built into player
  24. Cartridge will be easier to insert; insert from front of machine
  25. Machine can be pre-programmed for English or Spanish instructions.

Digital Initiative Schedule:

August 2006  –– Fully functional player prototype ready

February 2007 –– Beta test of player (100 players will be built)

May 2007 ––  Final design specifications for player, cartridge & container finished

August 2007 –– Identify firms that can produce player, cartridge & container and release RFP

April 2008 –– Launch digital talking book

Thank you again for allowing me to speak at your conference.  I know I might not have included everything that you may be interested in knowing about, but feel free to contact me personally.  I enjoy hearing from you.