News from Our Library

News from Our Library

By Catherine Durivage, Director, Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library

(Editor’s Note:  This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on October 8, 2011.)

Thank you, Jennifer.  Hello.  My name is Catherine Durivage.  I am the Library Director at the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library. Thank you for extending an invitation to me to speak at your annual conference again this year.


Over the past few years when I have come to speak to you about the library we seemed to be facing some type of budget and/or service challenges.  This year was particularly challenging because we were closed in July during the state government shutdown.  It was painful to tell you that we were closing and unable to provide you library service for what ended up being close to three full weeks.  When we came back we were faced with 37 mail bins, 79 voicemail messages and almost 100 emails.  And, we had one less person on staff due to a retirement at the end of June.  However, everyone chipped in and we were able to clear the majority of our backlog by the end of August.  We are not caught up on everything, but all the incoming mail received during the shutdown has been processed, primarily because we are sending more digital books out than cassettes.  It does not take as much time to inspect a digital book, making the over inspection process quicker.

And speaking of digital, we have turned a corner in that digital circulation now exceeds cassette circulation.  Final numbers are not quite ready, but our circulation from Faribault for the year ending September 30 was over 314,000 items.  This figure is slightly less than last year, but our closure in July accounts for this difference.

BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) usage continues to increase.  We have over 740 individual BARD users and now Institutions can access BARD.  Since October 1 of last year almost 43,000 books and magazines have been downloaded by Minnesota BARD users.  As an aside, the most popular book download in September was Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, DB073300 and the most popular subject was suspense books.  Last month, mystery and detective books was the most popular subject, so it can vary from month to month.

The National Library Service plans to merge Web-Braille into BARD by year’s end.  They also plan to make some improvements to search options and BARD’s overall interface, though there is no exact timetable on when changes will be implemented.

NLS is still investigating converting audio magazines to digital.  There will probably be a pilot project sometime next year, at the earliest.  In the meantime, magazines will continue to be sent by mail on cassette.  You can also download current and back issues of magazines from Minnesota BARD.

NLS is looking into developing a BARD app for smart phones.  It is definitely one of their priorities going into 2012.  So, for those of you that have a computer and access to the Internet we really encourage you to register for Minnesota BARD to download books and magazines.  You have 24/7 access to over 22,000 titles. For more information about Minnesota BARD visit

We continue to contact patrons about the new digital players.  The National Library Service developed some nicely designed postcards that we are sending to people who have yet to receive the new machines.  The postcard has been much more successful than any other method of contact we made other than calling people directly on the telephone.


As I mentioned last year, NLS ceased cassette production as of October 1, 2010, so we have not received any new cassette books since that time.  But, since we are now only receiving audio books on cartridges, we have increased our checkout limit for digital books.  The maximum number of digital books one can have out at a time is 25.  Now, if you use BARD, there is no checkout limit.

We still receive questions about keeping the cassette players.  We strongly recommend keeping your cassette player since it will be awhile before our collection of digital titles will be sufficient in quantity.  NLS did recently announce that they plan to convert to digital all cassette titles except for those that are obsolete in terms of content, like medical or law books, or those titles whose original analog recording is not of significant quality to convert to digital.  NLS may instead re-record those titles.  It will be quite a number of years depending on funding before the majority of our cassette collection will be available in digital format.  All retro titles produced from cassette to digital will be available to download on Minnesota BARD.

NLS recently published its annual catalog of audio books.  They changed its name from Cassette Books to Digital Talking Books Plus.  The 2010 issue is expected to be mailed by month’s end.  If you would like a large print copy, let us know.  It will eventually be available on a digital cartridge and on Minnesota BARD to download.

As for other library news, NLS sent their network consultant to the library in August for their biennial visit.  MaryBeth Wise, a former NLS narrator, spent two days at the library meeting with staff.  She also spent a day at State Services for the Blind to meet staff involved with machine distribution.  She will prepare a report of her visit and provide us recommendations for service improvements.  We expect her report later this year.  Overall, it was a great visit.  She was duly impressed with our efforts to get through the shutdown backlog in record time.

Our Advisory Committee is seeking two new members to fill openings in 2012.  You need to complete an application available at the Secretary of State’s website or contact the library if you would like a copy emailed or sent by mail.  Members of the Advisory Committee meet quarterly, generally in Roseville at the Minnesota Department of Education, to discuss library issues and concerns.  Members are paid a per diem and travel expenses.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

The Library received a federal grant to help re-instate our local volunteer recording program.  Some of you may remember that we previously recorded the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, Minnesota History and books about Minnesota.  Due to budget and staffing issues, we ceased this program in 2009.  It has always been my goal to resume production of locally recorded books, so with this grant, we hope to begin this process again in 2012.  Hopefully, next year at this time I will be able to share with you our first digital recording.

As I mentioned earlier we have an open position due a retirement.  We hope to be able to fill this position and are committed to continuing efforts to increase staff here at the library.


It has been a pleasure being here today.  If there is time, I entertain questions.

Thank you.