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Braille Institute's library opens pages of possibility for readers

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Richard Ybarra

"Braille Institute helps our adult students live a fulfilling life. Often Braille Institute is the first place someone comes after a diagnosis of vision loss, and they come in not knowing what to do. After I show someone how to use the free digital talking book machine that we offer, they leave laughing and relaxed – they have hope now," says Louise Zuckerman, Braille Institute San Diego Regional Library Coordinator.

Reading allows us to open our minds to new ways of thinking, and experience the joy of using our imagination to process stories and ideas. National Library Week, recognized April 12-18 this year, reminds us how literature and scholarship enhance our lives. This annual event, first sponsored in 1958 by the American Library Association (ALA), celebrates the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians.

Library services for people with low vision and other disabilities

Braille Institute San Diego's free Library Services program gives people with low or no vision access to free reading materials in multiple formats, enabling them to read books in Braille or listen to books and periodicals digitally. Services are accessible online, as well as by mail, phone, or in-person.

Braille Institute San Diego's Branch Library is part of the Southern California Regional Library of the Library of Congress' National Library Service (NLS). NLS coordinates Library Services' network of Regional Libraries that circulate free braille and audio materials. Braille Institute's Library is not only for patrons with vision impairment; it's open to anyone with a physical, reading, or learning disability that makes it difficult to read or hold a book (including dyslexia, ADHD, Parkinson's disease, and more).

"Braille Institute's excellent library services, along with our unique relationship with NLS, allows us to offer ‘talking book' reading as a continued activity in the lives of thousands of people each year," says Richard Ybarra, Executive Director, Braille Institute San Diego.

The right book(s) in the right format(s)

"We have 11,000 digital books onsite. Patrons whose kids live on the East Coast have their kids order books for them. They tell us what genre the parent is interested in and how many books they want each week or month, and we send them the books," says Zuckerman.

Reader Advisor volunteers are on hand to help library patrons select from more than 100,000 free titles and nearly one million volumes in the digitized online collection. Then, the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) program helps readers download free audio books via a USB flashdrive, which is played on a digital player that patrons receive for free. The digital player comes in English or in Spanish, and it can change the speed or tone of reader's voice.

Braille Institute also offers the Telephone Reader Program (TRP) and an accompanying mobile app. TRP enables Library patrons to sign up for free telephone access to national and local news, advertisements, magazines, radio shows, and more programs in both English and Spanish.

So during this year's National Library Week, help others continue to enrich their lives through literacy, by letting them know all the ways that they can access free reading and audio materials available through Braille Institute San Diego's Library.

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To connect with Braille Institute San Diego, call 1-800-BRAILLE, visit BrailleInstitute.org, or email Richard Ybarra at RMYbarra@brailleinstitute.org.

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