Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

Braille and Talking Book Libraries

It seems lately that the blogs and listservs I’m reading have all started a conversation about focusing more on improving literacy for students with disabilities. One way to help your patrons who may not be receiving the help they need is to point them towards your local NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) library.

When I tell people that I work at a braille and talking book library, there are typically two reactions: people have no idea we exist and/or they have the misconception that we only provide materials for people who are blind. One of my library’s biggest initiatives is to raise awareness about our services and our target populations. In short, we specifically provide talking books and magazines and braille for people of all ages who are blind, visually impaired, or are otherwise physically unable to read standard print which includes organic reading disabilities.

Each state in the US has at least one library that provides materials to patrons who qualify for the NLS service (Find your local NLS library). To obtain service, a patron simply needs to fill out an application that’s very similar to the traditional library card application that most libraries use.

From there, patrons will be mailed a machine and talking books (pictured) or braille books based on their reading preferences. We customize the service to that patrons can receive materials automatically based on favorite authors, genres, reading levels or topics or we can send them books only when they specifically ask for a title. All of the materials are postage paid and members of the service just need to use the USPS to return them to their NLS library.

Many of the libraries that are part of the NLS network also have programming for their patrons including support groups, musical programs, art workshops and children’s activities suitable for those who qualify for the NLS service.




Jordan Boaz is the Children’s Librarian for the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, a branch of New York Public Library. She regularly plans innovative, inclusive programming and outreach for children with disabilities. Jordan is experienced with story times, summer reading programs and reader advisory. She currently serves on the Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers committee. She can be reached at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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