Alan Bentson is one of the two Readers Advisors at the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL). There are not many blind people working as readers advisors within the the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped program of the Library of Congress, so we are proud to have him working here, along with his colleague Wes Derby.
He was born in 1952 in Silver Spring, Maryland, but he grew up and got his education in Colorado. He went to public school until 10th grade, and completed high school at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs. “I benefitted from going to school in both environments,” he said. “I think all blind children would broaden their horizons by experiencing both forms of education.” He later majored in English at Colorado College.
Alan’s start with WTBBL was a natural fit. “When I moved to Bremerton in 1981,” he said, “practically the first thing I did was contact the WTBBL to see if they needed volunteers, and I’ve been there in one capacity or another ever since.” “Now in his 31st year working at WTBBL, Alan teaches me something every day,” says program manager Danielle Miller.
He worked for WTBBL as a page for two years, and then started as a full-time Readers Advisor in January 1987, a time when talking computers were still in their early stages of development. “When I started, we didn’t have email or Internet or braille displays. I couldn’t even transfer calls or put people on hold. The changes in my job have been amazing.”
Alan takes book requests, searches for titles that aren’t listed in the library’s catalog, enters information into the catalog, adjusts patron files to make sure the computer selects the right books and sends them often enough, and much more. Danielle states, “I think Alan knows our collection better than anyone; he is excellent at identifying books for patrons based on that vast knowledge and the fact that he is always reading, including participating in two book clubs. A fun bit of trivia: Alan’s mother was a librarian!”
“Every time some new innovation comes out like the online catalog, or the ability to download books, people tell me that they’re sorry I’m out of a job. It never seems to happen, though. There are always lots of new questions to answer about the new technologies. That’s what I like about my job, the ability to improve our library service, one patron at a time.”
“Alan is an integral part of our team. He is smart, quick-witted, fun, and a heck of a singer and piano player,” says Danielle.
Thanks, Alan, for your dedication to excellence in serving the patrons of WTBBL.