The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL) started the transition from 4-track cassettes and cassette players to digital talking books and digital talking book machines last week. This long awaited transition is one of the biggest things to happen in library services for the blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, and learning disabled communities in over 35 years. The new technology includes a higher quality, smaller and more portable player and, best of all, an entire book (or multiple books) can all fit on one cartridge containing a usb drive – no more shuffling multiple cassettes, switching sides, finding the next tape, etc.
By federal law, veterans have priority for service and will be the first to receive the new digital talking book machines and digital books. On Friday, August 28th, I personally delivered our first two players to our first two veterans. The first stop was to the home of Arne Kielhaven, an 82-year old WWII veteran. Arne is an avid reader and was very pleased with the new player and looks forward to getting more books. Next, was a visit to 96-year old Mary Tift, a Navy WAVE during WWII. Mary was delighted with her new player and was most impressed with the sleep key since she often listens to her books as she is going to bed. It was wonderful to spend time with Arne and Mary and show them how the technology works and hear about how much our service means to them. WTBBL currently has approximately 11,000 active patrons, so getting everyone transitioned to digital will take a couple years and we’ll be running dual formats (cassettes and digital) for quite some time.