The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL) is working to further narrow the digital divide among its patrons who read talking books.
WTBBL circulates talking books two ways. Books can be delivered by postage-free mail, or books can be instantly accessed from the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), which is a website and mobile app to download talking books.
Although all registered WTBBL patrons are eligible to access talking books through both mail and the download service, patron surveys have shown that almost half of WTBBL’s patrons don’t use the internet, which creates a barrier to accessing the online collection. This has big implications. Patrons who borrow talking books through the mail have access to approximately 36,000 titles, but patrons who download their own books can select from almost 80,000 titles.
WTBBL now offers a new service of downloading multiple books onto one cartridge and mailing it directly to the patron. Our Custom Book Service (CBS) provides access to books previously only available by download on BARD.
This service also eliminates the wait for talking books that are already checked out. Sixty-three patrons are currently using the CBS, and Readers’ Advisor Alan Bentson recommends the new service.
“This is a great benefit for those who want older books that only come as downloads,” Bentson said, “and those who like very popular books that are hard to find on the shelf. This is an excellent alternative for patrons who, for whatever reason, may not download books themselves.”