Library assists those who need help reading
OKLAHOMA CITY Twenty-six thousand audio books, textbooks and periodicals are currently available for loan to patrons of the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
The books and digital playback equipment are free to Oklahomans who are blind or visually impaired and those with reading disabilities or physical limitations that make it difficult to use standard print.
Last year, staff served 4,884 patrons distributing an average 3,825 books to them each week, according to a news release from the Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Four librarians are on staff as reader advisers to answer patrons' questions and fill their requests for specific books. More than 90 percent of communications are over the phone. Few patrons come to the Library in person due to age or disability or perhaps because library services are delivered so efficiently by mail order and phone, the department said.
Many Oklahomans are eligible for free services but don't know that the library exists.
"We're out to change that," Library Director Kevin Treese said in the news release.
He and public information officer Brian King are traveling the state, speaking to seniors, public librarians, veterans, and organizations for people with vision loss. They are frequent participants at information fairs, nursing homes and tribal events.
"We want to make people who qualify for the program aware of what we do and also reach out to people who know someone who will qualify," Treese said. "There is no fee for the books. In fact, you don't even have to pay the postage to return them to us."
In addition to more than 26,000 audio book titles on Library shelves, patrons have access to an additional 50,000 titles when they download books from BARD (Braille Audio Reading Downloads) to their computers, smartphones, other devices or blank cartridges that work in the library's players.
Braille readers can use BARD to download nearly 12,769 books for use with electronic braille devices that attach to their computers.
"A lot of new books that come out are download only, so Karl Williams on our staff downloads audio files based on recommendations from our librarians and patron requests," Treese said. "We have machines capable of downloading 21 books at a time in about 10 or 15 seconds."
Electronic Technician Karl Williams, who has a visual disability, has been employed at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind since 1972. He has also been a patron for 45 years.
When he started work at the library, staff distributed books on phonograph records. Then came cassette tapes, which were replaced with digital cartridges.
"The cartridges hold about three gigabytes of recorded material, roughly enough for 20 books," he said.