Nevada State Library’s ‘Talking Books’ give voice to written word
April 21, 2017
Brett Silver is a voracious reader, and he has been since childhood. He's also legally blind.
"My grandma was a retired school teacher," he said. "She made sure I got my own kind of library."
She discovered the Talking Books program at the Nevada State Library and Archives, and introduced it to her grandson.
"She wanted to make sure I had all the resources I could at my fingertips," said Silver, who's now the program's outreach and public awareness coordinator for Southern Nevada. "I grew up using it."
More than 50,000 audio books are part of Nevada's Talking Book collection, serving 1,600 patrons.
"The program is designed and developed for those who are visually impaired or who have a disability that prevents them from reading," said Hope Williams, program manager. "We also have senior citizens and children who use them. People with diseases like Parkinson's have trouble holding a book steady or turning pages, so they use our books."
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Different from audio books, the Talking Books program is designed specifically for the visually impaired. The buttons on the players are different shapes, sizes and colors. They're equipped with braille and audio instructions.
"It's very user friendly," Williams said. "Patrons can also download books in braille."
Patrons typically select the books they want, and the books are mailed to them within 24 hours.
Additionally, the Nevada State Library and Archives has its own studio to record Nevada authors, with a collection of about 6,500 books.
"We record a variety of books about Nevada and by Nevada authors, including state politics and history," Williams said. "We have fiction and non-fiction. Those are books that are not going to be done at the national level."
While the state library administers the program, funding for collection development comes federally from the Library of Congress.
The program would be in jeopardy under proposed cuts at the federal level.
President Trump's plan calls for the elimination of the $230 million budget for the Institute of Museum and Library Services along with three other cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Nevada would lose $3.5 million over the next two years.
"For the people who really depend on this service, their quality of life would be tremendously affected without it," Williams said.
Silver said his life would have been much different growing up without the program.
"My teachers would assign literature in class, and I could just get it from the Talking Books library," Silver said. "My grandma also made sure I had books for pleasure."
Losing it would change his life as an adult as well.
"Now, it's provided employment for me," he said. "A lot of blind and visually impaired are employed by this service."
Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles to run in honor or National Library Week to draw attention to the services provided by libraries across the state. The articles highlight programs in danger of being eliminated under proposed federal cuts.