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Kentucky Talking Book Library celebrates 50th Anniversary; 773 books have been recorded

The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA) Talking Book Library (KTBL) in Frankfort is celebrating its 50th anniversary of providing Kentuckians with disabilities access to free audio and braille books.

The Talking Book Library is the only braille library collection in Kentucky as well as the only library to record digital audio books by Kentucky authors. Currently, there are 773 digital audiobooks in the collection with a connection to Kentucky. The books have been recorded by a group of 30-40 volunteers in the talking book studio in Frankfort. Books are available to patrons nationwide by mail, download or mobile devices.

“It is exciting to see how the Kentucky Talking Book Library has grown over the last 50 years from a few thousand books on vinyl to more than 100,000 audio and braille books. Thousands upon thousands of Kentuckians with disabilities have used KTBL to read books and stay engaged in the world. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 50 years hold for KTBL,” said Terry Manuel, Kentucky State Librarian and Commissioner of the Department for Libraries and Archives.

Volunteer Barbara Pauley of Frankfort records a book by a Kentucky author for the KTBL.

Library patrons can access free reading materials by mail, download or mobile app. The KTBL collection includes 13,000 braille, 90,000 audiobooks, and 75 audio and braille magazines from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). Large print, braille music scores, and other instructional music materials in accessible formats are available directly from NLS.

“The vast majority of books that are published each year are not accessible to people who cannot see to read them or cannot physically hold them. While other people can go to the public library and get books, the selection for people who cannot use print books is very narrow. KTBL has all types of books including books for children,” said Kentucky Talking Book Library Manager Barbara Penegor.

In federal fiscal year 2018, KTBL served more than 4,500 patrons who are unable to read print due to a visual, physical or reading disability. Library volunteers record Kentucky books that are not available in accessible format from any other source.

Contributing more than 1,000 hours of time each year, volunteers have recorded approximately 1,000 titles over the last 50 years.

Volunteer Barbara Pauley of Frankfort is a proofreader and narrator of Kentucky digital audiobooks who was looking for a worthwhile activity to do in retirement.

“We provide a vital service to the citizens of the Commonwealth who might not have access to books any other way. It’s an easy, friendly, free, customer-oriented service,” Pauley said. “I enjoy the staff here. It’s a really positive environment and I like learning Kentucky history and getting to know Kentucky authors.”
Longtime library patron Joey Couch of Louisville has used the service for about 30 years and especially enjoys the Kentucky books.

“I am a big fan of the locally recorded books which focus on Kentucky’s history, heritage and culture. It is great that more and more of the locally recorded books are being uploaded on a national platform such as the NLS BARD website so that others can learn about Kentucky and get a glimpse into the state’s heritage,” Couch said.

In 1969, KTBL offered approximately 4,000 books on vinyl records that were mailed to patrons. In the last 50 years, modern technology has advanced and the library utilizes a system called duplication on demand that can store multiple books on a single cartridge.

Library patrons can access talking books through electronic download to a single cartridge or smartphone, or traditional mail.

Kentucky Department for Libraries

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