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We're #1: Oklahoma Library for the Blind wins national library of the year award

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) at the Library of Congress announced today that it will honor two of its cooperating libraries for their outstanding service to readers who are visually or physically disabled.

The Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, received the Regional Library of the Year Award. The Talking Books and Braille Center at the San Francisco Public Library in San Francisco, California, received the Sub-regional Library/Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year Award.

Each prize comes with a $1,000 award and a commemorative plaque. The two libraries will be honored this November at the National Library Service’s biennial meeting, which will be held virtually, and at a luncheon in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., planned for the spring of 2021.

“Each year the Library of Congress recognizes the work of state and local libraries that provide braille and talking-book services to people who cannot use print materials,” NLS Director Karen Keninger said. “The programs and services these two libraries offer are outstanding examples of innovation and outreach and demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that all may read.”

The Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a unit of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, served 5,402 patrons last year, a 7 percent increase from 2018. It circulated more than 150,000 braille and audio books, magazines and other collection items.

The library has innovative programs to expand access to information to people with print disabilities. It manages the Oklahoma Telephone Reader, an on-demand, dial-up information service staffed by volunteers that features local articles of interest, sales ads and obituaries from The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World and other Oklahoma newspapers. And the library’s Accessible Instructional Materials Center provides textbooks and other instructional materials in braille, large print and assistive technology to 1,258 children and teens in 523 public, private, charter and home schools.

The Oklahoma library staff spread the word about its services at large state conferences, including LeadingAge, Oklahoma Transition Institute and Oklahoma Library Association, as well as the Dean McGee Eye Institute’s Macular Degeneration/Low Vision/Glaucoma Seminar and state-level organizations of the American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind. The staff also participated in the Oklahoma Book Festival.

The Oklahoma library’s recording studio has contributed more than 100 items to BARD, the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download website, including 56 issues of Cowboys & Indians magazine, 28 issues of Oklahoma Today and 21 books of regional interest.

The Oklahoma Library Association honored the library last year with its Library Excellence Award. In nominating the Oklahoma library for NLS Network Library of the Year, Melinda Fruendt, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, called it “a treasure.” A comment from one patron captured the role the library plays in the lives of those it serves: “I live by myself, and over the years I have spent hundreds of hours listening to your books. Please don’t ever stop.”

San Francisco’s Talking Books and Braille Center served nearly 900 patrons in 2019 and circulated 31,290 braille and audio books, magazines and other items — two-thirds of them via BARD.

The center’s monthly programs include its Talking Book Club, a large-print book club called Easy on the Eyes and audio-described movies that are shown in the main library’s auditorium. It hosts frequent musical jams, with patrons bringing their own instruments or using the library’s drums and keyboard; quarterly braille story times for children; and the annual Hooray for Braille! celebration with the San Francisco chapter of the California Council of the Blind.

The library’s outreach efforts include supporting families of children with disabilities; offering tours to school groups; participating in Select the Right Tech program, sponsored by the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and partnering with the San Francisco Public Library’s Jail and Reentry Service to help prisoners with print disabilities. It also worked with the San Francisco Department of Elections to provide voter information in accessible formats.

“Our library represents community and a joy in reading,” Jane Glasby, program manager of the Talking Books and Braille Center, said in her nomination letter. “Our staff is not afraid to explore new technologies to support patrons where they need it most.”

One of those patrons told the library, “I have been bedridden and this past week I have travelled all over the world through the books you sent me.” Another put it more simply: “Many an evening, those talking books keep me sane."

NLS administers the braille and talking-book program, a free library service available to U.S. residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness or disability makes reading regular printed material difficult. Through its national network of libraries, NLS provides books and magazines in audio and braille formats and playback equipment directly to patrons at no cost. Materials are also available online for download and are accessible on smart devices through the BARD Mobile app. Music instructional materials are available in large-print, ebraille, braille and recorded formats. For more information, visit or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at and register creative works of authorship at

Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Director Kevin Treese (right) and Karl Williams, who recently retired from the Library after 40 years, display the cartridge case and player used by approximately 5,000 Library patrons in front of the the Library’s Travis Leon Harris building in Oklahoma City.
For more information contact

Brett Zongker
(202) 707-1639

Last Modified on Jun 08, 2022
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