National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Celebrates its 80th Anniversary

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March 3 Marks Decades of Providing Digitally Recorded Books and Special Playback Equipment to Those Unable to Read Regular Print Due to Blindness, Low Vision or Physical Handicap

On March 3, 2011, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)—the Library of Congress’ talking-book and braille program—will celebrate 80 years of helping visually impaired and physically handicapped individuals to enjoy reading their favorite books and magazines.

This free library program brings reading materials in digital audio and braille formats straight to the homes of patrons from preschoolers to centenarians. Books on digital cartridge, digital talking-book players and braille books are sent to patrons via the U.S. mail at no cost to users. People who sign up with the program also have the option of downloading books and magazines over the Internet in audio or braille format.

“Talking books offer a wonderful opportunity for anyone who cannot see to read or handle regular print because of blindness or a physical handicap,” says NLS Director Kurt Cylke. “For 80 years this service has been a priceless gift to people who cannot see to read or handle regular print materials.”

The NLS collection of more than 400,000 titles of bestsellers, classics, biographies, romance, and other genres delights even the most selective readers. Magazine lovers enjoy free subscriptions to more than 40 periodicals in audio format, including Consumer Reports, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated for Kids, and 30 periodicals in braille, such as Ladies Home Journal, ESPN: The Magazine and The New York Times Large Print Weekly.

The NLS program also keeps pace with the latest book titles, adding 2,500 annually. Patrons learn of new releases through two bimonthly magazines, Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review.

Patrons are served locally through a national network of cooperating libraries. Beginning with just 19 libraries in 1931, the NLS network today includes 113 libraries throughout the United States and its territories. Congress appropriates funds annually to the Library of Congress for the NLS program, while regional and sub-regional libraries receive financial support from federal, state, and local sources.

U.S. residents and citizens living abroad whose blindness or physical handicap makes reading regular printed matter difficult may be eligible to participate in the audio and braille books program. By law, priority is given to U.S. military veterans. Those interested in learning more or signing up may call 888-NLS-READ or visit


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