When did the talking-book program begin?

The free library service was established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to provide blind adults with books in an embossed format. The Act was amended in 1934 to include sound recordings (talking books), and was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, and again in 1966 to include individuals with physical limitations that prevent the reading of regular print.

Who can certify people as eligible?

In cases of blindness, visual impairment, or physical handicap, eligibility may be certified by doctors of medicine; doctors of osteopathy; ophthalmologists; optometrists; registered nurses; therapists; and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or private welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, caseworkers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents). In the absence of any of these, certification may be made by professional librarians or by any person whose competence under specific circumstances is acceptable to the Library of Congress. 

Can people use the program if they are in residential care facilities or retirement homes?

Yes. Eligible patrons may receive direct individual service in care of the facility. If the establishment has a deposit collection, they may use these materials without going through the process of signing up to receive individual service. Direct service is always available, and this option ensures that readers receive materials that they specifically want to read.

What kind of device is needed to play talking books?

Talking books require the use of a specialized playback device. In 2009, digital format books were introduced on easy-to-handle cartridges. Two types of digital players are available: a standard model and an advanced model with navigation and bookmark features. Current readers may use digital players to access the full range of the NLS collection. NLS formats render the books unusable by the general public, a requirement under the U.S. copyright law to protect intellectual property while allowing NLS patrons free use of the material.

What is the difference between the standard digital talking-book machine and the advanced digital talking-book machine?

The standard digital talking-book machine has eight controls and provides basic functionality for the playback of talking books, including volume and tone control, rewind and fast forward, and variable speed. The advanced digital talking-book machine has additional controls for setting bookmarks and navigating through the structured levels (chapters, sections, etc.) of a book. Both machines can be operated on a built-in rechargeable battery and have an internal audio user guide, as well as a key describer mode.