Upstate Update - Summer 2009
Listen Now (MP3): This issue of Upstate Update is available in MP3 audio format. The audio file is about 10.2 MB in size, and just under 11 minutes in length.
MP3 files will play in many types of audio players, including Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, QuickTime, and iTunes.
If you prefer, you can subscribe to our Upstate Update Podcast. (Copy and paste the Podcast URL into your podcast receiver.)
In this issue:
- The Digital Era Approaches
- NLS Conducts "Pre-Launch" Test of the Digital Service
- A New Computer System Too
- Defective Books
- NBP's Braille Exhibit to Visit Albany
If you haven't been aware of the coming of "digital" books, that's about to change. After years of research, planning, and testing on the part of the National Library Service, the era of digital books is almost here.
For thirty-five years, the primary format for talking books has been cassette tape. Before that, they were recorded on long-playing phonograph records—the old RDs, FDs, and TBs. Both of these formats are called "analog," meaning that the records and tapes physically store the sound of the narrator's voice. Specifically, when the narrator's voice got louder, the groove of the record actually moved farther from side to side, and, on a cassette tape, increased volume meant that more magnetic particles lined up in the same direction. In a "digital" format, measurements of the narrator's unique sound waves are stored as digits—ones and zeros—the way computers operate. Compact discs, DVDs, DVRs, and memory cards for digital cameras all store and process information in digital form.
The new digital books (DB) are on a flash memory cartridge about the size of a cassette tape that slots into the front of the player. It's much easier to use than cassette tapes. One end has a round finger hole so that you will be able to tell which end is which and also to be able to easily extract the cartridge from the machine. The other end is beveled for easy insertion. Unlike the tapes there's only one way to insert the book. Moreover, there'll be no need, as with the current tapes, to turn it over or change "sides." To further simplify things, almost every digital book will be on one cartridge only.
There is a completely redesigned machine to accommodate the new technology. The digital talking book machine (DTBM) is smaller than your current player and lighter too, weighing only around two pounds. The body of the player is dark to create maximum visual contrast between the case and the colors of the controls. The controls consist of the customary rewind, play, stop, and fast-forward. There is also power, volume, tone, speed, and "sleep" controls, the last turning off the player automatically half an hour after this button is pressed. The machine is powered by a rechargeable battery, just like the cassette machine, but the new machine's battery will play for 35 hours on one charge, and the machine can tell you how much playing time remains.
Digital technology offers many new capabilities, including better sound reproduction. NLS is producing two machines ("standard" and "advanced") to take full advantage of digital technology. The standard machine has eight controls for the basic operations for listening to a book; the advanced player has five additional features and controls: a menu button for choosing how to navigate the book, controls to jump forward and backward in the book, a button to hear current reading position and other information, such as battery status, and a button to set "bookmarks" that you can return to. These functions will be more useful when reading nonfiction materials as opposed to straightforward novels.
Cassette books will continue to be available for many years, and new cassette books will be produced until the end of 2010 alongside the digital books. However, many of the older books we have will only be available on cassette, and recorded magazines will be the last to be converted to digital format and will be on cassette only for some time to come. For these reasons we strongly advise all our borrowers to keep their cassette machine in order to have access to our entire recorded collection. You may have both a cassette machine and the new DTBM.
We are legally required to give priority to veterans in the initial assignment of DTBMs, but eventually everyone will need this machine to use the library service. We would like to repeat our announcement that if you would like to be on our waiting list for a digital machine please let us know. Call (800) 342-3688. If you have already told us, there is no need to tell us again. If you have a preference for the "standard" or "advanced" machine you can tell us that too.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is conducting a ten-week test of the new digital talking book system. NLS has chosen eight Regional Libraries around the country to participate. They are field testing the digital books (DBs) and digital talking book machines (DTBMs), along with certain other aspects of the digital talking book system, such as NLS' training program.
The purpose of this vital phase in the transition to digital is to identify problems and concerns before initiating mass production and distribution of these materials. NLS is gathering feedback from these libraries and their borrowers and taking corrective action as needed to resolve any problems that come to light.
Five thousand DTBMs have been allocated to the eight libraries, each receiving 544 machines, which have been assigned to patrons participating in the trial. Fifty-four books produced since 2004 have also been made available on digital cartridge, and each participating network library has received an appropriate number of copies of these books for loan to the test borrowers. The titles were selected to provide diversity of subject matter and broad appeal. We anticipate that we will start receiving our digital books and machines sometime this summer, though much depends on how this pre-launch test goes.
Within the next few months TBBL will be acquiring a new computer system; the vendor is Keystone Systems Inc. of Raleigh NC. This will be the library's fourth automation system since 1975 and we are looking forward to joining the forty other libraries in the National Library Service's network that are using it. Because the Keystone system is designed specifically for this kind of library service we anticipate a great leap forward in our ability to provide service and to tailor each individual borrower's service to their specific reading needs.
We ask for your patience when the transition takes place as it's likely that we'll be closed for a short time during this changeover period, and staff will be training to learn how to operate the new system. Also, because it happens that we're swapping computer systems at the same time that we're getting the new digital books and digital machines, life in the library is going to be quite busy for a while and we may not be able to be as responsive to your needs as we would like to be. We're looking forward to being able to serve your needs with greater speed and efficiency after the transition.
We will be adding periodic updates to our website telling you about the ongoing developments in this area, so check here for the latest news on KLAS (Keystone Library Automation System): http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/tbbl.
Now and then you might get a cassette book with a damaged tape, or one that's missing a tape, or one with the tape from a different book in the mailing container. We inspect every returning book and try to ensure that only complete books in good condition will be issued, but we can't guarantee that you won't get a defective book. A book that's in good shape may be so old and well-used that one of the tapes may break at any time, or it may sustain damage in the mail on its way to you.
If you get a book that's defective in any way, please put a rubber band around the bad tape and put it inside the mailing container on top of the other tapes. This will make it easy for staff to spot. Call us at (800) 342-3688 if you want another copy.
National Braille Press has produced a 20-panel traveling display, in print and braille, that takes a viewer through the highlights of Louis Braille's life, the braille production process, and why braille remains important today.
The Louis Braille Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit is booked in cities across the country throughout 2009, and our library is excited to be hosting the exhibit from October 1 through 21. The exhibit will be on display in the New York State Library, and possibly also in the State Museum and the Empire State Plaza concourse. Check our web site or call us in September for exhibit location details.
We hope you will visit us in October to see this interesting and informative display. Visit the National Braille Press website to see a complete tour schedule and to read more about the exhibit: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/louis/louis_tour.html.
Mention of a product or service in this newsletter does not constitute endorsement by this library. Our intention is to increase an awareness of programs, services, and products that may be helpful to our patrons.