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Kentucky Talking Book Library gets Digital Recording System

The Kentucky Talking Book Library in the Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA) is replacing its 30-year-old, reel-to-reel taping system with the improved sound and clarity of a digital recording, which will be used to record Kentucky-related books for patrons who cannot read standard print because of a disability.

The system is funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which administers the Library Services and Technology Act. Two 30-year-old recording booths are being converted to the Low Complexity Digital Mastering (LCM) system at a cost of about $44,000.

Virginia G. Fox, secretary of the Kentucky Education Cabinet, said the new technology is a milestone for the service, which began in 1968 as the Kentucky Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

“This technology will greatly improve the quality of the recordings that the Kentucky Talking Book Library provides its customers. The sound quality will be like going from listening to a phonograph record to a CD. Over the years, the library’s recorded collection of both fiction and nonfiction Kentucky books have been in high demand so we anticipate that this technical upgrade will be very popular with our patrons,” Secretary Fox said.

The Kentucky Talking Book Library is part of a nationwide network of cooperative libraries headed by the National Library Service (NLS)  for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which was established in 1931 as a division of the Library of Congress.

Currently, Kentucky Talking Book Library has nearly 1,400 Kentucky cassette books in its collection and access to an additional 46,000 NLS titles. Only registered patrons who have been certified as physically unable to read print have access to the collection and the special equipment needed to listen to them. The cassettes and braille books are sent through the mail at no cost to customers. Last year, 55 Kentucky books were sent to library patrons in other states through the Interlibrary Loan program.

James A. Nelson, the state librarian and commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA), said “this is an important step forward for the Kentucky Talking Book Library because the majority of our patrons are senior citizens and this will tremendously improve the sound and clarity for them.

“The technology will allow us to edit sound recordings as easily as a (Microsoft™) Word document because you can see the sound waves or patterns on the computer screen as you edit. It will save time and make the process more efficient because you can delete a mistake and insert a correction without having to re-record large sections,” said Nelson.

NLS is currently developing a new digital talking book and player, which will be compatible with the NLS standard when it is completed in 2008. During this transition period, the new system will allow the library to transfer digital recordings to cassette tapes for distribution and transfer older reel or cassette tapes to a digital file for easier sound editing.

The Kentucky Talking Book Library serves 111 Kentucky counties from its KDLA building in Frankfort. The Louisville Talking Book Library, located in the Louisville Free Public Library, serves people living in Jefferson County. The Northern Kentucky Talking Book Library serves Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, and Pendleton counties.

“The reel-to-reel system we are using was not cutting edging when we first got it 30 years ago, so it’s very exciting to be at the forefront of technology and to be able to offer our customers up-to-date services,” said Nelson.

In 2005, 7,579 Kentucky cassette books and 108,917 NLS books were circulated to a readership of more than 3,500 people. Cassette book patrons borrow an average of 50 cassette books a year, many of which are recorded in the Kentucky Talking Book Library studios by volunteers. Currently, the top 25 most requested books consist of five NLS books and 20 Kentucky books. In addition, the Kentucky Talking Book Library offers a collection of 5,161 Braille books and 366 descriptive videos.

KDLA provides grants, technical assistance and direct services to libraries, archival repositories and public agencies throughout Kentucky. In addition, it offers reference, research and specialized information services from Frankfort. For more information about KDLA services, go to For more information about the Kentucky Talking Book Library at KDLA call toll free at 1-800-372-2968.

The Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit or call 502-564-6606.


Last Updated 6/15/2006