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Borrowing Books - Braille, Large Print, and Digital

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      Borrowing Books

      Library books are offered in alternative formats other than standard print.

      Some titles are available in only one medium, while others are offered in two or more. For example, a book may be in large print only. Another title may be in Braille and a Digital Talking Book, but not large print.

      The Library also contains a special collection on blindness in standard print.


      The Braille collection contains topics as diverse as any in a public library. Fiction, non-fiction, bestsellers, local interest and print/Braille for young children are all included.Some books are provided by NLS; others are transcribed by volunteers.

      All books are housed in order of acquisition, so the newest books are shelved together. A selection of new books can be found to the right of the main library door. These books are rotated frequently, allowing visitors to discover our most recent arrivals.

      The Library holds two special collections of Braille books:

      • Iowa history
      • Science fiction

      You can access them through the on-line public access catalog (OPAC) by subject category, or ask your reader advisor to add them to your profile.

      Because Braille books are so bulky, and because some are in limited supply, additional books available through the Library are warehoused at the Multistate Center in Utah. The Multistate Center serves as a central location for several regional libraries in the NLS system. Access to the unique collections housed at the Multistate Center greatly increases the number of Braille books available to you. When you request books from the Multistate Center, they are mailed to you in approximately the same amount of time as books that are sent from the Library in Des Moines. Regardless of where books are stored, you should order them through your reader advisor in Des Moines. Please return books from the Multistate Center in the same container in which they were received.

      Large Print

      The large print collection is shelved by order of acquisition, so all new books are together in the Library Reading Room on the fourth floor. All titles can be searched in the on-line public access catalog (OPAC), or you can ask your reader advisor for assistance. NLS does not produce large print books, so the collection has been assembled entirely from other sources.

      Digital Talking Book

      Digital Talking Books (DTBs) are available from the Library and provide titles in a convenient audio format. Features include:

      • Flash-memory cartridges
      • Entire book on one cartridge
      • No rewinding
      • Superior sound quality

      The first DTBs were received in May, 2009. New titles continue to arrive to build up the collection. This is a great opportunity to expand your reading interests and try different authors or subjects!

      BARD: The National Library Service Braille and Audio Reading Download

      Another option for accessing Digital Talking Books is by downloading them from the NLS BARD website. Over 15,000 titles are available. Once you have downloaded a book to your computer, you can transfer it to a flash-memory “jump” drive, to a personal book cartridge (available for purchase soon), or directly to a third-party player, such as the Victor Reader Stream.