Library services for the visually impaired and print disabled

The Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille (NLB) offers its users a daily newspaper in an audio version on the same day as the printed version is issued. People with visual impairments or print disabilities can have the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten sent to them every day in the form of a DAISY audio book. This is made possible by new synthesised speech technology and close cooperation between the newspaper publishers, BoJo Ltd, suppliers of enabling equipment, and NLB.

Aftenposten in audio form contains the latest news categorised according to subject matter. The structure of the DAISY book makes it easy to manoeuvre between the different subjects and articles in order to select news of interest. If they so wish, borrowers themselves can make use of NLB’s home pages to stream the news or download the Daisy book onto a CD.

NLB’s services

Situated in Oslo, the Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille is a national library providing library services to the visually impaired and print disabled throughout the country. NLB produces literature in the form of audio and Braille books, while at the same time offering individual users the possibility of borrowing literature direct from the library. NLB services also include the production and lending of the curriculum literature required by visually impaired and print disabled students at universities and colleges of higher education.

The library’s collections contain a wide selection of public library literature covering all age groups. In addition the curriculum literature specially produced for students is also available to all NLB users. The collection contains more than 10,000 audio book titles and 6,000 titles in Braille. Annual growth amounts to some 600 audio book titles and almost 200 books in Braille within the category of public library literature. Every year some 300 curriculum-related titles are produced for students with visual impairments. The library also issues periodicals and public documents in DAISY format.

Photo: Kjell Egeland


The greater part of the material in NLB’s collections is prepared and produced by the library’s own production department. All works of fiction and books for children and young adults are made with the assistance of professional narrators highly skilled in the art of presenting a text.

The quality of electronic speech has been greatly improved in recent years, making it possible to use this technology to a greater extent when producing audio books.

NLB makes use of synthesised speech in the production of newspapers, periodicals, public documents and special literature for students. The use of electronic speech offers considerable savings in both time and resources when compared to traditional methods.

NLB constantly works to develop the best possible services for the visually impaired and print disabled. The Aftenposten-project is an example of the successful use of new technology. In all development work the library’s membership in the Norwegian branch of DAISY Consortium is of central importance. NLB also cooperates with its counterparts in the other Nordic countries, not only with regard to the development of production technology but also in order to make already existing literature for the visually impaired available across national borders.

Efforts are also being made to persuade publishers and other producers of literature to use standardised file formats. If universally designed files were more widely used, the preparation process would be greatly simplified and it would be possible for those with visual impairments and print disabilities to read files direct with the help of a Braille display unit or electronic speech synthesis.

Photo: Kjell Egeland

The DAISY format

DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is used both in the production of audio books narrated in the traditional way and also those with synthesised narration. DAISY is an international audio book standard used in almost 30 countries. In order to read a DAISY book the equipment required can be a DAISY player, a computer with a special DAISY-reading programme installed or an MP3 unit.

The DAISY format offers unique possibilities to manoeuvre between the book’s various chapters and pages. Literature produced with the help of electronic speech can also be made available in full text. The user can thus follow the text on a computer, while at the same time listening to the book being read aloud. If the computer has a programme to magnify the text, this can be used at the same time.

Contact with the public

The Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille produces specially prepared literature for the visually impaired and print disabled, while at the same time offering library services to this user group. The library’s development programme also includes projects aimed at improving these services towards its borrowers.

The service department has direct contact with the individual user, either by telephone or e-mail. The lending of books is arranged directly with the user and DAISY books are sent by letter post. Every time a loan of a DAISY book takes place, a new CD is made. It is possible for borrowers to become regular subscribers to both DAISY books and Braille books, in which case they automatically receive all new books.

In order to be registered as a borrower at the NLB, documented proof of visual impairment or print disability must be submitted. All library services are free of charge. NLB has a special department dealing with all applications from visually impaired students and arranging for the production of the literature they require in connection with their particular curriculum. The library also offers special services for children and young people.

In order to spread information about the library’s services for the visually impaired and print disabled, cooperation has been established with various interest organisations for the physically disabled and also with municipal aid authorities.

In 2007 the Norwegian government issued proposals for a wide-ranging reform of the library system: Library Reform 2014. If carried out as proposed, this reform will demand much greater cooperation between all the different participants in the library sector. NLB welcomes these proposals and will work towards ensuring that this greater emphasis on cooperation will lead to an increased awareness of library services for those with visual impairments and print disabilities, both within and outside the library sector.

NLB’s book base can be accessed by a search of the library’s home pages. The application programme, MappaMi, makes it possible for users to order books and to keep track of their borrowing. NLB’s home pages also contain general information about the library’s services, latest news and the most recent books. These home pages are in accordance with the requirements for universal design as laid down by the authorities and can therefore be read both by means of Braille display and by the use of electronic speech.

Digital library services and storage systems open up new possibilities for access to information for the visually impaired and print disabled. NLB will therefore continue to concentrate its efforts on ensuring an effective use of these technological advances. For further information about NLB:

Translated by Eric Deverill

Librarian The Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille