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Georgia Keeps Library Patrons Engaged with Bookshare’s Accessible Ebook Library

Bookshare’s collection expands titles available to GLASS patrons beyond the National Library Service

Pat Herndon, MLIS, Assistant State Librarian & Director of Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS), knows how important it is to keep library patrons engaged, especially those who have barriers to reading. GLASS is Georgia’s member library of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). It primarily serves persons with print impairments, most often caused by blindness, low vision, a physical disability, or an organic brain dysfunction that makes reading print difficult. 

In July, 2016, GLASS and Benetech established a partnership to offer free memberships to Bookshare, the world’s largest library of accessible ebooks. “Reading, no matter the format, keeps patrons entertained, informed, and engaged,” says Pat. “It allows people to participate in conversations about popular culture, explore new ideas, and stay civically aware. Libraries strive to keep patrons active in reading, and Bookshare is a useful tool for persons who are print-impaired.”

Pat recently answered some questions about the Bookshare memberships for GLASS patrons.

How does Bookshare help your patrons?

Our mission is to make sure that everyone can read the content that they want to read, and Bookshare offers a very large, comprehensive collection of materials for eligible readers of all ages.

How do library patrons find out about Bookshare?

GLASS promotes Bookshare through every possible channel. We include the option on the GLASS application and also promote it through outreach such as email announcements to BARD customers (BARD is the NLS book download service). We hope that patrons who are comfortable downloading their own NLS content will also download from Bookshare. We also mention Bookshare in our newsletters and through social media. Finally, the library’s Readers Advisors search Bookshare to identify titles that patrons are unable to obtain via the NLS collection. 

What do your patrons think about the computerized text-to-speech (TTS) voices? 

We get a mixed reaction from patrons with regard to TTS voices. Some are so delighted to have an abundance of content that the computerized voice does not faze them or discourage them from accessing Bookshare titles. Other readers have told us they will not use TTS voices and prefer human-narrated audiobooks.

What advice can you offer to other librarians who wish to get Bookshare for their patrons? 

Encourage library patrons to give it a try. Remind them of the variety of titles available. Do outreach and promote Bookshare. Be willing to download content for patrons who are unable to navigate software and download content independently. At GLASS, we copy Bookshare titles onto cartridges that can be played in the NLS digital talking book machines, thus ensuring equity of access to those who cannot manage the technology. 

What would make Bookshare even more useful to your library? 

I am very pleased with how Bookshare fits in with our library services. I appreciate the statistical reports that we get, as well as the recent agreement to deactivate the accounts of persons who are not actually accessing the content. This step preserves memberships for patrons who will use and enjoy the service.

Any other tips or advice you would like to share? 

Take the plunge. Offer the service. If you get pushback on the costs, compare it to other library resources that are expensive and provided for all, but used by very few, such as literature databases.  Also, compare the typical costs of providing interlibrary services to customers in a typical library setting. When you make that comparison, the cost per use of Bookshare becomes very reasonable. 

Learn more about offering Bookshare memberships to eligible library patrons

Learn more about other state libraries in New York, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, Alabama, and Florida that offer Bookshare memberships

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