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October 10, 2012

Library new home of countywide Oakland Talking Book Service

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — As of Oct. 1, the Rochester Hills Public Library is the new home of the Oakland Talking Book Service, which is part of a free program administered by the U.S. Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to circulate Braille and audio materials to eligible borrowers by postage-free mail.

Locally, the program — previously known as the Oakland County Library for the Visually Impaired — was established in 1974 and run through the Farmington Community Library in Farmington Hills. In 1994, Oakland County took over the service and moved it to the county complex in Waterford.

For at least the next 10 years, the Rochester Hills Public Library will assume the responsibility under the program’s new name, the Oakland Talking Book Service.

Deputy Oakland County Executive Robert Daddow said in a statement that the county wanted to make sure that the service was available as many hours a week as possible, so it “made sense” to move it to a public library that is open on evenings and weekends.

With more than 30 years of experience in serving people with special needs, Rochester Hills Public Library Director Christine Lind Hage said, assuming responsibility for the 1,400 low-vision individuals countywide is a natural move for the library.

“It really is sort of a natural fit because we have a very robust outreach service program and our residents were the second largest users of the service,” she said. “Southfield had the largest number of clients, and Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township were the second largest clients in Oakland County.”

Lind Hage noted that the library’s large-print book collection is bigger than the county’s, and she said the library has a supply of about 60 low-vision magnifying lenses, as well as a fair amount of assistive technology and a separate staff trained to offer the service.

“Most libraries do not have an outreach department like we do, so it seems like a natural extension of our outreach services, which we’ve won awards for, so the county was confident that we could do it,” she said.

The Oakland Talking Book Service is a free service that loans more than 20,000 talking books and magazines, large-print books, Braille materials and talking-book players to Oakland County residents of all ages who are unable to read or use standard printed materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations. Materials are sent directly to clients’ homes through the mail, based on their preferences.

“We’re hoping to offer the best customer service to any person in Oakland County that has a vision loss that would qualify them for the program,” said Oakland County Sub-regional Librarian Michelle Wisniewski, who’s in charge of the program at the library.

The service is located in the Outreach and Bookmobile Services area of the library, directly across from the checkout desk on the first floor.

In addition to mailed materials, Lind Hage said all eligible individuals have access to tens of thousands of books and dozens of magazines available for download through the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download site.

An application for access to the site is required and available through the National Library Service at www.loc.gov/nls. All Oakland County residents who are eligible for OTBS service are also eligible for Rochester Hills Public Library borrowing privileges.

The library is also the new home of the Dryer Assistive Technology Lab, established by the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Charitable Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to aid people who have limited sight and to aid in research for the prevention and cure of blindness. Now re-located at the Rochester Hills Public Library, the equipment and software has been updated, and the library has hired an assistive technology trainer that will be available on Tuesdays and Thursday and by appointment to teach people with low vision how to use the equipment. 

The Rochester Hills Public Library — located in downtown Rochester, off of University Drive, three blocks east of Main Street — is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1-6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information on the Oakland Talking Book Service, visit www.otbs.rhpl.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.