Library patrons search the large print collection in the Outreach and Oakland Talking Book Service Department at the library.

Library patrons search the large print collection in the Outreach and Oakland Talking Book Service Department at the library.

Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Public Library

Oakland County extends Oakland Talking Book Service contract with Rochester Hills

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 22, 2023


ROCHESTER HILLS — The contract for the Oakland Talking Book Service at the Rochester Hills Public Library has been renewed, giving Oakland County residents who are unable to read or use standard printed materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations at least five more years of service.

At a Feb. 16 meeting, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners pledged to continue supporting the library’s Oakland Talking Book Service for the next five years — in an amount not to exceed $150,840 annually with a 3% annual increase — through Dec. 31, 2027.

“I am pleased we could extend this contract,” Oakland County Commissioner Marsha Gershenson said in a statement. “This program offers residents free access to talking books, magazines, Braille options, and thousands of interesting reading materials.”

The free service — administered by the Rochester Hills Public Library since 2012 through the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled — loans talking books and magazines, large print books, Braille and talking book players to Oakland County residents of all ages with temporary or permanent low vision or blindness, or a physical, perceptual or reading disability that prevents them from using regular print materials.

Alice Cruz, the Oakland Talking Book Service librarian, said the service is a lifeline for those seeking access to assistive technology training, digital audiobooks and e-books, talking books on cassette, large print materials, and Braille materials.

“I hear, on a daily basis, what an impact this program has on our patrons’ lives,” Cruz said. “I talk to people who, literally the moment they wake up, they start their books, and they are listening to it until they go to sleep. For a lot of people, they are no longer able to watch television, so it is their main form of entertainment — especially for the last few years, over COVID, when a lot of people were very isolated, this really was a lifeline for them. We heard on a daily basis how grateful people were to have this service available.”

Library Director Juliane Morian said Oakland Talking Book Service has been crucial for county residents who need vision and audio support.

In 2022, the service circulated over 100,000 items to nearly 1,000 patrons countywide, and library staff provided 321 adaptive technology instruction sessions for visually impaired patrons, hosted 26 programs, and served 227 patrons who attended those programs in person or remotely.

“Providing these services in one local library rather than spreading them out to numerous libraries across the state or relying on services in Lansing, MI stretches tax dollars and creates a greater impact for each county community,” Morian said in a statement.

Under the program, a talking book player and materials are mailed to patrons at no cost. There are also no costs to register for the program and no overdue fees involved.

“A lot of people can go to their local library and listen to books on CD, but what’s nice about our program is with the book cartridges, patrons aren’t having to keep track of 10 CDs, because we can fit up to 20 books on one cartridge, and they don’t have to drive to the library to return it or anything,” Cruz said. “Because we work with the Library of Congress, we have a large selection of books, so they are not limited to what their local library has.”

In addition to materials sent via mail, all eligible individuals also 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.

Oakland Talking Book Service at the Rochester Hills Public Library also provides a number of programs, resources and personal assistance to county residents with disabilities, including assistive technology training, book clubs, low vision expos, on-site workshops, large print mail order service, books on digital cartridge, digital talking book machines, books in Braille, described videos and DVDs, and more.

Justin Wilcox, an OTBS patron, said reading is a gift often taken for granted.

“Learning to read braille with my fingertips allows me to see the words again. Thank you to OTBS for giving me a valuable skill,” Wilcox said in a statement.

The Oakland Talking Book Service at Rochester Hills Public Library is located at 500 Olde Towne Road in Rochester or online at Under the departments tab, click on “Oakland Talking Book Service.”

For more information about the Oakland Talking Book Service, call (800) 744-4542 or (248) 650-7150 or email