young boy reading braille book

Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS) is now Georgia Library Service (GLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled!

We still have the same great services for our patrons. We just have a new name and look that better reflects what we do.

This is a Q&A with Pat Herndon, director of Georgia Library Service (GLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled.

What is Georgia Library Service (GLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled?

Through Georgia Library Service (GLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled, Georgia Public Library Service provides library services for individuals who are blind or whose physical abilities require the use of books and magazines in audio format or in braille. GLS provides reading materials in accessible formats.

Individuals are eligible for GLS if they are blind, low vision, or physically unable to hold a book and turn the page. GLS services are also available to persons with reading disabilities such as dyslexia. All potential patrons must enroll in GLS services and have their application signed by a certifying authority. That certifying authority must be someone who can attest to the condition that is making a person eligible. This is typically a physician, a nurse, professional caregiver, therapist or educator– sorry relatives cannot certify people. A librarian can certify patrons as well.

Why did the organization decide to change names and its logo?

The past couple of years have been ones for great changes in the talking book and braille program, on both the state and on the national level. The National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled has completed its transition from analog audio to digital storage of content. Georgia’s talking book library, like many others across the nation, no longer needs to store a collection of physical cartridges or audiotapes.

Our library can now provide patrons with customized access to the entire NLS collection – now digitally stored on a device at GLS that is the size of a loaf of bread – whenever they request books. Gone are the days of waiting for another patron to return a book cartridge before the next person could listen to the audiobook. Gone are the days when people who could access BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) on a mobile device had more titles to select from than those who rely on the NLS talking book player. The ground is leveled and access is increased for all GLS patrons.

Will anything else be changing?

GLS will be updating all of our materials to communicate the new name. We’ll be rolling out a new website this fall with the goal of accessibility and ease of use in mind. We are looking forward to moving our staff into a newly renovated space in the heart of Atlanta in the Central Branch of Fulton County Library. At that location, staff not only answers calls from across Georgia to assist our patrons, but also provide library visitors with assistive technology to read and access information. Our staff works hard to help all public libraries provide accessible services to patrons of Georgia’s public libraries.

We are not anticipating changes in the way that books are distributed by mail. However, NLS is working on some ambitious projects, including developing access to the audiobook collection via smart speakers such as the Amazon Alexa. We do not have a timeline for implementing this for patrons in Georgia. NLS has also been looking at developing a next generation talking book machine that would allow GLS to send a book directly to the machine in the patron’s home. As technology is so quickly evolving, we do not know which technology will prove the most agile and robust. But, be assured NLS is working to make access to services easy and fast for all users regardless of how comfortable the person is with technology.

What does GLS offer to patrons?

GLS offers a number of convenient and easy-to-use services:

  • Access to a collection of over 100,000 narrator-read audiobooks produced by NLS
  • Access to the 950,000+ titles in the Bookshare collection, in a variety of formats including text-to-speech audio, braille or highlight text
  • Access to embossed and digital braille A digital talking book machine that is very simple to use
  • Free postage to return materials
  • Reader advisory, helping patrons select books that they will enjoy
  • An app that allows instant access to audiobooks for mobile devices for those who are comfortable with technology
  • Access to the large print collection from the entire PINES network (we mail the books to patrons via Free Matter for the Blind and offer extended due dates)
  • Access to a collection of audio described popular movies on DVD or Blu-Ray
  • Remote programming include book clubs, children’s summer reading programs, peer support groups
  • (When not in a pandemic) Live programs such as keyboard class, iPhone class, book discussion groups

How do I sign up for GLS?

GLS has an application that can be filled out by hand or on the computer. The application can be submitted to GLS by either the post office or via email. The application asks basic questions such as name and address, qualifying condition, and the types of reading materials the patron is interested in. The application includes a place for the certifying authority to sign and provide their contact information. Why does GLS insist on this step? It is part of copyright law that insists that the free lending of our materials in adapted formats is limited to borrowing only by persons who cannot read standard print due to a disability. The Georgia program is guided by US copyright law and the federal regulations that provide guidance for the national program that is part of the Library of Congress.

After GLS staff receive the application, they will contact the patron to set up the account to provide the service delivery in the way that the patron prefers. Our wonderful reader advisors can assist in selecting books, can coach on use of the machines and even coach on use of mobile devices. They offer online programs and opportunities for GLS patrons to engage with others to talk about books, for peer support and to learn about resources and services for people with blindness, low vision or other print disabilities.

You can sign up to receive GLS-specific email messages here.