What Can Be Borrowed from the Braille and Talking Book Library
NLS Talking Books and Braille Books
You may borrow recreational reading materials and magazines on cassette, digital cartridge, and braille provided by the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) network. The book collection contains thousands of fiction and nonfiction titles, including classics, biographies, romances, mysteries, westerns, science fiction, cookbooks, politics, history, and self-help guides.
A limited number of titles is available in other languages besides English, e.g., Spanish, French, and German.
To browse and order braille and talking books from the BTBL catalog: Search the Braille and Talking Book Library Catalog
A small collection of locally recorded books by California authors and of local California interest (including history) is available on cassette.
As of March 1, 2012, You may borrow descriptive DVDs and videocassettes from BTBL. Descriptive videos have a second audio track with a narrator's voice describing the action on the screen during breaks in the dialog and sound effects. The service is Free and does require a separate registration form. To register and learn more, go to the Descriptive Video Service web page.
To browse and order descriptive DVDs and videocassettes from the BTBL catalog: Search the Braille and Talking Book Library Catalog.
The California Braille and Talking Book Library currently has the following available service for patrons and institutional representatives to download digital audio books for listening. A user needs a computer and broadband connection to the internet, plus an email account, in order to successfully download digital audio files. This service is IN ADDITION to our regular books by mail service and is NOT required.
NLS digital talking books and magazines are available to our registered patrons for free download through the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) site. There are over 45,000 downloadable audio and braille books, including music instruction and scores and foreign language titles, and 90+ downloadable magazines available for your listening and braille reading pleasure, 24 hours a day, and new titles are added regularly.
You will need to sign up separately for this service at the BARD Enrollment Application.
You will need a free NLS Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM – also called an NLS digital player) or an NLS-compatible purchased commercial player (also called a third party player) in order to listen to NLS downloadable books from BARD. You cannot listen to them directly from your computer.
If you have received a Digital Talking Book Machine from BTBL, you can copy the unzipped, downloaded audio book from your computer to a blank cartridge or a USB flash drive ("thumb drive") for insertion in the cartridge or USB ports on the player.
While some patrons have found thumb drives that do work with their NLS digital players, neither NLS nor BTBL recommend their use since their performance can be unpredictable, and we have no control over the specifications used in the manufacturing of these drives. We frequently hear from frustrated readers who, when trying to use flash drives, have received error messages such as "no book available" and "cartridge error." Others hear introductory material and then "end of book." We urge anyone with an NLS digital player who intends to download books from the BARD site to purchase blank cartridges designed specifically to be used with the NLS player.
The design of the cartridge prevents direct attachment of the cartridge to your computer's USB ports. A one-time purchase of the special adapter USB cable is recommended at the same time you buy your first cartridge. Click this link for information on purchasing blank cartridges and USB cables.
Should you decide to use commercial flash drives anyway, here are some tips. USB flash or "thumb" drives are common and can be purchased at various retail outlets. Again, we cannot guarantee their reliability for use in our players. It is important to note that USB flash drives larger than 8 gigabytes will NOT work in the NLS digital talking book machine. Please use only drives with less than or equal to 8G capacity. (Even a 1G drive will hold several books – actual number will vary with the length of the books). Preloaded software on commercial drives may also cause problems, so it is best to delete any preloaded software (be sure to check for and delete hidden files, as well) before attempting to download and read BARD books and magazines using that drive.
If you experience technical difficulties with your NLS Digital Talking Book Machine, you may have a player with an older version of the firmware (operating system). Patrons who are comfortable with upgrading software may download the latest version of the player firmware at http://www.loc.gov/nls/DTBM/index.html. Instructions for performing the upgrade are also given on the web page.
If you have purchased any of 14 compatible commercial players (third party players), you may download books and magazines from BARD for use with those portable devices. Go to our Third Party Player page for more information on commercially available NLS authorized players. If you are already a BARD user but have purchased a third party player and need to set it up for using NLS BARD books, log into your BARD account and find the link for "update account settings" and then the link for "add a purchased player."
An additional helpful resource for BARD users created by NLS patrons, but not affiliated with NLS is BARD Talk. BTBL does not endorse or recommend this site, but you may find it useful.
Web-braille Now Incorporated Into BARD
Many braille titles from NLS can be downloaded for use with braille output devices such as a refreshable braille display attached to a PC or a BrailleNote, BrailleSense, PacMate, or other stand-alone braille notetaker. Since 1999, books and magazines listed in the bi-monthly Braille Book Review have been available free of charge to eligible readers for download or use online with braille output devices. If a patron previously had a Web-braille account, they will now need to sign up for a Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) account at: https://nlsbard.loc.gov/CA1A/ApplicationInstructions.html. If they already have a BARD account, nothing more need be done to continue enjoying access to downloadable braille.
Many braille books are multi-volume in format. If you download the book directly from BARD, you will get all volumes as a single file. If you access the book via the online Braille Book Review or through one of the online catalogs, you will be able to download one volume at a time.
Print Collection on Blindness and Disability
A small print collection of books about blindness and other disabilities is available for checkout by State of California employees and other holders of a California State Library card. BTBL customers can borrow print books on blindness, visual disabilities, and other physical disabilities through interlibrary loan from their public and/or academic libraries.