RNIB’s Talking Books service was originally launched in 1935 to help soldiers blinded in the war. Now in its 80th year, it has recently made the landmark decision to make the service free to access for all blind and partially sighted people in the UK. The news was announced on 10th November 2015, the eve of Armistice Day to honour the heritage of the service’s military connections.
Today, over 30,000 blind and partially sighted adults and children use Talking Books. The RNIB Library is the largest of its kind in Europe and contains 60,000 accessible items including their 23,000 Talking Books. Readers can access the audio books on CD or USB or as a digital download, so that they can listen to them how they choose, whether at home or, increasingly, ‘on-the-go’.
Anyone who is blind or partially sighted can now borrow up to six Talking Books at any time, completely free-of-charge. Previously, customers contributed an annual subscription of £50. With more than 360,000 people registered blind or partially sighted in the UK, we hope that thousands more will sign up to the service. We also expect that this move will help transform how local authorities provide library services to their residents with sight loss. Previously, local authorities paid for over 80% of all RNIB Talking Book subscriptions; however, economic pressures have resulted in falling investment by local library services in this area over recent years. This in turn has compromised people’s access to accessible reading and that is why RNIB has made this decision at this time.
Commitment from HarperCollins
As part of the anniversary celebrations, HarperCollins, which counts Hilary Mantel, Bernard Cornwell and David Walliams amongst its authors, has become the first publisher to commit to delivering every new title to the RNIB Library on the date of general publication. This is incredibly good news for us and helps us to provide equal and immediate access to current bestsellers for blind and partially sighted readers.
As well as the flagship Talking Books Service, RNIB Library also offers a range of fiction and non-fiction titles for adults and children in braille and giant print (there are over 26,000 titles in print to choose from).
RNIB Library has launched a new online catalogue earlier this year at www.rniblibrary.com, so borrowers can now join online and access their own accounts, which is all part of RNIB’s drive to encourage and support people with sight loss to lead independent, digitally-enabled lives. As illustrated by the story of Talking Books, RNIB has a rich heritage of innovation around reading, and RNIB library is continuing to move with the times and technology.
To find out more about the RNIB Library or to sign up for Talking Books, call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit our website.
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Libraries Taskforce or the DCMS