Chancey Fleet first visited the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library on a trip from Virginia in the 1990s. “I was blown away by the browsable Braille collection,” she says. “I was ten or 11, and I checked out a bunch of choose-your-own-adventure books.” Upon returning to New York as an adult, she adds, “I already had an affinity for the library.”
Serving the public good has long been the mandate of all libraries. Providing everyone with access to information, without regard to income or demographic differences, is perhaps a library’s most noble aspiration. For patrons with visual challenges, this has meant providing books in multiple formats, including large print.
Having written a column a couple of weeks ago expressing skepticism, even cynicism, about the prospect of the international diplomatic conference sponsored in Marrakesh by the World Intellectual Property Organization actually producing a treaty on copyright exceptions for the blind and visually impaired, I was both pleased and surprised to hear that such a treaty was agreed to by the delegates in the wee hours of June 25.
What would happen to our libraries if the following statement became a reality: “If you can buy a book, you can’t borrow it?” What if I told you that it’s on the verge of happening internationally, and in a way that is pretty despicable? For years, international negotiations have been moving forward on a treaty is to make it possible for people who are blind, or have other print disabilities like dyslexia, to get access to the books they need. At first, private interests were supportive. Then, they realized they could squeeze something out of this treaty that would greatly benefit them—stricter international copyright law.
Credo Reference is integrating text-to-speech technology from ReadSpeaker into its Literati full-text reference line of offerings. The text-to-speech functionality is already available for Literati Public and will soon be added to Literati Academic, Literati School, and Literati Student Athlete. The latter two products were launched earlier this year. The move comes as several library organizations are embarking on more focused efforts to address the need for accessibility with digital content.
While the verdict in the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case has been widely hailed for its impact on how libraries can handle digitization for search, the findings on access for the print-disabled may lead to even more profound changes in practice. On an Association of Research Libraries (ARL) webcast, Daniel F. Goldstein, counsel of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), said the decision could revolutionize university services to their blind and print disabled students.