Sunday, October 29, 2000

Library lends out 'talking books'

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Three years after she first visited the Northern Kentucky Talking Book Library, Covington retiree Joanne Castle has become one of its biggest supporters.

        “Anybody that I talk to, I try to get them on (the program), and they just love it,” said Mrs. Castle, who lives in the Hathaway Court senior citizens complex. “I've gotten a lot of the ladies in the building registered. Now every time I go to the library, I bring back a big boxful of books for everyone.”

        The 65-year-old retired florist, who is blind in one eye, said it's not uncommon for her to check out 30 romance and mystery novels at a time — just for herself.

        “I listen to books in my car, I take them with me to the laundry room, and I take a book with me whenever I visit my daughter in Independence,” Mrs. Castle said. “Anyplace I go, my books go.”

        This Friday, supervisors of the Northern Kentucky

        Talking Book Library hope to acquaint more folks like Mrs. Castle with their services, as they celebrate the library's 20th anniversary. A reception will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mary Ann Mongan Library, 502 Scott Blvd.

        “One of the big problems we have is getting the word out about this program,” said Richard Feindel, who coordinates Kentucky's Talking Book program. “We feel there are many more people eligible for it than are currently being served.”

        Established by the Library of Congress in 1931 for people unable to read traditional print, the Talking Book Program came to Kentucky in 1968.

        The Library of Congress supplies the books, which are recorded on specially designed audio tapes. Patrons are mailed the books and the equipment to play them, then send them back, or drop them off at the library when they are finished.

        In the fall of 1980, the Kenton County Public Library system contracted with the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to offer the free service in eight Northern Kentucky counties: Kenton, Boone, Campbell, Grant, Pendleton, Owen, Carroll and Gallatin. Today, it has more than 700 active patrons.

        “The advantage is that if you're in the middle of a good book and the equipment breaks, you can pick up a new machine right away,” said Julia Allegrini, supervisor of the Northern Kentucky Talking Book Library. “You can also come in for personal lessons on how to use the equipment.”

        John Coldwell, an 87-year-old Burlington man who was blinded in an explosion at age 13, has “read” talking books most of his life.

        “I had learned braille, but I never had achieved good braille reading,” Mr. Coldwell said. “This way, I can read books and magazines.”

        Since the talking books program was established, its scope has been expanded to include users with learning disabilities who have trouble comprehending the printed word, Miss Allegrini said.

        Julie Ingalls, who teaches visually impaired students in Boone County Schools, said she has one student who reads braille, but not all of the novels he's assigned can be found in braille.

        “With the talking books, he can keep up with classroom assignments,” she said.


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