Promoting the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of our library heritage
Monday, February 28, 2011
That All May Read, NLS turns 80
The National Library Service for the Blind and the Physically Handicapped (NLS) celebrates its 80th anniversary on March 3rd. The motto for the NLS is "That All May Read". I don't think that motto can be beat. There is a nice history of the NLS and prior efforts to serve the visually impaired on the NLS website. The Library of Congress which administers the NLS has been serving the visually impaired since 1897 when its new building (now called the Thomas Jefferson Building) opened. That was largely due to Librarian of Congress John Russell Young. The act establishing the NLS in 1931 provided for local and regional libraries throughout the nation and many of those will also be celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. One of the most important aspects of the NLS is its books-by-mail program. In 1912 the United States became the first nation in the world to provide free postage for mailing materials to the blind. This was the same year that the National Library for the Blind, a NLS predecessor, was established by Congress. One of the artifacts in my collection is a mailing case for talking books that was used by what is now the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL) in Seattle, one of the regional libraries for the NLS program. The WTBBL is one of the regional libraries that will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.