Accessible libraries: “another sense of reading”
The German Center for Accessible Reading, dzb lesen, unites tradition with the modern world. Founded on November 12, 1894 as the German Central Library for the Blind, it has been a library for the blind and visually impaired for over 125 years and is thus the oldest specialized library of its kind in Germany. Over the years, the non-profit institution has constantly faced new challenges. Changes to German copyright law in January 2019 made it possible to reposition and rename the institution in November 2019. We now offer literature available on loan or purchase for many different user groups. , and, following our motto “a different sense of reading”, are developing new resources for people with dyslexia and people with physical disabilities who cannot handle books. At dzb lesen, we use our expertise to offer advice and services that make reading accessible and promote inclusion.
In short, our vision is this: we make reading possible. In order to bring our main principle to life, we work with accessibility always in mind. Thus, dzb lesen provides many ways of accessing literature and information and tailors its activities to the interests and individual needs of its blind, visually impaired and print-disabled users, i.e. all those who cannot read the usual print. To fulfill our mission, we collaborate in national and international networks and exchange our experiences.
One of our goals for the foreseeable future is to provide large print for the visually impaired and print disabled, further developing our dzb lesen app (App Store, google play) —Like the activation of voice commands, which would be useful for people with physical disabilities — and the development of accessible e-books, which support, among others, people with dyslexia.
We know that despite our efforts and those of similar institutions, there is a great lack of accessible literature. We aim to change this situation in cooperation with publishers and publishers, this is the only way. An important concept for us is “accessible content born”, inclusive publication from the source. The process has started but there is still a lack of basic understanding and skills needed, which is why we are making a lot of training offers to publishers and libraries.
The center is not just a library, it is above all a production center for braille and audio media, large print, tactile media… and soon more. Special offers are created for the special reading needs of people who are blind, visually impaired and unable to read print.
To make printed materials accessible, the center must adapt them: texts are transcribed in Braille or edited in large print, musical scores are transcribed in Braille music, images are converted into tactile images and audio books are narrated. To do this, the center has its own recording studio, printers and binding.
No matter if you prefer detective novels or non-fiction, light or classic, we have books of all genres for your “aha!” moments, thrills and pleasant reading. Our free library offers approximately 75,000 different titles to eligible users. In addition, dzb lesen offers magazine subscriptions and many products for sale. We also produce supports at the request of our readers and on order.
In general, fiction titles are at the top of our loan numbers. Along with Braille literature, our DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) audiobooks are by far the most popular. And our embossed products, such as children’s tactile books or tactile maps, are definitely something special. Our collection of braille sheet music for professional and non-professional blind musicians is unique in Germany.
What makes dzb lesen special?
The fundamental difference between dzb lesen and other libraries — for example the public library in your residential area — is that we don’t have a reading room, we don’t have a reference library, hardly any visitors, and we don’t have a library. user fees. Our library works by mail. Users request books, often by calling our librarians, and have them sent home. Braille books, for example, are sent free of charge in a large kind of case as a blind copy. Every day we send many audiobooks by mail. Our “reading room” includes all German speaking countries and even beyond that we send our books wherever our users read German, even in Canada and Australia. Many audiobook fans also use our free dzb lesen app (App Store, google play) for streaming and downloading. We want to expand this service.
As a library we work in the field of reading promotion, mainly with schools for blind and visually impaired children and similar institutions. We are also in contact with public libraries through our “Chance Inclusion” initiative. We train their librarians and facilitate the provision of our accessible literature to public libraries. Thus, the elderly can continue to use their home library, even if they lose their sight and have difficulty reading. Our 50,000 audiobooks are a great offer for them.
Each year, we host many public events, including readings and lectures, guided tours for children and adults, museum nights and our regular open houses. We participate in various expert fairs and forums, we teach at the University of Leipzig and the University of Applied Sciences Leipzig (HTWK Leipzig), we cooperate with public radio and TV stations to create accessible offers , And much more. All of this makes our center, our library, special.
Photos courtesy of dzb lesen. Used with permission.