RNIB, which operates one of Europe’s largest braille lending libraries, has recently announced changes to the way books will be produced from April 2021. Since the announcement, there has naturally been much discussion about what these changes will mean for braille readers in the UK and around the world.
The Braillists Foundation and colleagues from RNIB explored these changes and answered questions from the public on Tuesday 23 March.
RNIB Braille Library – important update
Dear RNIB Braille Library Customer,
I am writing to let you know that from April 2021, RNIB’s Braille Library will be upgraded to offer Braille Library books on demand, a new personalised braille reading service designed to substantially increase access to hardcopy braille books for readers across the UK.
While you do not need to take any action to benefit from the new service, I want to share some of the changes you will notice in the coming months.
You will begin receiving freshly produced pristine Braille Library books that are recyclable. Your braille books will be more hygienic as you will be the first person to read them. Plus, your book is much less likely to be damaged or unreadable due to squashed dots. You will have access to a larger braille collection delivered straight to your door free of charge.
You will notice Braille Library books will be a more convenient format that will fit through more letterboxes, is easier to store and carry around. The smaller lighter volumes are much more comfortable for children and anyone with physical difficulties handling older heavier books.
Braille Library books on demand also means books are never out of stock. You will no longer need to wait for another Braille Library member to return a book you have requested. Multiple readers can receive copies of the same title simultaneously, ideal to meet shifting demand for new releases, best sellers and prize winners while preserving access to rarer books of special interest.
If you are already an RNIB Braille Library member, you will start receiving books in the new format automatically. You can continue to manage your book lists online or over the phone. You can change how often you receive books. If you manage a Braille Library membership on behalf of someone else, you can continue getting support via the RNIB Helpline or manage booklists online.
Unlike traditional library books, Braille Library on demand books are designed to be recycled and should not be returned. You can keep books for as long as you need them. You can also share your books with other braille readers.
As passionate readers ourselves, we appreciate braille is a vital literacy medium for tens of thousands of readers across the UK. Sadly however, the Braille Library in its current form is increasingly out of date and excludes some readers.
Large parts of our current collection are in old braille formats unsuitable for new braille readers. Many books are rarely borrowed, most of our collection has not left the warehouse in the past two years. Braille books occupy miles of shelving that is complex and expensive to maintain.
Older braille library books are bulky, heavy, and difficult for some readers to return. These books exclude some readers, especially those with physical difficulties.
After careful research and evaluation of braille library services around the world, we have found producing braille library books on demand offers the best opportunity for sustainable access to hardcopy braille for the widest number of readers for as long as is needed.
Please be assured that older books in our warehouse will be donated to customers and schools in the UK. We will then donate books to our sister organisations overseas. If there is a particular book you would like to keep, please contact the library with your request.
Special braille items of cultural significance will be preserved as part of RNIB’s Heritage collection based in London.
Children who would like to keep a few favourite braille books in the old format are welcome to do so and we can arrange this by calling RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999, or via email [email protected] although they may find the new format easier to hold and read.
Combined with RNIB’s growing collection of electronic braille library books available to you on an SD memory card and download from our website, the braille library upgrade represents a renewed commitment to braille literacy and offers readers greater choice than ever before. In 2020 RNIB invested over £100,000 in providing electronic braille equipment and books to meet changing reader requirements. However, we recognise the continued value of hardcopy braille for many and plan to offer both services in parallel. However, if you would like to explore also receiving books electronically please contact the library.
If you have any questions about the Braille Library, please call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email us at [email protected].
RNIB Reading Services Manager