Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

The Idaho talking book service

Michael Strickland

From Special Olympians to great scientists to achievers of all types who don’t fit the traditional mold, I have always had an interest in promoting access for those who are differently abled. Step into the world of words without the constraints of traditional print. For those facing the challenge of reading large fonts or grappling with the physical act of holding a book, a literary escape awaits in the heart of Idaho. The Idaho Talking Book Service (TBS) serves as a source of light, offering the joy of literature to those facing obstacles in traditional reading.

The TBS emerges as a beacon of accessibility, offering a treasury of audiobooks that transcends barriers. This invaluable service, administered by the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL), extends its embrace to residents struggling with visual or physical limitations, opening the door to a vast collection of tales that traverse genres and themes. I have always been excited about this gateway to stories, where the pages turn with the gentle hum of narration, echoing the promise of a literary journey free for every Idahoan in need.

The TBS is an audiobook library service that is convenient and available at no cost to any Idaho resident who is blind, has a perceptual or reading disability, or is unable to read standard print due to a visual impairment or physical disability. To utilize the service, a person must have a qualifying condition, which can be certified by a medical professional, social worker, librarian, activities director in a care facility, or others.

The TBS loans audiobooks and magazines, and provides an easy-to-use player for the audio cartridges. Materials are mailed to and from the user’s residence at no charge. There are more than 100,000 fiction and nonfiction titles in the collection — everything from westerns and romance to mysteries and biographies. Also available are titles with an Idaho theme or connection, which are recorded locally.

Each participant’s service can be as automated or personalized as the user and/or their caregiver would like. Whether it means having materials mailed to an alternate address when the family heads south for the winter or increasing the frequency of books, the TBS customer service representatives (CSRs) help ensure the users’ needs are met. And if those needs change, the service can easily be altered to meet them. In addition, there is no complicated phone tree to navigate before reaching an actual person to speak with. The TBS CSRs are based in Boise and eager to help patrons by phone or via email every weekday. Patrons simply call or click, and the TBS staff responds. Plus, they love talking about books and giving reading recommendations.

Another feature of the service is the Braille and Audio Recording Download, known as BARD, through which books and magazines can be downloaded directly to the user’s device. A TBS CSR can help a caregiver access BARD for the patron, and there’s no wait time for the next great read.

Maybe you know someone who might benefit from the TBS, but you aren’t sure. Visit your local public library and ask a staff member to show you a TBS player. You’ll experience the player’s large and user-friendly buttons and see how simple it is to use. The player has a power cord and a battery, so it can go everywhere a TBS user does — on a road trip or just outside to the garden. The library will also have TBS marketing materials.

A patron receives their audiobooks on a cartridge. When they are ready to return the cartridge, the patron or their caregiver simply turns the mailing card over, slides it into a slot, and puts the cartridge in their outgoing mail. No trip to the post office or postage required. The materials are mailed “free matter for the blind.”

As the spoken words weave tales of adventure, romance, mystery, and more, the Idaho TBS not only transcends the limitations imposed by print but also fosters a community where stories become bridges between hearts. In this auditory realm, where the written word transforms into whispered narratives, the power of imagination knows no bounds. The Idaho Commission for Libraries continues to champion accessibility, ensuring that every resident with a qualifying condition finds solace in the symphony of audiobooks. So, let the stories echo in the minds of Idahoans, transcending barriers and fostering a shared love for literature that reverberates far beyond the realms of the tangible pages. The Idaho Talking Book Service stands as a testament to the belief that everyone deserves the magic of storytelling, no matter the obstacles they face.

The Idaho Talking Book Service is very straightforward for patrons and/or their caregivers to use and there is no cost associated with the program. TBS can provide a lifeline for Idahoans who have become isolated. Staff receive countless cards, letters, and emails from family members of TBS patrons who praise the service for giving something valuable back to their loved one. Through its commitment to accessibility, the TBS breaks down barriers. In a world where isolation can often loom large, the Idaho Talking Book Service serves as an oasis, offering not just literature but also a sense of belonging and connection.

If you think the TBS can help you or someone you know, visit https://libraries.idaho.gov/tbs for more information. Or call the Idaho Talking Book Service at 800-458-3271

Michael Strickland

Michael Strickland

Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University and studies at Idaho State University.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday