Just for Librarians:
A Guide to the Talking Book Program


Internal Links
Application Process and Eligibility
Certifying Authorities
Demonstration Site
Book Circulation
Spotlight on Texas
Ordering Books
Reader's Advisory Services
Automatic Selections
Web-Braille and other Dowload Services
Loan Period
Returning Books
Damaged or Incomplete Books
Disability Information & Referral Center
Texas Reading Club
What Patrons Say about TBP
Working with Patrons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Contact Us

Related Links
Spotlight on Texas Books
Disability Information & Referral Center
National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped
NLS Online Catalog Voyager (formerly Web-BLND)


The Talking Book Program (TBP), a division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), is a joint state and federal program that provides unabridged books in alternative formats to Texans of all ages who are unable to read standard print material due to visual, physical, or reading disabilities. The service, which began in 1918 when the Texas Legislature appropriated $1,000 for raised-lettering books, is free of charge and available to those who qualify (see “Application Process and Eligibility,” page 2, for more details). In FY2005, TBP provided library services to more than 20,000 individuals and institutions across Texas and circulated more than 800,000 volumes.
     TBP provides books on digital cartridge, cassette tape, in Braille, and in large print. TBP audiobooks can be played only on specialized playback equipment; this protects the copyright, allowing TBP to provide access to qualified users within the constraints of copyright law. Audiobooks are available on digital cartridge and on cassette, and TBP loans readers digital talking book machines (DTBMs) as well as special cassette players.
     National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a program administered by the Library of Congress, provides most of our materials. More than 80,000 titles comprise the TBP collection, which includes bestsellers (fiction and nonfiction), classics, mysteries, westerns, science fiction, children’s books, biographies, and other genres. TBP does not provide textbooks.
     We also have Spanish and other foreign language books and have access to the NLS network for interlibrary loan requests of titles we do not hold.
     Our volunteer recording studios in Austin and Midland produce an audio collection of Texana titles (books that are written by Texans or about some aspect of Texas).
     In addition to books, TBP offers many national magazines, such as Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated, Cooking Light, Ebony, National Geographic, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Parenting, and Guideposts. Not all magazines are available in all formats. Locally produced magazines available on cassette include Texas Highways, Texas Monthly, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Magazines are provided free of charge to TBP patrons.
     Application forms are available on our website and in this publication for you to duplicate, or you may call or write TBP with your questions or requests for application forms:

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
PO Box 12927 Austin TX 78711-2927
1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas) 512-463-5458 (Austin area)
512-936-0685 (fax)

The Talking Book Program provides books in alternative formats: digital cartridge, cassette, Braille, and large print.

The Talking Book Program provides books in alternative formats:
digital cartridge, cassette, Braille, and large print.

For more information about TBP and
the National Library Service, visit these websites:

How the Talking Book Program can help you

The Talking Book Program can be instrumental in helping public libraries across Texas meet the needs of readers who have difficulty reading standard print. By distributing information about this free library service and referring prospective patrons to TBP, your library staff can give readers of all ages the opportunity to experience the joys of reading and learning through books.
     TBP can also help your library meet standards mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act by offering popular books in alternative media free of charge to qualified users. We strive to provide friendly service and quality reader advisory assistance. Contact us with your questions; we will be happy to help in any way we can.

Reader consultants are available between 8 a.m. and noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to assist patrons with their library service and to answer any questions you have about our program. Call us at 1-800-252-9605.

Reader consultants are available between 8 a.m. and noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to assist patrons with their library service and to answer any questions you have about our program. Call us at 1-800-252-9605.

Application Process and Eligibility

In order to receive service from the Talking Book Program, interested individuals or institutions are required to complete an application form that includes an agreement that must be signed by the applicant or guardian assuming responsibility for items borrowed.  Application forms for individuals are available in English and in Spanish. Nursing homes, care facilities, and other institutions that serve qualified patrons may submit an institutional application, but are encouraged to have clients submit individual applications. Schools with qualifying students should submit a school registration application.  Application forms can be downloaded from our website and have been included in this publication and may be photocopied.  If you need more copies, contact TBP anytime to request additional application forms.


To be eligible for TBP service, a Texas resident must be unable to read or use standard printed material as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations and must submit a properly certified signed application verifying that he or she meets one or more of the federal eligibility criteria:

Blindness - Visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses or the widest diameter of visual field subtending an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.

Visual Disability - Inability to read standard print material without additional magnification devices other than prescription glasses.

Physical Disability - Inability to read or use standard print material as a result of physical limitations, such as paralysis, extreme weakness, or missing arms or hands.

Reading Disability - Organic dysfunction of sufficient severity as to prevent reading print material in a normal manner; for this category, the certifying authority must be a doctor of medicine or osteopathy.

Applications for service from individuals claiming a reading disability based on a physical handicap must establish the following facts:

  • the reading disability must be of sufficient severity to prevent reading regular or standard print material in a normal manner,
  • the cause of the disability must be physically based, that is, it must be an organic dysfunction, and
  • the person certifying the application must be medically able to judge whether the disability has a physical or organic basis.

Individuals who have the following conditions are not automatically eligible unless there is a specific accompanying visual or physical handicap:

  • learning disabilities,
  • dyslexia,
  • attention deficit disorder,
  • attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder,
  • chronic-fatigue syndrome,
  • autism,
  • functional illiteracy, or
  • mental retardation.


By law, the Talking Book Program gives priority service to veterans of the United States armed forces who have received honorable discharges from military service. Documentation that verifies a veteran's status, such as a copy of the DD-214 form, must be submitted with the application. For further information, please call 1-800-252-9605, or send an email inquiry to tbp.services@tsl.texas.gov with subject heading, "Veteran Status Verification."

Certifying Authorities

For most eligible people served by this program, the cause of the inability to read print material—such as blindness, paralysis, loss of arms or hands, extreme weakness, or palsy—is readily observable. In these cases, professionals in various fields related to health care, education, or rehabilitation are acceptable as certifying authorities. For persons classified as reading disabled, usually only the effect is readily apparent. The cause, when physical, lies within the central nervous system, and, under the existing regulations, can be determined only by a competent medical authority.  Therefore, federal regulations require the signature of a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy on the application to certify not only that a reading disability exists and is serious enough to prevent reading regular print material in a normal manner, but also that the identified condition has a physical basis. Non-organic factors—such as emotional or environmental causes, intellectual or educational deficiencies, or other possible non-organic or nonphysical causes—must be ruled out and cannot provide a basis for certification. When certifying applications for service for persons with reading disabilities, certifying medical authorities are encouraged to consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.

Each application submitted to TBP must bear the original signature of a certifying authority. This signature may be on an accompanying document attached to the application only if the document includes the following: name of the prospective patron, qualifying disability, credentials/title of certifying authority, and original signature of certifying authority. Signature by stamp, signature by proxy, a fax or photocopy of an application with an original signature, or electronic signature will not be accepted. Please note that prospective patrons cannot certify their own applications, and certifying authorities cannot sign applications for relatives.


Certifying Authorities for all Eligibility Criteria

  • Medical Doctor
  • Doctor of Osteopathy
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Psychiatrist

Certifying Authorities for Blindness, Visual and/or Physical Disability

  • Library Director
  • Activity Director
  • Bachelor of Social Work
  • Certified Ophthalmic Technician
  • Certified Nurse's Aide
  • Certified Physician's Assistant
  • Educational Diagnostician
  • Licensed Physician's Assistant
  • Licensed Social Worker
  • Licensed Vocational Nurse
  • Master of Social Work
  • Medical Social Worker
  • Optometrist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Professional Librarian
  • Psychologist
  • Qualified Mental Retardation Professional
  • Registered Nurse
  • School Nurse
  • Speech/Language Pathologist
  • Social Worker

Professional Staff of Hospitals, Institutions, and Public or Welfare Agencies, including:

  • Area Representative with Christian Record Services, Inc.
  • Caseworker
  • Education Specialist
  • Home Teacher
  • Independent Living Caseworker
  • Independent Living Rehabilitation Caseworker
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Optician
  • Orientation and Mobility Specialist
  • Pharmacist
  • Physician Assistant
  • Principal
  • Registered Occupational Therapist
  • Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Rehabilitation Teacher
  • Resource Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Superintendent
  • Teacher
  • Teacher for the Visually Impaired
  • Vision Itinerant Teacher
  • Vision Teacher
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Teacher

Download Applications

Want to become a Demonstration Site?

By providing demonstrations of Talking Book Program equipment and materials, Demonstration Sites make the Talking Book Program’s services known to potential patrons who otherwise might not have been aware of them. Demonstration sites do not circulate materials or machines; rather, they show potential patrons and others what services are available.
        All interested parties, whether eligible for Talking Book Program services or not, may attend demonstrations, but materials and machines loaned to demonstration sites may not circulate or be used for research or recreational purposes, even by users eligible for the Talking Book Program’s services.
        If your institution would like to help promote the Talking Book Program of Texas, please submit a Demonstration Site Application

Book Circulation

Patrons may request books from the collection and have staff add these selections to a request file. TBP asks patrons to specify a circulation quota for each active medium; a digital book request quota, for example, controls the number of cartridge-format books checked out to the patron at any given time. Due to supply and budget constraints, patrons may check out a maximum of 5 digital cartridges at one time. Registered users may, however, download as many books from BARD (NLS’ Braille and Audio Reading Download service) as they wish. There is no limit on the number of cassette, large print, or Braille books a patron can have on loan, but books must be returned on time.


     Catalogs are offered to patrons during the new patron set-up process, or upon request once patrons are registered for service. Bimonthly catalogs of current audiobook releases (Talking Book Topics) and Braille book releases (Braille Book Review) are available online and in print; catalogs of books in Spanish and books for younger readers are also available. No new books are being produced on cassette, but previously–recorded cassettes are still in circulation. Compiled listings of all books produced in a given format during a particular year, also are available. A listing of large print books available from TBP is available on our Web site, TexasTalkingBooks.org.

Spotlight on Texas

     Spotlight on Texas is a bi-annual audio and online newsletter that informs patrons about the latest titles our volunteers have recorded. These include fiction and nonfiction with a Texas connection, as well as Spanish language titles.
     Patrons may also search for titles using the NLS Catalog Voyager (formerly Web-Blnd), the national collection online catalog at: http://nlscatalog.loc.gov

Ordering Books

Staff members in TBP’s Reader Services department help patrons select books they will enjoy. Reader consultants can search the collection by author, title, subject, and narrator. TBP has bilingual staff members to help Spanish-speaking patrons.
     Books can be ordered from TBP by telephone, by order form through the mail, via e-mail, or by fax. The Reader Services department also has a voicemail system to take messages after business hours (8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday; closed during the noon hour); book orders can be called in and left on the voicemail system from 5 pm to 8 AM and noon to 1 PM Monday through Friday, as well as on weekends and holidays.

Reader's Advisory Service

TBP’s Reader’s Advisory Service is available for readers who want assistance in deciding what to read. Reader’s Advisory staff are professional librarians who specialize in analyzing reader interests and preferences and fine-tuning their accounts to provide them with the best reading experience. RA librarians are available for in-depth consultation upon request.

Automatic Selections

     TBP’s computer system can automatically send patrons books based on medium, genre, or subject categories. For example, if a patron likes to read westerns on digital cartridge, his or her account can be tailored to send a certain number of westerns at a time, and each time a book is returned, the automatic selection program will randomly select another western for the patron.

Web-Braille and other Dowload Services

      Web Braille provides electronic access via the Web to Braille readers.  Readers have access to more than 4,000 electronic Braille books, magazines, and musical scores placed on the Internet for the use of eligible Braille readers by the LOC’s National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The books may be downloaded or read online by individuals with the necessary Braille/computer equipment. Patrons who wish to use Web Braille must first be registered with TBP and then request Web Braille registration.
      TBP also offers an audiobook download service to registered patrons.  BARD is a free digital download service offered by NLS through TBP; it features more than 21,000 books and 48 magazines in the NLS catalog.  New titles are added weekly. BARD books can be downloaded onto digital cartridges, flash drives, or other storage media, and played on the program’s DTBM (Digital Talking Book Machine) or one of several commercial players loaded with NLS software.  Please contact the Reader Services department at 1-800-252-9605 for more information about these services and how to register for them.

Loan Period

     TBP loans books to individual patrons for 45 days from the date the book is sent to the patron. If a patron maintains a request list of books on file or participates in the automatic selection program, each time a book on loan is returned, another item (in the same format) from the patron’s request list will be sent out automatically. Of course, if books aren’t returned, no new books will circulate. Registered classrooms may borrow books for 90 days if the book is being used in a school assignment. Institutional patrons (hospitals, nursing homes) may borrow books for up to 120 days.  Magazines are loaned for 21 days.  Patrons may renew books and magazines one time if desired; each renewal period is the same length as the regular loan period, and starts from the date the item was originally due.

Returning Books

     To return a book, the patron places it in the mailing container in which it arrived. The patron then reverses the mailing label on the outside of the container so that the return address is visible. If patrons return books as they are read, a steady stream of circulations will result. Patrons who return all loans at once will be without books until replacements arrive. All TBP books are mailed postage-free.

Damaged or Incomplete Books

     Damaged or incomplete books should be reported to Reader Services and returned. When returning these materials, the patron should reverse the label on the container and then mark the left side of the return-mailing label with an “X” to alert staff there is a problem. Replacements usually can be mailed very quickly after the patron notifies Reader Services.


Machines and Accessories Available
on Loan to Patrons of TBP

Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM)

  • Plays digital cartridges or flash drives (via side port)
  • Smaller and lighter than the cassette machine           
  • Standard and Advanced players with different levels of navigation and functions 
  • Easy to use, even for patrons with limited dexterity 
  • Rechargeable with power cord; 29 hour battery life

Cassette Machine

  •    Plays audio cassettes at 15/16 inches per second (ips) and 1-7/8 ips, 2-track and 4-track
  •    No longer in production, but still circulating; prone to breakdowns due to age and wear
  •    Being phased out; will be replaced by the DTBM    
  •    Equipped with a rechargeable battery and an electrical cord
  •    Variable speed control that permits increasing or decreasing playback speed


  •    Extension levers (for cassette player)
  •    Pillow speakers (via NLS)
  •    Amplified headphones (for hearing impaired only; via NLS)
  •    Breath switch (via NLS)
  •    Headphone adaptor for DTBM
  •    Port adaptor for DTBM (allows flash drive to lie flush with side of machine)

     TBP provides the playback equipment and accessories described above to patrons on loan. Equipment must be returned if a patron becomes ineligible or no longer uses the service. TBP may also recall equipment for repair, maintenance, audit, inactivity, or other reasons. 
     If at any time equipment is not working properly, patrons should first call Reader Services to request a replacement, then return the broken machine(s) to TBP.  Replacements will be sent when the broken machine is received. Equipment is shipped in boxes fitted with styrofoam packing material; patrons should save the original boxes to facilitate return of equipment.  TBP cannot send empty boxes to patrons for the return of equipment. All equipment may be returned postage-free to:

The Talking Book Program’s circulating collection contains thousands of different titles. A portion of our Braille collection is shown here.

Machine Lending Service
Talking Book Program
4400B Shoal Creek Blvd
Austin TX 78756-3213

Disability Information & Referral Center

The TBP's Disability Information and Referral Center (DIRC)T he Disability Information and Referral Center (DIRC) provides information related to disabilities and health conditions. Although the DIRC operates through the Talking Book Program, the staff accepts requests from both TBP patrons and the general public. The DIRC is a key resource for disability-related information for Texans.
     The DIRC accepts requests via phone calls, e-mail messages, and walk-in patrons. Individuals with disabilities and their families, teachers, counselors, researchers, as well as librarians, can find answers to their disability-related questions through the DIRC.
     The DIRC has information and materials on a wide range of disabilities and health conditions, products, services, organizations, support groups, publications, and assistive technology. The staff utilizes a wide variety of resources, both electronic and print, to answer questions and fulfill requests. The DIRC also houses a small circulating collection of books, DVDs, and other materials. Please note that the majority of these materials are in standard rather than special formats.
     Examples of reference requests managed by the DIRC staff include:

l I am hearing impaired and have just moved to a new city. I need to know what services are available in my new area.
l I am teaching blind/Braille awareness to groups of elementary school children, and would like information on instructional materials and ideas for activities.
l My son was recently diagnosed with dyslexia, and I want to learn all I can about the condition.
l My library needs information on assistive technology for our computer system.
l A resident at our nursing home would like to know if there are support groups for stroke patients in our area.
     The print and audiovisual circulating collection of the DIRC features mainly works of nonfiction relating to specific disabilities and conditions, plus a few biographies and fiction titles. Books are circulated for a period of five weeks, while videotapes are available on loan for three weeks. The borrower pays for return postage, and fines for overdue materials are assessed. The DIRC does not have a circulating collection of descriptive movies or television shows.
     Examples of books currently available in the circulating collection are:

  • l Helen and Teacher: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy by Joseph P. Lash.
  • Coping with Macular Degeneration by Bill G. Chapman; illustrated by George H. Pollock.
  • The LD Child and the ADHD Child: Ways Parents and Professionals Can Help by Suzanne H. Stevens.
  • Independence without Sight or Sound: Suggestions for Practitioners Working with Deaf-Blind Adults by Dona Sauerburger.
  • It’s your Turn at Bat: Featuring Mark Riley by Barbara Aiello and Jeffrey Shulman; illustrated by Loel Barr (fiction title about cerebral palsy).

     The DIRC’s holdings are included in TSLAC’s online catalog: http://www.tsl.texas.gov/catalog/index.html.
For more information about the DIRC, please call 1-800-252-9605, or 512-463-5458, or send an e-mail message to tbp.services@tsl.texas.gov.

Texas Reading Club

Each year TBP proudly participates in the Texas Reading Club Program for young readers. Because our library interacts with patrons primarily through the telephone and mail, we encourage our younger patrons who are interested in participating in the Texas Reading Club to explore the libraries in their communities as well. Typically, public libraries that participate in the Texas Reading Club provide fun, theme-related activities to promote an interest in reading. We encourage our patrons to call or stop by their public library to find out what activities are being offered and what accommodations are being made for persons with disabilities.
      Our patrons participate in the Texas Reading Club by contacting TBP to request the cassette, braille, or large-print books that they need to participate in theme-related activities at their public libraries.

What Patrons Say about the Talking Book Program

From the many cards and letters that we receive each month from our patrons, we know that the Talking Book Program is much more than a library service for many of our patrons. Many of them refer to this program as their “lifeline.”   Here are some comments from our patrons:
    “I would like to thank also all the people with whom I have communicated in the program for their unfailing courtesy, support, and helpfulness. The books recommended to me fit my tastes, and I enjoy the wide variety of subject matter available on cassettes.”
“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks for your services. An avid reader all my life, when my eyesight failed and I could no longer read, I felt totally lost. The friends and teachers and companions of a lifetime—books—were no longer available to me. The Talking Book Program cassette player and cassettes that are sent and returned free of charge are luxuries I could never afford myself. It has meant the world to have books return to my life through the Talking Book Program.”
“My mother has been using this service for two years. She became very depressed and despondent after losing her sight due to macular degeneration, because until then she was an avid reader. Your Talking Book Program has improved her attitude 100%. I think this is a wonderful service you provide for the blind and handicapped. Please keep up the good work!”
“My son has used the recordings from the Texas State Library for the past three years. They have enriched and eased his life.... Many thanks to everyone for their help.”
“I love the way this government cares about each of its citizens. My unfortunate sighted friends belong to the Book of the Month Club and all they look forward to is one book a month. I get ten or fifteen a month and it is always exciting to go to my mailbox to see what books may have arrived. Thanks for doing such a great job.”
“I would like to take the time to thank you for having such a wonderful program available to me. It is a very rare privilege to be able to ‘read’ a book once again. Quite frankly, I was relatively certain that those days had been erased from my life forever. Now, thanks to y’all and to the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, I am not only able to ‘read’ the books that I love so much, but I am also attending college. I hope to gain a degree in computer science in the not so distant future.”

Working with Patrons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Here are a few suggestions that will help you put patrons who are blind or visually impaired at ease in the library:

  1. Speak directly to the person, never through his/her companion, using normal conversational tones.
  2. When guiding him/her, offer your arm; never take the arm of the blind person. The movements of your arm will let him/her know what to expect. When going through a door or a narrow passage, move your arm with his/her hand on it around to your back. Your library patron will know to step behind you.
  3. Remember that a guide dog is a working animal. His attention should not be diverted. Do not pet the dog or speak to the dog without first getting permission from his/her master.
  4. When giving directions, explain as clearly as possible. Use the directions left or right, according to the way the patron is facing.
  5. Use words like "see" and "blindness" and phrases like "watch TV" as you would in any conversation.
  6. When showing a person who is blind to a chair, simply place his/her hand on the back of the chair. He/she will not need your help to be seated.
  7. Keep doors fully opened or completely closed; keep corridors clear.
  8. When making change in bills of more than one denomination, hand him/her the bills separately and identify each bill. This is not necessary with coins since he/she knows them by touch.
  9. If you are unsure of something, ask the patron. People who are blind or visually impaired are people first. They are individuals, and each has a different way of doing things. They will probably be glad to help you feel comfortable as you help them with their library business.

For more information on assisting patrons who are blind or visually impaired, please contact the Disability Information & Referral Center of the Talking Book Program at
1-800-252-9605 (in Texas) or 512-463-5458 (in Austin).

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library & Archives Commission
PO Box 12927
Austin TX 78711-2927
1-800-252-9605 (in Texas)
512-463-5458 (in Austin)
512-936-0685 (fax)

Page last modified: September 15, 2011