Talking Book News Bulletin, Spring 2008.........Español

Internal Links
Director's Column
Holiday Closings
Non-Fiction Books to History and Cooking
New Books in Braille on Human Development and Finances
Gleams- a free newsletter
Steven F. Havill Mysteries

Books Worth Revisiting: Elizabeth George Speare
Tips and Reminders for Better Service
Related Links
Loan Policy
Spotlight on Texas Books
Disability Information & Referral Center
National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

Director's Report

Greetings! Here is the latest news:

Update on the new digital talking book machines and digital book cartridges:  Many of you have been asking when the new National Library Service (NLS) digital machines will be available. The latest information from NLS is that these new machines will not be available before late 2008. Staff are working on a distribution policy, and we will begin taking requests for the new machines probably in late summer. We want to stress right now that the first shipment of machines will be far fewer than the number of people wanting one. Many of you may have to wait for quite a while before we have enough machines available for everyone who wants a new digital machine. This is regrettable, but there is little that we can do to speed up the process. As we have more information, we will put it in the newsletter, on our Web page at, and on the toll-free telephone information line at 1-866-388-6397.

Two new players available to play NLS BARD books:  At this time, if you want to download books from the National Library Service’s BARD site of downloadable books, you must purchase your own player. Up to now, the only player on the market has been the Victor Reader Stream from Humanware. This player sells for $329.00. Two new players are now available. The LevelStar Icon and the Braille Plus Mobile Manager from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) both sell for $1,395.00. TBP does not have any of these players for loan, so you must purchase a player in order to participate in the BARD service. To apply for admission to the pilot project, fill out the application at To purchase a Victor Reader Stream, go to HumanWare’s web site at To purchase a LevelStar Icon, go to LevelStar’s web site at For information about purchasing the Braille Plus Mobile Manager, contact a representative at APH at 1-800-223-1839.

More news about the NLS appropriations request:  In early March, the Library of Congress had to make an appearance before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to defend its proposed 2009 budget. According to reports by the American Council of the Blind, members of the committee clashed over the importance of the appropriation request for NLS. According to the report, the chairman of the committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Democrat—Florida) stated that NLS is not a priority, while two Republican members argued that full funding for NLS should be restored. Meanwhile, Edolphus Townes (Democrat—New York) circulated a letter of support for NLS funding to his House colleagues. Eighty-seven members of the House signed the letter, but only three of those signing were from the Texas delegation. The Texas members signing were Eddie Bernice Johnson (Democrat—Dallas), Sheila Jackson Lee (Democrat—Houston), and Solomon Ortiz (Democrat—Corpus Christi). Supporters of NLS can make a difference for the upcoming budget years. Interested constituents may contact their congressional representatives and senators at any time to express their concerns and support for NLS.

Update on State Library building renovations:  Renovations of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building did not get underway in late February as we expected. This means that the move to temporary quarters for TBP staff has been pushed back until mid- to late summer. When we do move, the call center will be shut down for a period of time while our phone system is transferred to the temporary quarters. We will make every effort to notify you when this shutdown is coming, and we will try to keep disruptions to your service at a minimum. Once started, these renovations are expected to take approximately two years to complete. Updated information about this move will be posted on our Web page at and on the toll-free telephone information line at 1-866-388-6397.

Overdues: Too many books are overdue. Since books will not be as plentiful in the future as they have been up to now, all patrons must be more considerate and diligent in returning books that have been out too long. In the future, having overdue books on your account will delay your receiving a new digital machine and digital books. The mailing card on each book you receive has the due date printed on it. You may renew each book once, unless the book is too long overdue or another patron has put a reserve on the book. To help you know if you have overdue books, we will soon start sending out overdue notices. Please do not ignore the notices. At any time, you may call the toll-free number 1-800-252-9605 and ask a reader consultant to check your account for overdues. 

Newsletter by email:  Do you want to receive our newsletter by email instead of on paper? If so, please call a reader consultant at 1-800-252-9605 or send an email to Tell us that you want to change your newsletter preference to email and give us your email address. The newsletter also is available on our web page at and on the new toll-free information line at 1-866-388-6397.

Until next time,
Ava Smith, Director, Talking Book Program

Texas Talking Books will be closed for these holidays.

Monday, May 26, Memorial Day
Friday, July 4, Independence Day

Of course, you can leave a message or send e-mail on a holiday.

Non-Fiction Books Open Doors to History and Cooking

Roadside History of Texas
CT 5783
by Leon C. Metz          narrated by Patty Loftis
In this guide, the reader travels through the Lone Star State, bringing to life the glorious past and vibrant present of its varied regions, savoring the local flavor of each. To read this book, call 1-800-252-9605, and ask for CT 5783.

Women In Early Texas
CT 5781
by Evelyn M. Carrington          narrated by Cinda Cyrus
This engaging study contains biographies of 50 notable women, from a wide variety of ethnic groups and classes, whose lives influenced Texas' development. To read this book, call 1-800-252-9605, and ask for CT 5781.

Blend It! One Hundred Fifty Sensational Recipes to Make in Your Blender
RC 62106
by Good Housekeeping                                                           
Simple and tasty recipes with little cleanup. Includes recipes for smoothies, soups, pancakes, waffles, frozen cocktails, sauces, salad dressings, and more. To read this book, call 1-800-252-9605, and ask for RC 62106.

Call the Disability Information and Referral Center toll-free at 1-800-252-9605
for information on disability and health topics.

New Books in Braille Offer Guides to Human Development and Finances

Right on Schedule: A Teen’s Guide to Growth and Development
by Jean Ford            1 volume                 BR 16772
Examines the physical, emotional, and social changes during adolescence. Describes what to expect during puberty, such as hair growth and acne. Explains the importance of maintaining proper hygiene. Also covers dating, sex, self-esteem issues, and peer pressure. For senior high and older readers. To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for BR 16772.

The Widow’s Financial Survival Guide: Handling Money Matters on Your Own by Nancy Dunnan                3 volumes          BR 16646
Women’s guide to short-and long– term legal and financial matters following a spouse’s death. Lists ten tasks that need to be done immediately. Topics include survivor benefits, investments, taxes, 401(k) s, credit cards, insurance, and future plans. Includes checklists, resources, and advice for young widows. To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for BR 16646.

Gleams is a free newsletter available three times a year from the Glaucoma Research Foundation, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco. You may read Gleams as e-mail, in print, or online. To subscribe, call 1-800-826-6693 or click on A recent article, “Low Vision Tips,” featured “some tips to help continue living an active daily life,” including seven items: Improve Lighting; Increase Contrast; Control Glare; Get Organized; Enlarge Text; Mark and Label; and Listen to Books.

Steven F. Havill’s Mysteries Are Filled With Intrigue

Steven F. Havill’s mysteries involve ordinary people dealing with uncommon events. “The Posadas County Mysteries” series features Undersheriff Bill Gastner as he works in this New Mexico county. Most of these books have some strong language and some violence. To order one of these, call 1-800-252-8605 and ask for the RC number you want to read.

Bitter Recoil: A Posadas County Mystery, RC 60491
Privileged To Kill: An Undersheriff Bill Gastner Mystery, RC 49584
Out of Season: A Posadas County Mystery, RC 60614
Bag Limit: A Posadas County Mystery, RC 61792
Discount for Death: A Posadas County Mystery, RC 60623
Convenient Disposal: A Posadas County Mystery, RC 60289

Mention of a product or service in this news bulletin does not constitute endorsement by this library. Our intention is to increase an awareness of programs and items that may be helpful to our patrons.

Books Worth Revisiting: Novels of Elizabeth George Speare

Elizabeth George Speare (1908-1994) was a writer and educator from New England, which was also the setting for most of the novels that she wrote.  Four of her novels are written for young adults, and she is one of only a few authors to win two John Newbery Medals, a prestigious award given annually for that year’s outstanding American novel written for young people; a third novel received a Newbery Honor citation.  All of Speare’s novels are historical and, with the exception of The Bronze Bow, are set in the pre-Revolutionary period of American history.  While these novels are written for a young adult audience, most adult readers will find plenty to enjoy in the wealth of historical and cultural details and in characters who show ingenuity, courage, and moral integrity in the face of difficult situations.

Calico Captive: BR 3000; CI 980; CI 3696: Written in 1957, this novel is based on a true story.  At a lonely settlement in Vermont territory on the eve of the French and Indian War, the Johnson family, including Mrs. Johnson’s younger sister Miriam Willard, are taken captive in an Indian raid and then marched north towards Canada.  Eventually, several members of the family are sold to the French in Montréal.  Unless James Johnson can go back to New York and raise a ransom to redeem the whole family, they all face a lifetime of servitude in this hostile city.  Miriam, a gifted seamstress, manages to hold the family together as they wait out the long days while the French prepare to face the approaching English army.  While she waits, Miriam must decide the future course of her life.  Should she return to New England and marry the young man who had begun to court her on the night of the Indian raid, or should she accept the proposal of a handsome and wealthy French fur trader who promises to give her every possession she desires?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond: BR 1427; BR 14849; LB 4204; LB 4983; RC 22927:  In 1687, Katherine “Kit” Tyler leaves the only home she has known in Barbados and sails to the English colony of Connecticut to find the only family she has left in the world.  It is hard to say who suffers a bigger culture shock: Kit who comes from the lush, tropical beauty of a Caribbean island plantation, or her aunt’s Puritan family who unexpectedly find this exotic creature in their midst.  Connecticut is cold, harsh, and not particularly welcoming, and Kit soon finds herself both an object of curiosity and of suspicion to the settlement’s residents.   Life is made bearable by her friendships with a small child named Prudence, a young sailor named Nat Eaton, and an old Quaker woman named Hannah, whom the locals refer to as the “witch” who lives by Blackbird Pond.  When a violent sickness begins to sweep through the settlement, Kit finds her life in danger.  Winner of the 1959 John Newbery Medal.

The Bronze Bow: BR 9149; RC 17367:   This novel is set in ancient Israel in the time of Jesus of Nazareth.  Daniel Bar Jamin is a young blacksmith intent on exacting revenge for the deaths of his parents at the hands of the Romans.  While he associates with an outlaw band up in the mountains, he also struggles to help his family in the village, especially his sister Leah who still suffers from the horrors of their father’s death.  Life is further complicated when he meets the twins Joel and Malthace Bar Hezron, children of a wealthy Pharisee.  Joel is torn between a glittering future in Jerusalem and his desire to be a freedom-fighter.  Malthace is of a more practical nature, and Daniel finds himself uncomfortably attracted to her.  Meanwhile, everyone is talking about the teacher from Galilee.  The young people are intrigued by Jesus.  Is he the key to freedom from Roman rule?  Winner of the 1962 John Newbery Medal.

The Sign of the Beaver: BR 5697; BT 3132; LB 4233; RC 21639:  Speare returned to New England for the setting of her last novel, published in 1983 and based on an incident that she had read about.   In 1768, Matt Hallowell and his father journey to the Maine territory to build a cabin on land Mr. Hallowell has purchased.  Matt is left behind to occupy the cabin while Mr. Hallowell returns to Massachusetts to collect the rest of the family.  Matt is only thirteen and must keep everything in good order, including tending and harvesting the garden, over the seven weeks that Mr. Hallowell expects to be gone.  Of course, nothing goes quite as planned.  Mr. Hallowell is gone much longer than seven weeks, and Matt must cope with a devastating loss and the oncoming winter.  The assistance of a local Indian tribe proves invaluable, and Matt learns much about survival in the wilderness from Attean, the grandson of the Indian chief.  A Newbery Honor Award book for 1984.

Tips and Reminders for Better Service

Equipment. Talking Book cassette players are just like any mechanical device-they break down from time to time. You'll get the best service from your equipment if you:

  • always use the battery to play your tapes and allow the battery run down completely before recharging it;
  • keep food and beverages away from the player;
  • clean the heads from time to time using a head-cleaning tape (available at stores that carry stereo equipment);
  • don't try to fix a broken player-just return it.

Before returning a piece of equipment, please call or write to let us know you are returning it and to request a replacement. It's a good idea to keep the box your player comes in so you can use it to return equipment if it breaks down.

Loan Period. The normal loan period for braille, large print, or cassette books is 45 days. Please call or write if you need to keep the book longer. Returning books promptly and keeping a list of book requests on file with us will keep a steady flow of reading material in your mailbox.

Broken Books. To let us know you have had a problem with a book, please mark a large "X" on the return label on the left side of our address.

Services. Our staff is dedicated to making the Talking Book Service work for you. Please let us know how we can help by contacting us at:

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and 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: August 29, 2011