Talking Book News Bulletin, Summer 2011.........Español

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Director's Report
Holiday Closings

Jodi Thomas

Short Works

Books Worth Revisiting: Middle Ages
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 budget:  After working through a regular session and a special session, the 82nd State Legislature has passed the budget for FY2012 and FY2013. This budget includes deep cuts for most state agencies. The State Library’s general revenue (the money given to it by the State Legislature) has been cut approximately 64%, and over
25 staff have been laid off or soon will be retiring. Because of the reduction in state funds, the State Library also may lose a significant amount of its federal funding, because the agency will no longer have the required matching funds.
How will this affect the Talking Book Program (TBP)? As for staffing, TBP laid off two staff and eliminated two vacant positions for a total of four lost positions. Of more concern is TBP’s operating budget.  Because the State Library’s entire budget was cut so drastically, TBP will have to reduce its budget, also. It is too early to tell the full effects of the reduced budget, but we will be forced to cut back in a number of areas.  In addition, if more cuts are mandated for FY2012 and FY2013, more staff layoffs are possible.    

Digital books are going to be in short supply:  Many of you are using digital talking books (DTBs), which you plug into your digital talking book machine (DTBM).  There are two sources for DTBs.  The first source is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  Each month, NLS produces on digital cartridge all the new books it offers, as well as selected older titles from its catalog.  TBP is allowed to order a limited number of copies from the monthly list of offerings.  For many titles, we cannot possibly order enough copies to meet the demand from everyone in Texas who wants to read these books.  So, as a second source of DTBs, TBP orders its own supply of digital cartridges and duplicates more copies of high-demand titles.  In this way, we can make more copies available and reduce the wait time for these books.  Even so, we frequently do not have enough copies of the most popular titles, and many of you have to wait quite a while before getting a particular title that you want to read.   
As the budget cuts go into effect, we will not be able to order as many digital cartridges as we had hoped.  Digital cartridges are much more expensive than the old cassette tapes – up to 10 times more expensive per unit.  Because we will have a shortage of DTBs, we will not be increasing anyone’s quota of DTBs beyond the current limit of 5 until we have a larger collection to circulate.

Here are a few things that you can do to help:

  • If the DTBs we send you are becoming overdue because you don’t have enough time to read them all during the loan period, consider reducing your quota by one or two books.  You won’t have those extra books overdue, and in the meantime, we can send them to other patrons.  You can always raise your quota again if you find you need to.
  • Don’t keep a DTB.  We know some of you can’t bear to part with a book once you get it, but if you keep it, it counts against your quota.  If your quota is full, you don’t get any more books.
  • Before putting your DTB in the mail back to us, make certain that the right book is in the right mailing container.  We get a lot of empty containers and a lot of containers with the wrong books in them.  Either way, those books are no longer available to readers (including you).
  • If you discover that you still have a DTB after the mailing container has been sent back, please call us at 1-800-252-9605 and ask for a mailer.  We’ll send you a padded envelope and mailing label, so you can mail that DTB back to us.
  • Consider signing up for Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD).  The BARD site has over 22,000 books and 48 magazines.  You will need a computer with high-speed Internet service and either a digital book cartridge or another form of flash memory.  If you think you might be interested in trying BARD, please call 1-800-252-9605 and ask about BARD enrollment.

A reminder on call center hours: The call center is open Monday through Friday, except for holidays when the State Library is closed.  The hours are 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 (noon) p.m. and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  While the call center is closed during the noon hour, you may leave voice messages.  Staff are assigned to handle voicemail (and emails, too), so someone will contact you as soon as possible. 

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 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, September 5 - Labor Day
  • Friday, November 11 – Veterans Day
  • Thursday and Friday, November 24 and 25 – Thanksgiving Day

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

Featured Author: Jodi Thomas

Jodi Thomas is the pen name of Jodi Koumalats, a fifth generation Texan whose grandmother was born in a covered wagon en route to Texas. Before becoming a full-time author, she taught family living at Amarillo High School. Now she is writer in residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon. Thomas published her 30th novel last November.
Thomas is one of today’s most popular romance writers. She has won three “RITA” awards from the Romance Writers of America. Her books are frequently listed as best sellers by the New York Times and USA Today.  She has also been honored with the National Reader’s Choice Award several times.  Thomas was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame in 2006.
Thomas sets her books in various periods and places from the Texas frontier in the 1850s to the current day in north Texas. She hopes her stories take her readers “away on an adventure.” (Jodi Thomas Official Website. Retrieved 2 December 2010.)  TBP readers have often enjoyed these adventures and you may, too. You may join in on the adventure by reading one of these books.

Texas Princess by Jodi Thomas
RC 65729, LB 05947, and available for download. Texas, 1855. Loner Tobin McMurray reluctantly leaves Whispering Mountain Ranch to deliver a horse to a senator’s spoiled daughter, Liberty Mayfield, and to give her riding lessons. Surprised by his growing feelings for her, Tobin helps Liberty escape the violence of her rebuffed fiancé.  Explicit descriptions of sex and some violence.

Rewriting Monday by Jodi Thomas
DB/RC 68725 and LB 06521.  After a run-in with thugs, crime reporter Pepper Malone leaves Chicago and relocates to Bailee, Texas, her mother’s small hometown. Pepper starts working at the local weekly newspaper owned by Michael McCulloch. When threats arrive at work, Pepper and Michael investigate possible sources – and fall in love.
Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas
DB/RC 68799 and LB 06096. College dropout Allie Daniels inherits a lake property outside Lubbock, Texas, from her previously unknown uncle Jefferson. Allie and her Nana arrive, reopen Jefferson’s country store, and meet the neighbors. Meanwhile, ATF agent Luke Morgan investigates Jefferson’s suspicious death – and falls in love with Allie. Some violence.
          To order one of these books to be mailed to you, please call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for the format you prefer.

Call the Disability Information and Referral Center toll-free at
1-800-252-9605 for information about disabilities and health conditions.

Here are three books featuring short works.

If you read one, you may find a new writer you like. To order one of these books, please call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for it by number.

The Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour, Volume 6: The Crime Stories by Louis L’Amour
DB/RC 68033. Thirty-three tales of crime, suspense, and sports. In “Unguarded Moment,” an honest man succumbs to the temptation to steal. In “A Friend of a Hero,” a cop investigates the suspicious death of a fellow Korean War veteran. Also includes “Fighters Don’t Dive” and stories featuring sleuth Joe Ragan. Some violence.

Words Without Borders: The World through the Eyes of Writers: an Anthology edited by Samantha Schnee and others
DB/RC 68109. Translated stories, essays, poems, and excerpts by twenty-eight writers from twenty-one countries including Bosnia, China, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, and Nigeria. In Egyptian writer Gamal al-Ghitani’s “A Drowsy Haze,” a Cairo man prepares for death. In Norwegian writer Johan Harstad’s “Vietnam Thursday,” a psychologist interviews a napalm-burned refugee.

How They Met and Other Stories by David Levitha
BR 17932.  Eighteen short stories about love in all its variations, written by the author when he was in high school. In “Andrew Chang,” a Chinese teenager goes on a date arranged by her parents, but she doesn’t realize she is going to a prom. For senior high readers.

Please call 1-800-252-9605 to order one of these books featuring short works.

Happy Families: Stories by Carlos Fuentes
DB/RC 68321.  Sixteen stories set in modern-day Mexico. Vignettes depict relationships between spouses, lovers – including a homosexual couple – and parents and children while invoking Tolstoy’s observation about happy and unhappy families. In “Sweethearts,” former lovers cross paths unexpectedly on a cruise ship. Translation from Spanish by Edith Grossman. Some strong language.

Baseball Crazy: Ten Short Stories That Cover All the Bases  edited by Nancy E. Mercado
BR 18142.          Ten authors write about hometown baseball and its players – good, mediocre, and bad. In Joseph Bruchac’s “Ball Hawk,” Mitchell, whose father was a great ball player, heeds his uncle’s lessons and finally hits a long, high ball to an unusual catcher. For grades 4-7. 

Poe’s Children: The New Horror: an Anthology  edited by Peter Straub
DB/RC 68446.  Twenty-four previously published tales written in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe. In Dan Chaon’s “The Bees,” past mistakes haunt a recovering alcoholic father. Includes works by Johnathan Carroll, Elizabeth Hand, Glen Hirshberg, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Kelly Link. Some violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex.

Books Worth Revisiting:
Traveling Back to the Middle Ages

When we think of the “Middle Ages,” we usually think of knights and tournaments, the building of the great cathedrals, and interesting people such as Joan of Arc, Geoffrey Chaucer, or those Plantagenet kings. The period, broadly reckoned as beginning with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and ending with the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, also saw major events such as the signing of Magna Carta, the Crusades, the Black Death, and the splitting of the Papacy between Rome and Avignon in France. The Kremlin was built in 1156, Marco Polo published his “travels” in 1295, and John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English in the 1380s. Here are three famous books that take us back to that busy and interesting time.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century by Barbara W. Tuchman
RC 13579 (male narrator); RC 59644 (female narrator); BARD download (female narrator).
  Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) is one of the United States’ most brilliant historians. She was known as a “popular” historian, meaning that she wrote on scholarly topics in such a way that the average reader would be able to find the history very accessible and enjoyable. Unlike most historical scholars, she did not focus on one particular period or place but instead wrote on a multitude of topics that interested her. Two of her works won Pulitzer Prizes for General Non-Fiction:  The Guns of August (1963), about events leading up to World War I, and Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1972), a biography of General Joseph Stilwell. Her history of one century during the Middle Ages was published in 1978, spent many weeks on the best seller lists, and provides helpful background to understanding any detailed historical novel set in the Middle Ages. She surveys all the momentous events that took place during the 1300s—including the Black Death and the papal schism—while anchoring her history around the life of one prominent French nobleman, Enguerrand de Coucy VII. To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for RC 13579 (male narrator) / RC 59644 (female narrator) or download it from the BARD site.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
BR 06805; RC 25304; LB 00260; BARD download.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a Scottish writer best known for his historical novels and poetry. In his time, he was wildly popular and had an international following. By the time he published Ivanhoe in 1819, his career as a novelist of romantic historical fiction was already well-established, but Ivanhoe became his most enduring novel and remains a popular subject for movies and television. While set in the 1190s during the reign of England’s Richard the Lionheart and thus predating the material covered in Tuchman’s history, the themes that run through the novel repeat themselves over and over again throughout the Middle Ages. Knights and chivalry, the convoluted politics of England and France, social and religious unrest, and the precarious situation of Jewish people all echo between the two books. While the title character is Ivanhoe, the novel really belongs to the beautiful Jewish maiden Rebecca, who nourishes a forbidden love for Ivanhoe while finding herself the unwilling object of passionate desire on the part of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a powerful Knight Templar. Readers should keep in mind that having been written in the early 19th century, the narrative flow of Ivanhoe takes some getting used to, but if readers will be patient, the story takes hold and provides a rousing adventure tale. The recorded version also has some end materials that may be difficult to get through, but the glossary at the very end does provide useful background notes and definitions for some terms in the story.  To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for BR 06805 / RC 25304 / LB 00260 or download it from the BARD site.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
RC 19739; LB 03146; BARD download
. “Novelist” is just one small aspect of Umberto Eco’s prodigious accomplishments. Born in Italy in 1932, his first claim to fame is as a world-renowned medievalist, but he also has established international reputations in the fields of anthropology, semiotics, literary criticism, architecture, and the list goes on. His most famous novel, published in English in 1983, created a literary sensation. An elderly German monk breaks his lifelong silence and recounts seven days of terror in the year 1327. As a teenage novice, Adso of Melk is sent on a diplomatic mission as an assistant to a prominent English Franciscan, Brother William of Baskerville. They journey to a northern Italian monastery, where an important theological debate is to take place. When they arrive, they find that one monk already has been murdered, and with each passing day, the bodies begin to pile up, each murdered in a hideous way. As William and Adso struggle to solve the crimes, the source of the mystery seems to be located in the monastery’s library and the method of murder tied to a common habit. This novel also contains the best description of a word without actually using the word. To order this book, call 1-800-252-9605 and ask for RC 19739 / LB 03146 or download it from the BARD site.

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.

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 23, 2011