Volunteer Recording Studio

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Texas Volunteer Recording Studio will be closed
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*****VRS News!*****

May-June 2015.pdf
Volume 4, Number 3

March-April 2015.pdf
Volume 4, Number 2

January-February 2015.pdf
Volume 4, Number 1


Archived News

November-December 2014.pdf
Volume 3, Number 4

September-October 2014.pdf
Volume 3, Number 3

July-August 2014.pdf
Volume 3, Number 2

May-June 2014.pdf
Volume 3, Number 1

March-April 2014.pdf
Volume 2, Number 6

January-February 2014.pdf
Volume 2, Number 5

Volunteering with the Talking Book Program is an interesting, rewarding experience that produces materials that benefit Texans with disabilities. By donating their time and energy, volunteers make an invaluable contribution to the thousands of Texans who are unable to read standard print. Volunteers of the Talking Book Program gain valuable experience in a professional recording environment, receiving training and opportunities that are rarely offered at commercial broadcasting or recording facilities.

Did you know?

  • Since 1978 volunteers in the Talking Book Program recording studios in Austin and Midland have produced more than 3,700 books and magazines on tape for distribution to TBP clients and also to libraries in the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) network.
  • Volunteers record Texas books and magazines, including materials in Spanish (no textbooks). Volunteers work as reviewers, session monitors, and narrators of recorded material.
  • More than 100 volunteers contribute approximately 600-service hours to the Austin studio each month.
  • Fifty-eight percent of the active volunteers in the Austin Recording Studio have been volunteering for three years or longer. Some volunteers have been with the program for as long as 20 years.
  • The Texas studio has placed three books into the national catalog, more than any other library in the NLS network.
  • Materials are recorded in accordance with rigid standards provided by NLS and in accordance with copyright laws.

Volunteer Opportunities

There are three positions available to volunteers in the studio: Reviewer, Monitor, and Narrator. These positions are unified under what we call "the recording team." The team works together, under the guidance of studio staff, to produce books on tape. A new volunteer can work either as a reviewer or a monitor. Orientation and training are provided by Volunteer Recording Studio staff during the initial session and usually take about two hours. A volunteer who has worked in the studio for a minimum of six months (40-hours) can then audition to be a narrator.

Basic Requirements for Reviewers:

  • Good vision and hearing.
  • Exceptional listening skills.
  • Ability to offer objective feedback and criticism as well as appropriate solutions.
  • Sensitivities to the technical and aesthetic challenges involved in translating a printed text into the spoken word.
  • Fluency in the language in which the text is printed (English or Spanish).
  • Broad literary background, strong research skills.

The Reviewer operates the Media Player software to listen to the recorded material The reviewer's job is to insure a quality recording by scouring the tape for errors in narration, unwanted noises from the recording booth, and general misrepresentation of the author's intent. The reviewer's objective criticisms are crucial to the production.

Basic Requirements for Monitors:

  • Good vision and hearing.
  • Good ear-eye-hand coordination.
  • Ability to listen and communicate effectively.
  • Ability to work well with others and to accept critiques from Narrators, reviewers and studio personnel.
  • Ability to notice potential problems and offer constructive criticism.
  • Sensitivities to the technical and aesthetic difficulties involved in translating a printed text into the spoken word.
  • Fluency in the language in which the text is printed (English or Spanish).
  • Broad literary background, strong research skills.

The Monitor operates the Digital Sound Recorder software and signals the narrator when to start and stop narration. The challenge presented to the monitor is to assure that the narrator is reading correctly and that the digital equipment is recording properly. The monitor keeps track of side/tape lengths and make corrections to recorded material. The monitor takes care to make sure that recording levels remain constant, that the narrator does not shift in front of the microphone, that pages don't rustle and chairs don't creak. The monitor ensures smooth transitions in the narration, as well as proper format and documentation during production.

Basic Requirements for Narrators:

  • Voices that are clear and distinct.
  • Ability to sustain energy over a long period of time.
  • Voices that are free of regional coloration or accents.
  • Voices that are free of mannerisms such as lip smacks and other oral and guttural interferences.
  • Skill in securing proper emphasis.
  • A sense of timing and inflection.
  • Ability to read in a conversational manner.
  • Ability to retain a collective understanding of the material.

The Narrator is a seasoned monitor or reviewer who presents the text of the book in a professional, yet conversational manner. The narrator must prepare for each session by researching pronunciations of difficult words, practicing awkward phrases, and consulting the manual and studio staff about format issues. Special attention is paid to providing continuity in vocal volume, communicating with the monitor and foreseeing challenging text. The narrator is the only member of the three person production team who cannot be replaced because he or she must read the book from start to finish. Therefore it is necessary for the narrator to make a strong commitment to the program. Along the same lines, it is important for the narrator to maintain good health.

Every volunteer who is interested in being a Narrator must pass an audition. The audition consists of reading two selections onto tape: one that contains dialogue and the other narrative. This audition is a cold reading that determines if the volunteer has the natural ability to read both kinds of materials. If accepted as a Narrator, the volunteer will be assigned materials suitable to his or her voice.

Re-trys will be offered to volunteers no sooner than three months after the previous audition, and only if the volunteer continues working in the studio during that time.

Contact Us

The Volunteer Recording Studio is located in Room G30 of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Library and Archives Building, 1201 Brazos, just east of the capitol between 12th and 13th street on San Jacinto. If you live in the Austin area and are interested in volunteering to record books, please call 463-5546 for more information.

On behalf of the Texas State Library Talking Book Program and the people we serve across Texas, we thank you for your interest in the Volunteer Recording Program. Please feel free to visit us at the studio or call for more information about volunteering with us.

Janice Jones and Stephen Miles Lewis, Studio Managers


                  picture of stain glass window donated by Lefty and Jane Whynaught                       
Stain glass by
Lefty and Jane Whynaught

Office Hours: Rm G30
Monday 10:00am-7:00pm
Tuesday-Thursday 9:00am-7:00pm
Friday 8:00am-6:00pm

Saturday 9:30am-1:30pm

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)

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Page last modified: September 9, 2015