Q & A with New State Librarian and Director Mark Smith

Last month the seven-member Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) selected Mark Smith for the position of Director and Librarian, the agency’s chief executive also known as the Texas State Librarian. Though Mr. Smith’s tenure begins November 1, we reached out to him recently with 10 questions that address his background, perspective, priorities, and even his knowledge of Texas history. We look forward to getting to know more about Mr. Smith in the months and years to come.

Read the interview online at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/news/2013/get-to-know-mark-smith.

Mark Smith talks with Texas State Library staff during public reception.


Residents of Ft. Worth Who Are Deaf, Blind, Hard of Hearing or Deaf-Blind Can Sign Up for Accessible Hazard Alerts

Due to recent weather events, the City of Fort Worth Office of Emergency Management would like to encourage Fort Worth residents who are deaf, blind, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind to sign up for the City of Fort Worth’s Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS). If you are already enrolled, please encourage your friends to enroll by going to http://ftwahas.deaflink.com/.

Residents of Ft. Worth can register for Hazard Alerts at:  https://ftwahas.deaflink.com/index.php?q=user/register.

The Library of Congress needs your input!

From March 11 – May 10, the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) will conduct a survey to understand how to better serve readers of talking books and braille. NLS is looking to improve their program that provides free talking books and braille to anyone who meets their qualification requirements. The survey can be taken online by going to www.LibraryofCongressSurvey.org or over the phone by calling 1-866-545-1618 to schedule a phone interview. NLS wants to learn what types of services and materials you are looking for and what they can do to get you interested in the talking book and braille program. You do not have to currently use the NLS program to take the survey.  Take the survey now to help Library of Congress NLS better serve you!

iBUG, the iOS Blind Users Group of Houston

iBUG, the iOS Blind Users Group, was formed in 2011 out of a session given at the HAVIN Insight Expo at the University of Houston. The group’s goal is to help people become more proficient in using accessbility apps and features of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

iBIUG holds weekly conference calls and monthly face-to-face meetings, and has a website. The weekly Q&A call is held each Monday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. The call is a help session for anyone with iOS or iDevice accessibility questions. The first 45 minutes are dedicated to the novice or new user. An app or iOS feature is demonstrated each week by one of the advanced members. The Q&A call is not toll-free, so it is best to use your cell phone or VOIP line to avoid long distance charges. To participate in the weekly call, dial (712) 432-0111. Enter the access code 154497, then the #, also called the pound sign. The calls are recorded and available through the iBUG website as podcasts.

iBUG also has a monthly face-to-face meeting on the fourth Saturday of each month from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Apple Store-Highland Village, 4012 Westheimer in Houston. The next meeting is on Saturday, February 23, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Find out more about iBUG at their website http://www.ibugtoday.com/




15th Annual Texas Veterans Summit Feb. 11 – 13 at Palmer Events Center

The 15th Annual Veterans Summit will be held February 11 – 13 at the Palmer Events Center. The Talking Book Program (TBP) will host a booth during the Veterans Summit Expo, Feb. 12th and 13th, 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. The Expo includes state, local and federal agencies, veterans’ organizations, not-for-profit groups, schools and companies that provide services which specifically assist veterans and their families.

On Feb. 11 pre-Summit seminars for veteran entrepreneurs, women veterans, non-profit groups and veterans service organizations will be offered. The Summit officially starts at 8:00 a.m. on Feb. 12 with an opening session, followed by breakout sessions. The Veterans Expo is open 1:00 – 6:00 p.m.

The Summit continues on Feb. 13 at 8:00 a.m., and the closing session starts at 10:00 a.m. with Lt. Governor David Dewhurst as the keynote speaker. The Expo is open 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. Also from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 13, Texas Veterans Commission staff will provide direct, one-on-one assistance regarding claims, employment and education.

There is no cost to attend the Summit, but online registration is required. Go to www.tvc.texas.gov/summit.aspx to register.

TBP encourages eligible veterans who attend the Expo to sign up for its free library service. TBP offers digital audio books, large print books and Braille to persons with a visual, physical or reading impairment which prevents them from reading a book or holding a book and turning its pages. Books may also be downloaded from a special website. Digital audio players are loaned at no cost, and return postage is free.

The Veterans Summit is presented by the Texas Veterans Commission and the City of Austin.


A Visit to Yorktown Public Library, a TBP Demonstration Site


Beth Riesdesel, director of Yorktown Public Library, holds a DTBM.

Beth Riesdesel, director of Yorktown Public Library, holds a demostration DTBM that is kept near the circulation desk.

Yorktown Public Library (YPL) became a demonstration site for TBP after the Library Director, Beth Riedesel, viewed a TBP webinar which encouraged public libraries to partner with us to enroll their patrons who qualify for TBP services. Riedesel says that she wanted the library to be a demonstration site because there are many people in the area who could benefit from the service. She has a Digital Talking Book Machine (DTBM) on display near the check-out desk so people will see it and recommend TBP to family and friends.    

I had the pleasure of making a presentation about TBP to the Friends of the Yorktown Public Library on Dec. 5. They are a dedicated group who raise funds to help the library provide the Summer Reading Program, book trucks and furniture, microfilm/digitization of the local newspaper, and any other needs not covered by the budget. During my visit, I was asked to draw the winning tickets for the quilt raffle, which not only featured a beautiful hand-pieced quilt made by several members of the Friends, but also a crocheted afghan, and a framed piece of stained glass crafted by the Library Director’s husband. 

I gave an overview of TBP and a short demonstration on how to download from BARD. Almost everyone present said they knew at least one person who was eligible for Talking Book service, and most took an application. While I was there, Riedesel certified her first application for TBP.

Yorktown is in DeWitt County, about 16 miles southwest of Cuero, and has a population of approximately 2,200. The library serves Yorktown, but also rural areas of DeWitt County, making the service population close to 2,700. When I left, almost every public access computer was in use, illustrating how important YPL is to DeWitt County residents.

TBP is pleased to have Yorktown Public Librarary as a demo site. Your library can become a demostration site too.  Please see our website for more information about how to do this at: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/application/demositepolicy.html 

Public Awareness Provides Outreach to Blinded Veterans

I’m Ruth Wedergren, the Public Awareness Coordinator for the Talking Book Program. My job is to travel around the state and inform people about the Talking Book Program, and to use media to promote our services. My goal is to increase the number of patrons we serve, especially veterans. I’ll be making periodic posts about TBP’s outreach events.

Speaking of veterans…during the third week of August, I’ll be assisting the National Library Service (NLS) with their booth at the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National Convention in Galveston. With the convention being in Texas, this is a great opportunity for me to bring more qualified Texas veterans into the program. NLS will distribute general information to veterans from other states, so they can contact their state’s own talking book program. TBP has worked with the Greater Austin Chapter of the Blinded Veterans Association for several years. Many of its members are TBP patrons.

The BVA’s motto is “Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans.” The organization was formed in 1945 by a group of young men who lost their sight during World War II. In 1958, BVA was chartered by Congress to be the voice of blinded veterans in legislative affairs. Membership in BVA is open to all legally blind veterans of U.S. military service. Blindness does not have to be combat-related, nor must members have lost their vision while on active duty.

Did you know that one in six wounded U.S. soldiers evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered eye injuries? The Texas Talking Book Program wants to make sure that service members who have sacrificed so much for their country know they can still enjoy the pleasures of reading.