Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

Open Door
Winter 2005

Open Door
Newsletter of the Library
Iowa Department for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, IA 50309-2364
(515) 281-1333
(800) 362-2587

Beth Hirst, Editor
Karen Keninger, Library Director

Winter 2005
Vol. 5 No. 1
This newsletter is available in large print, on cassette tape, in Braille, and by E-mail. If you wish to receive Open Door in a different medium, please so advise.

New Catalog Now Available
Library Honors Postal Employees
Want to Use the OPAC?
Magazine Survey Results
2005 All Iowa Reads Title Chosen
Noteworthy Calendars Available
The Stacks Team
A Fond Farewell
Greet Our New Reader Advisor
Have Your Heard About Book Port?
Broadway Series in Braille
New Descriptive Videos
How to Contact Us


The Library is proud to announce its new catalog of locally produced cassette books. Here is your chance to hear about books in our collection that are not listed in the national catalogs or Talking Book Topics. The 348 titles include items recorded by our volunteers as well as books obtained from other sources. There are even a few that originally were available only on talking book records, but which have been converted to cassette.

The books in the catalog are listed alphabetically by the author's last name. Each annotation includes the specific book type, such as Literature-Essays, Westerns-Fiction, Romance-Spicy, etc.

An order form consisting of several pages of book numbers is included at the back of the catalog. The book numbers are listed in numerical order. This should assist you in finding the ones you want to request. Be sure to put your name and address on each page of the order form to guarantee that your requests will be added to your file.

To receive a copy of the new catalog, please mark the order form, indicating whether you would prefer your catalog in large print, Braille, or cassette. Remember, all the books listed in the catalog are on cassette.

Discover books by Iowa authors, intriguing mysteries, tales of adventure, humor, religion, and old-fashioned romance. Many of these titles were recorded at the request of library patrons, so find out what your fellow borrowers have been reading. Send for your copy today!


(photo of postal employee recognition)
left to right: Donald Roethler (Cherokee), Karen Keninger (Library Director), Albert Mingo (Davenport), Jackie Fleming (Bloomfield), Roger Brinkert (Primghar), Carol Blakely (Des Moines), Josh Thiry (Waterloo), Greg Mahon (Des Moines ) and Allen Harris (Director, Iowa Department for the Blind)

Managers from the U.S. Postal Service's Des Moines-based Hawkeye District joined patrons and staff of the Library at a ceremony to honor selected postal employees for their help in delivering tens of thousands of books throughout the year. Eight Iowa postal employees were presented with the Library's inaugural "Florence Grannis Library Service Achievement Award" on Friday, November 19, 2004.

Josh Thiry and Jim Brass of Waterloo; Roger Brinkert of Primghar; Donald Roethler of Cherokee; Jackie Fleming of Bloomfield; Albert Mingo of Davenport; and the Maquoketa Post Office Staff received awards based on nominations by Library patrons. The awards recognized their exemplary service in delivering Braille, recorded, and large type books to patrons' homes.

In addition, Carol Blakely and Greg Mahon of the Bulk Mail Center in Des Moines received awards for their efforts to speed up and streamline handling of the Library's materials.

In 1931, Congress established the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS). As part of the Library of Congress, its mandate was to make books available to blind Americans. Distribution and circulation posed a major challenge for NLS and its network of regional libraries. Congress solved that problem by enacting a provision which allows specially formatted materials for use by blind and handicapped people to be carried without postage by the US Postal Service. For over 70 years, the partnership between libraries for the blind and the post office has made it possible for blind and handicapped Americans, no matter where they live, to read books and magazines in Braille and recorded format.

Florence Grannis was the Department's first librarian. From 1960-1975, she worked to make it arguably the best such library in the nation, with service her hallmark.

Karen Keninger, current Library Director, spoke at the ceremony. "Today," Keninger said, "Our patrons read over 300,000 books and magazines a year, all of which are handled by their local post offices-twice, for delivery and return. Many of our patrons are elderly, many homebound or in nursing homes. The books and magazines they receive from the hands of their mail carriers provide a conduit for information and entertainment. When we offered patrons the chance to nominate their mail carriers for the awards, they wrote to us with strong words of praise and appreciation for the unflagging and friendly service they have received over the years."

A typical nomination read, in part, "[My] rural mail carrier at Bloomfield, Iowa, has been a tremendous help to me. I am eighty-nine and live alone. Since macular degeneration has stolen my independence, I need help. Mr. Fleming delivers and returns many tapes of books and magazines... With the help of close family, the Iowa Department for the Blind, and Mr. Fleming, I am able to live more independently."

Family members, Department staff, students, and library patrons greeted the honorees and shared refreshments following the awards presentation.


You may browse the library's collections at this website: To send books to yourself, you need a patron ID and a patron number, which you can get from your reader advisor.


We are adding three new magazines on cassette to reflect the three top vote-getters from the Summer issue survey. Vital Speeches of the Day should interest those of you looking for thought-provoking information on current issues. This is sent biweekly, and each issue contains 8 - 10 speeches by leaders of government, industry, education, and other arenas. Please note that the speeches are taken from a print publication and are not recordings of the actual speechmakers. AARP: The Magazine, formerly known as Modern Maturity, contains articles of interest to those in retirement. Taste of Home is loaded with recipes and ideas for decorating and entertaining. Both AARP and Taste of Home are published bimonthly. Mark your order form to request any of these titles.


The Master Butchers Singing Club, by Louise Erdrich, is the 2005 All Iowa Reads selection. Erdrich, 49, was raised in North Dakota and now lives in Minneapolis with two of her four daughters. The book is based in part on the lives of two of her grandparents following World War I. Her grandfather was a WWI veteran from the German side who immigrated to North Dakota and set up a butcher shop. Her grandmother was a Native American who performed as an acrobat in a traveling circus. The novel is fiction, but threads of experience from these unusual relatives' lives provide some elements of the story.

Louise Erdrich has written nine novels, two poetry collections, a non-fiction memoir, and three children's books. Her Native American heritage has permeated her writing. A quartet of related novels, Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, Tracks, and The Bingo Palace, tells of the mystery, violence, and tragedy amongst a group of Chippewa families. Love Medicine, her first novel, won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The Library has several books by Louise Erdrich in its collection. If you are interested in exploring this author's work, mark the box by her name on the order form.


Our wizards in the Braille Production Unit have created a tactile calendar for 2005. Each month is displayed on a standard size Braille page in a grid format, much like a print calendar. Each raised-line box contains the date and room to place a note or reminder. A year's worth of pages are spiral-bound for easy portability and access. Copies of this calendar can be produced on request. Please mark your order form if you would like to have one.


(photo) Deena Cross, Doug Cole, Marcella Edmonds, Jim Swanson, Tony Hayes-temp assistant. Not shown - Jeff Strain.

Stacks team members physically handle all the materials circulated in and out of the library, over 1000 items each day. They print the mail cards, pull the books from the shelves, and prepare the containers for shipping. Then they receive and sort the in-coming mail, rewind cassettes, check in and shelve materials. Various team members are responsible for book repairs, duplication, magazine circulation, and descriptive videos.


Dan Bakke, Circulation Supervisor, resigned in January to take the position of Director of the Altoona Public Library. Although Dan's tenure here was relatively short, his contributions to the Library and the Department have been significant. He set up the new book browsing area at the Library's entrance, and he was instrumental in the creation of the Career Resource Center. Dan's expertise in the areas of collection development and reference services enhanced our offerings to library patrons. He was known for pitching in and working alongside his staff, wherever there was need.

We will miss Dan's friendly smile and the congenial working atmosphere he promoted. Congratulations to Dan and his family on his new position!


Lynda Wood, formerly the Instructional Materials Center clerk, recently joined the Reader Advisors team. She is handling the first section of the alphabet, A - G. Lynda replaces Daren Schneider, who is pursuing a new career path in Florida.


The Library is conducting a pilot project to introduce patrons to the world of digital books. Patrons can try out the advantages of reading digital files by participating in this program. Get on the list to borrow a Book Port!

The Book Port, a hand-held electronic device about the size of a remote control unit, will play a variety of digital files. Daisy audio files and MP3 files are read with human speech, just like talking books, whereas a synthesized voice is used to read electronic texts and digital Braille files. The Book Port has features that allow the listener to navigate by letter, word, sentence, paragraph, page, or section items. For audio files, Book Port navigates by finding pauses in narration. The user can search backward and forward, choose different voices, and control the playback speed.

Five Book Ports are currently in circulation, with a loan period of eight weeks. Each unit is loaded with the borrower's choices from a list of public-domain books, several magazines, radio shows, and books from the NLS WebBraille collection.

The Book Port is shipped with headphones, a cassette copy of the user's manual, and fresh batteries. The unit has no internal speaker, so headphones (or your own external speakers) are required for listening.

If you are interested in borrowing a Book Port, please mark the order form. Interest is high, so there may be a lengthy wait. When your name comes up, your reader advisor will contact you about choosing material to be included on the unit sent to you. If you have questions about the operation of the unit or need other technical support, Sarah Cranston of the library staff is available to help you. She can be reached at 515-281-1243, 800-362-2587, or .


The Civic Center of Des Moines is partnering with the Library to provide Braille programs for its Broadway series for the 2004-2005 season. In October the Production Unit began supplying the Braille programs for these major touring musicals, including "Chicago" and "The Producers." Upcoming shows are "Peter Pan", February 15-20, "Movin' Out", March 8-13, and "Miss Saigon", April 19-24.

The Braille editions include all program material, such as actors' biographies and lists of musical numbers, as well as all the ads that appear in the print copy. Braille readers attending a show can ask any Civic Center employee for a Braille program. The staff person will retrieve the program and deliver it. It does not have to be picked up at a certain window or requested before the day of the performance. The audience member can keep the program. Only a minimum number of copies are kept at the Civic Center. As copies are used, they will be replaced by the Library. If a large group of Braille readers will be attending a play together, it would be helpful to contact the Library in advance, so we can run extra copies of the program.

The Civic Center is very excited to be offering this service. We will review the project at the end of the season to determine how useful it has been. If there appears to be an audience for the Braille programs, we will continue to work with the Civic Center to provide them for future seasons.


The Library has received a number of new videos available for borrowing. Among the current titles on VHS are Cold Mountain, Mystic River, and The Passion of the Christ. If you are already an active DV borrower, you will receive a catalog supplement as soon as it is ready.

Haven't tried descriptive videos yet? There is no charge for this service. All you need is a television and a VCR. The movies contain additional narration that describes the setting, costumes, and action of the film without obstructing any of the dialogue. You may borrow one video at a time for a period of three weeks. To get started, call Marcella at 515-281-1246, 800-362-2587, or e-mail .


Toll-Free  800-362-2587
FAX   515-281-1378
TTY  515-281-1355

Reader's Advisors - If your name begins with:
A - G Lynda 281-1248
H - N Gail 281-1325
O - Z Lynne 281-1369

Applications for service Cindy 281-1368 or Marilyn 281-1348
Machine questions Niels 281-1245 or Pat 281-1285
Tape Production Beth 281-1280
Braille Production Laura 281-1292
Descriptive Videos Marcella 281-1246

Instructional Materials:
A - L Karen P 281-1275
M - Z Carol 281-1271

This newsletter is printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink. The Iowa Department for the Blind is committed to preserving the environment and to reducing waste.

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OPEN DOOR is published by the Iowa Department for the Blind. Please direct questions and suggestions to the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-2364, 515-281-1333.