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Patron Handbook

Welcome to the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. This handbook is intended to help you get the most out of your library service. You might want to save this for future reference. If you still have questions after reading this handbook, please contact the library and we’ll be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you might have. Listen to an MP3 of this Handbook.

 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Talking Book and Braille Service

I just sent in my application. Now what?
The library processes applications as soon as they arrive. This involves verifying the certification, entering the patron information into the library’s computer database, and preparing the welcome packet for mailing. Three business days are usually needed to complete this process. Included in the welcome packet are this handbook, recent catalogs, the current newsletter, and instructions for the cassette player and/or digital player if those services were requested. Talking book players are mailed in a separate package.

As soon as registration is complete, we will start sending talking books and/or braille books to patrons who opted to let the library choose books by subject when their requests are not available. These usually arrive before the player; you may hold on to them until the player arrives, then return them as soon as you finish listening to them.

You must borrow at least one talking book or magazine annually in order to keep the  player.

How do I order books?
You will be receiving catalogs in the mail, either Talking Book Topics or Braille Book Review or the combined version. Each has an order form. The large print version of Talking Book Topics has order pages in the back of the books, while the other catalogs have separate booklets for ordering. When sending these in, make sure your name and address is on the forms. Some will have this information imprinted on them, but some will require you to write the information in. The catalogs are sent every two months. You do not need to return them to the library.

You may also order by calling (212-206-5400 or 212-206-5425), faxing (212-206-5418), e-mailing (ahlbph@nypl.org), or writing a separate letter to the library. Be sure to include your name, address, and telephone number with the order. Because the beginning of the week is usually the busiest time for telephone calls, you might want to try later in the week.

How do I know what books you have?
Along with the catalogs that will be sent every two months, we will send you a starter set of older catalogs. People with access to the internet can check PAWS, our online catalog. And you can always contact the library for more information.

How do I find out if you have a particular book?
The best ways are to check the library's online PAWS catalog, the NLS website catalog, or call the library (212-206-5400 or 212-206-5425). You may also write, fax (212-206-5418), or e-mail (ahlbph@nypl.org) your request. Contact the library to get your user login and password to order books through PAWS.

How many books can I ask for at one time?
You may request as many books as you would like to read. The more titles you ask for, the easier it will be for us to find something available to send you when you need something to read.

How often will I get books?
Service depends on how your application was filled out. At the start of service, patrons will either receive only the books requested or, if requested titles are not currently available, books from indicated subjects will be sent if that service was requested. Unless other arrangements are made, the library will automatically send out two titles each day until an arbitrary maximum of ten is reached. After that point, books won’t be sent until those already loaned to the patron are received after being returned. You may contact the library at any time to adjust the schedule to meet your needs.

What if I want books sent on a different schedule?
We can change your service to weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. We can also set your service from automatic to manual. Manual service, also called On Demand, means you will have to contact the library each time you want a book; books will not be sent automatically.

How do I listen to the talking books?
Talking books come in 2 formats. The NLS cassettes are recorded on four tracks (two per side) and at a non-commercial speed. Special playback machines are required and are provided free of charge. NLS digital books are audio files available on special format cartridges, and also for downloading from the BARD website.

Special playback machines are provided free of charge to play the cartridges. The digital machines will also play books downloaded to a computer and transferred to the player using a USB flash drive. The cassette players are for the older cassette books. New titles are produced in digital format only. Magazines will soon be switched from cassettes to digital format. The machines may be kept for as long as patrons are borrowing NLS cartridges or cassettes from the library. Patrons must borrow at least one talking book or magazine per year in order to keep their service status active and keep the machines. If not being used, the machines must be returned to the library.

If the machine stops operating properly, contact the library to get a replacement machine.

In addition, many companies make NLS-compatible digital machines and cassette players for sale. These are often smaller than the desk model provided by the library. The library can provide catalogs and/or contact information for some of these companies upon request. See our Special Equipment page for more information.

How does the digital talking book player work?
The digital machines come with a sheet of large print instructions for getting started and a sheet of the instructions in braille for getting started. There are two models: Standard and Advanced. The only difference between them is that the Advanced model has five more function buttons to navigate through the tables of contents and indexes in non-fiction books. Once you get the machine on, if there is no cartridge in the machine, each button will explain its function when pressed.

The machine will tell you how much charge remains in the battery pack. When its low, you should plug in the machine while not using it to recharge it. You should not leave machines plugged in when not in use except to recharge them.

See Operating Instructions for the Standard Digital Talking Book Machine and for the Advanced Digital Talking Book Machine.

How does the cassette player work?
The cassette machine comes with a cassette tape that gives detailed instructions. To get started, remove the machine from the box, then pull the power cord free from the compartment at the rear of the machine and plug it into a wall outlet. Typically, the machine should be played using its battery pack which can be charged by plugging it in and not using it for 24 hours. If the battery runs out before you’ve finished listening to a book, you can plug the machine in to finish listening, but the battery won’t recharge at that time. Newly received players should be charged for 24 hours as the battery may have lost its charge during transit.  To extend the life of the battery, it’s a good idea to unplug the machine to listen to books, then plug it in to recharge when not in use. However, if you will not be using the machine for a day or longer, do not leave it plugged in.

For now, to learn how to use the machine, you can leave it plugged in. Also, it is a good idea to save the instruction cassette once you know it works. This cassette can be used to test the machine if you suspect it isn’t working properly. Sometimes, it might not be the machine, but a cassette tape that is damaged.

See  Operating Instructions for the Standard Cassette Book Machine for more detailed instructions.

How long can I keep the books?
You may keep the books for as long as you need to read them. The suggested time is four to six weeks. The library does not charge for overdue or lost books. The library will be sending overdue notices when books have not been returned after the suggested time period.

What do the letters on the books mean?

  • DB = Digital Book
  • RC = Recorded Cassette
  • BR = Braille
  • BRA = Specially produced braille books
  • RCF = Recorded Foreign Cassette (for languages other than English)
  • VC = Descriptive Videocassette

I haven’t gotten books for a while. Why not?
This can be due to a number of things. Books might have been sent to you but you might not have received them yet. You might not allow the library to choose from subjects for you and none of the titles you asked for are available. You might let us choose, but you’ve read all of the available books for your favorite subjects. We might not yet have gotten your books back. There might have been problems with delivering books to you and they were returned by the post office. The best thing to do is contact the library so we can figure out the best solution.

How do I return the books when I’m finished with them?
Replace the cartridges or cassettes back in their container and seal it with the plastic straps. Braille books should be secured in their boxes.

Remove the mailing card from the slot. This card has your address on one side and the library’s address on the other. It also has a punched hole on the side near one corner. On the patron address side, the hole in on the left and on the library’s address side, the hole is on the right. Turn the card over so the hole is on the right, meaning the library’s address is facing up, and slip it back into the slot.

The cassette containers may be dropped into any mailbox. Braille book boxes are too large and need to be brought to the Post Office. The cards are stamped FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND OR HANDICAPPED. No postage is needed.

It is advisable to listen to only one cassette or digital book at a time to make sure the right cassettes or cartridges get back into the right containers. The cartridge containers are smaller than the cassette containers and each will fit only one way in their proper container.

Please be considerate of other patrons and rewind the cassettes before returning them. The easiest way is to put them in the cassette player odd side up and press the rewind button. If already rewound, nothing will happen.

Should I return the books all at once or one at a time?
To ensure a steady flow of books to you, please return each title as you finish it. If  you wait, we won’t know you need new books since it can take up to a week to ten days for books to travel through the mail.

The cassette or cartridge book is damaged. How should I let the library know?
Place a string or rubber band around the damaged cassette or cartridge. Do not include notes. Do not put anything on the outside of the container. All books will be inspected upon receipt at the library and we will see the string or rubber band. Notes are often misplaced or not noticed. They are also against postal regulations.

The book seems to be missing cassettes/cartridges. How can I tell?
Cassette books are numbered for the first side of the cassette. Since there are four side to each cassette, the numbers will be: 1, 5, 9, 13, and so on. When you listen to the first cassette, the narrator says how many cassettes the book was recorded on. In addition, on the label on the side of the container, there is a number with a C. That tells how many cassettes should be in the container. If in doubt, you can also contact the library to ask.

If the book is indeed missing a cassette or two, drop a string or rubber band loose inside the container and return the book.

If a digital container arrives without a cartridge inside, or if the book is long and should be on two cartridges, but only one is in the container, drop a string or rubber band inside and return the book. Most digital books will come on one cartridge only.

If you would like another copy of the book, contact the library. Do not put a note inside the container.

My cassette machine won’t work. What do I do?
You may either bring the machine in for an exchange or contact the library for mailing instructions. We will send an adhesive-backed label to place on the box to return the old one. You may wait until the new player arrives so you can use that box, or use any box it will fit if you no longer have the one it came in.

I don’t like the books I’ve been getting. What should I do?
Contact the library and we’ll adjust the subjects or make other changes to your file as needed until you are happy with your service.

I’m getting too many (or too few) books. What should I do?
Contact the library and we’ll make adjustments to the number of books sent each time and the maximum you receive. These adjustments can be made at any time. On occasion, it takes a few tries to get a satisfactory schedule arranged.

Can I get magazines in braille or on cassette?
Yes. Most of the magazines are available from NLS. A small number of cassette magazines are available directly from the library. Magazines do not need to be returned to the library. A catalog of the NLS magazines is available upon request and should have been in your welcome packet.

Also, the library can submit subscriptions for Reader’s Digest and Newsweek, which are not available through NLS, and for the National Federation of the Blind’s Newsline, a newspaper reading service available by telephone.

I want to stop getting a magazine. What do I do?
Contact the library and we’ll cancel the subscription. This might take a week or longer to take effect and you might receive another magazine before the cancellation is completed.

Can I get only magazines?
Yes. Just let us know and we’ll change your status to Magazine Only.

Does the library have books in languages other than English?
Yes. The library has a large collection of Spanish language cassette books and a small number of Russian language cassette books. There is also a limited collection of books in  other languages are available. We can send lists of these titles upon request. As there are limited quantities of these titles available for all of the United States, there is usually a wait for these titles.

I want to learn how to play a musical instrument. Can I get music instructions in cassette or braille?

Yes. NLS runs a music division. Music services are provided directly to readers from NLS in Washington, D.C. The program of music services includes a circulating collection of braille, large print, and recorded instructional materials and a subscription program of magazines produced in braille, on cassette, and in large print. Contact the Andrew Heiskell Library if you would like to apply for this service.

Can I get music on cassettes or CDs from the library?
Musical recordings intended solely for listening are not part of the music collection, as these materials are readily available from stores and local public libraries. Patrons with library cards from either The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, or Queens Borough Public Library may borrow music cassettes or CDs in person from the library. The Andrew Heiskell Library does not have these materials in its collection, but they may be requested from other NYPL libraries through NYPL's reserves system.These cassettes and CDs, along with other New York Public Library materials (including large print books which are available at the Andrew Heiskell Library) have a specified due date and fines for lateness will be charged.

Can I get large print books mailed to me?
Large print books are available in local branches of The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Borough Public Library. Homebound patrons in Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island may contact The New York Public Library’s Books-by-Mail program about receiving large print books by mail.

The New York Public Library Books by Mail
917-275-6975

Brooklyn Books by Mail
718 - 376-6185

Queens Borough Public Library Mail-A-Book Service
718 - 776-6800

I want to stop getting books for a while. What should I do?
Contact the library and we’ll put a temporary hold on your service. Then, when you’re ready for more books, just let us know. We can do a temporary stop and you’ll continue to receive magazines, catalogs, and our newsletter, or a longer suspension of service that will cancel your magazines and catalogs, as well as our newsletter. Then, when you resume service, you will have to contact the library start the subscriptions again.

Remember, you’ll need to borrow at least one talking book a year in order to keep the cassette and/or digital playback machine.

I had stopped getting books, but want to start receiving them again. What should I do?
Contact the library and we’ll reinstate your service.

I want to cancel my talking book or braille service.
Contact the library for instructions. You may either bring in your machine or we’ll send you a label for its return. All equipment borrowed from the library is federal property and must be returned.

I’ll be out of town for a few months. Do I need to stop my library service?
No. If you’ll be staying elsewhere in the United States, you may continue to receive service from the library at an alternate address. You may also opt to register as a temporary patron with the regional library nearest to where you’ll be staying.

I’ve moved. Do I need to tell the library?
Yes. In order for you to keep getting library materials in a timely fashion, without interruption, it is important to keep us up-to-date regarding your address and telephone number.

Can I have my library material sent to a different address than my home?
Yes. We need your legal address for our records, but we can put in alternate shipping addresses if you want.

I’m moving out of New York City. Can I keep my library service?
Yes, if you’ll be moving elsewhere in the United States or one of its territories, we’ll be able to transfer your records. Contact the library with your new address and we’ll give you information about the library that will be serving you.

I’m leaving the country. Can I still get talking books and braille?
People who will be out of the country receive service directly from NLS in Washington, DC. Power adaptors are available from NLS.

Contact the Andrew Heiskell Library (212-206-5400 or 212-206-5425; email: ahlbph@nypl.org) for more information.

My friend (or relative) wants to get service, but doesn’t live in New York City. Who should they contact?
They can contact us and we’ll locate the right library for them, provided they live in the United States or one of its territories.

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