Talking Book and Braille Service: Eligibility and Applications

Accessible Reading Material: Talking Books, BARD, and Braille

A digital talking book machine and a digital talking book in its mailing caseThe Andrew Heiskell Library operates a books-by-mail program that delivers thousands of recorded and braille titles postage-free.  The Talking Books are recorded by professional narrators and sent to you in a digital cartridge format on what is basically a large plastic flashdrive which can be simply inserted into the free talking books machine we send you. The machine is simple to operate, with large tactile and high contrast buttons, self-speaking instructions, and allows you to adjust volume, tone, and speed, set digital bookmarks, skip ahead or back, and automatically save your place.

 When you finish, the cartridge is placed back in the blue plastic box it came in, the mailing label is flipped to reveal our return address, and it is put back in the mail  - no postage needed.  Service can be set up to send titles only on request, or to automatically keep you in a steady supply of your favorite genre. We operate a reference and request hotline 6 days a week, have 24-hour voicemail and email accounts for requests, and take orders by mail as well. You can also use our online catalog to search for and order books yourself, or use the print order forms that will arrive every two months along with our catalog (print or audio)of newest recorded titles. 

The bard mobile app icon and a smartpohone displaying the bard mobile book player screen We also offer free access to a website called BARD where you can download any or all of our 145,000 audiobooks or digital braille files onto a flashdrive to play and keep, or the software BARD express, a simplified version, as well as a free app called BARD Mobile for iOS, Android, and newer Kindle Fires, to give you instant access to all our audio books and digital braille books on the go.  We also offer our members free membership to Bookshare, an online collection of 700,000 scanned titles that are read by your computer's voice, and to Newsline, a dial-up service to hear local newspapers, magazines, and shopping ads read aloud by a computer's voice.  

Watch and listen to a video introducing BARD and BARD Mobile

Wach and listen to a video on how to search and download from the BARD website

Watch & listen to a video on how to use Bard Mobile

Watch and listen to a video on how to use BARD Express

Watch and listen to a video on how to use the talking book machine with a mailed talking book or with a flashdrive from BARD


Residents of all ages in New York City and Long Island are eligible for these services if they have difficulty reading standard printed materials because of one or more of the following:  blindness,  low vision , a physical disability that limits their ability to hold a book or turn pages, or a reading disability (such as dyslexia) with a biological basis

Applications for service must include certification by an appropriate authority, such as social workers, rehabilitation therapists, doctors, eye doctors, nurses,  educators, or commission counselor. At their discretion, librarians familiar with an applicant may also do the certifying.  A typed or handwritten signature is acceptable along with the completion of all information in that section.  (Family members may not certify applicants. )

We are thrilled to announce that as of February 17, 2021, NLS has implemented a long-awaited change to make it easier for people with reading disabilities to enroll for our services. Now reading specialists, educators, librarians, and school psychologists will be able to certify the eligibility of applicants with reading disabilities. 

Residents of New York City and Long Island should apply through the Andrew Heiskell Library. Residents of New York State who do not live in New York City or Long Island should contact the New York State Library,  (800) 342-3688. Residents outside New York State should consult the National Library Service's 'Find a Library' webpage.

Application Forms and Instructions

Applications are available at your neighborhood branch library, or call us to request one by mail, or download one of the applications below. The filled-out applications may be brought to the Heiskell library or emailed, faxed, or mailed back. We will process the application within 5 days of receipt, after which you will get a welcome call. 

Application for Free Library Service - INDIVIDUALS
(This PDF is compatible with screenreaders. It can be filled out electronically and either printed for certification, or a typed certifier's name can be provided.)

Application for Free Library Service for individuals - Spanish version


Application for Free Library Service for INSTITUTIONS and SCHOOLS

For more information about the talking book service,  such as how to return books, when to expect books, how to get the kind of books you like, and more, see our FAQs