[nfbmi-talk] happening everywhere

fred olver goodfolks at charter.net
Sat Dec 25 17:06:32 CST 2010


No doubt, this is being done partly because the number of individuals making 
use of the services is down and also because Braille reading patron numbers 
are down. I expect more and more of this will occur in the next several 
years as post-war blind babies die off and senior blinded individuals become 
a more significant part of the population receiving these services.

Fred Olver
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "joe harcz Comcast" <joeharcz at comcast.net>
To: <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, December 25, 2010 8:23 AM
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] happening everywhere


> Study recommends downsizing Philly library for the blind
>
>
>
> By Vernon Clark
>
>
>
> Inquirer Staff Writer
>
>
>
> After more than a century in Philadelphia, the nation's oldest library for 
> the blind is facing the potential loss of most of its materials and 
> services
>
> to its Pittsburgh counterpart.
>
>
>
> A state-commissioned study has recommended that the Philadelphia Library 
> for the Blind and Physically Handicapped be significantly downsized - at a 
> savings
>
> of about $600,000 a year for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 
> which funds it.
>
>
>
> Although the principal heir would be the Carnegie Library for the Blind, 
> the study also suggests moving Philadelphia's Braille collection - at 
> 95,000 titles
>
> one of the country's largest - to Iowa.
>
>
>
> The commonwealth's two libraries "are duplicating efforts, incurring 
> unnecessary costs, and increasing the complexity" of usage for their 
> patrons, the draft
>
> report said. It also described the library's four-story building at 919 
> Walnut St. as a "difficult environment in which to work" and warned of 
> lease costs
>
> rising 7 percent annually in the next decade.
>
>
>
> Predictably, with an estimated one-third of the state's 393,000 visually 
> impaired residents living in the five Southeastern Pennsylvania counties, 
> the study
>
> has run into a wall of outrage.
>
>
>
> The critics include the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has overseen 
> the Center City institution since the 1930s; a state legislator whose 
> district
>
> encompasses it; advocates for the blind; and the users themselves, who 
> walk in or call to order mailed materials at an average rate of 300 a day.
>
>
>
> "Here in a city where Benjamin Franklin first came up with the idea of a 
> lending library . . . here is where they are going to take it away from 
> blind people?"
>
> asked James Antonacci, president of the National Federation of the Blind 
> of Pennsylvania. He dismissed the savings as "a minuscule percentage of 
> the state
>
> budget."
>
>
>
> Siobhan Reardon, director of the Free Library, assailed the study as rife 
> with "inadequacies."
>
>
>
> "The financials they are using, the data they are using - we're refuting 
> all of it," she said.
>
>
>
> The budget for the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh libraries is $2.7 million, 
> down from $2.9 million last year. But it was not the dismal state budget 
> so much
>
> as the digital age that prompted the Education Department to order the 
> study, said spokesman Steve Weitzman.
>
>
>
> "We determined there was a need to transform this model" of a library for 
> the blind, he said. An Arizona-based consulting firm was hired to take a 
> closer
>
> look, leading to the dire conclusions about Philadelphia.
>
>
>
> What began in the 1880s as a small private collection - the Pennsylvania 
> Home Teaching Society and Free Circulating Library for the Blind - offers 
> conventional
>
> Braille and large-print books and magazines, cassette tapes, and players. 
> But there are also scribe videos, with narrations of what is happening 
> onscreen,
>
> computer work stations, and a recording studio.
>
>
>
> The sea change, however, has been digital.
>
>
>
> A few years ago, the National Library Service for the Blind - a branch of 
> the Library of Congress and supplier of materials to libraries for the 
> visually
>
> impaired - began moving from tapes to digital recordings.
>
>
>
> The Philadelphia library has followed suit, sending out thousands of 
> digital players and books in an mp3 format that prevents copying. (The 
> U.S. Postal
>
> Service provides free mailing of materials for the blind.)
>
>
>
> "The response [from users] has been very favorable," said Hedra Packman, 
> director of library services for the Free Library.
>
>
>
> So favorable, she said, that when the National Library Service did not 
> meet the demand for digital recordings, the staff at 919 Walnut began 
> making its
>
> own, downloading materials from the Washington website and buying 
> cartridges at $7 each.
>
>
>
> Packman called the process "immensely staff-intensive . . . because not 
> only are we sending out all the machines and materials, we are learning 
> how to download
>
> at the same time."
>
>
>
> The study by Community Services Analysis has suggested retaining only 
> about a half-dozen paid staff positions and cutting nearly 30, in addition 
> to relocating
>
> "digital books, older cassette media, large-print materials, descriptive 
> videos, and disks" to the Carnegie Library. Although the Pittsburgh 
> building is
>
> older, the report says, it is more physically sound, with more space for 
> expansion of collections.
>
>
>
> The report also calls for the transfer of the Braille collection to the 
> Iowa Library for the Blind in Des Moines - a scenario that Weitzman said 
> was not
>
> expected to survive into the next draft, to be presented in January.
>
>
>
> "It's not over yet," he said. "The next administration [of Gov.-elect Tom 
> Corbett] can accept [the recommendations] in part or they can reject them 
> in part."
>
>
>
> Christy Lynch, who has been blind for 15 years as the result of a rare eye 
> disease, is hoping the Philadelphia library will be spared.
>
>
>
> A student from Riverton, Lynch, 33, is pursuing a college degree online, 
> and uses the library about three times a week, doing research and 
> volunteering.
>
> It is not only a critical resource, she said, but a place where she can 
> connect with other blind people in the area.
>
>
>
> "We would be really upset if the budget is cut and services moved away," 
> said Lynch, who sings with the Philadelphia Pops. "I understand that 
> things need
>
> to be cut, but this [library] is a necessity."
>
>
>
> State Rep. Michael H. O'Brien, a Democrat whose district includes the 
> library, wrote in protest to Thomas E. Gluck, Pennsylvania's acting 
> education secretary.
>
> He criticized the study as "slipshod and lame," and pointed out that two 
> key advocacy groups, the National Federation for the Blind of Pennsylvania 
> and
>
> the Pennsylvania Council for the Blind, had not been consulted.
>
> Study recommends downsizing Philly library for the blind
>
>
>
> In an interview, O'Brien praised the Philadelphia library.
>
>
>
> Eviscerating it would be "a strike to the quality of life for the blind 
> and visually impaired" throughout the region, he said. "It's just 
> unacceptable."
>
>
>
> Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or
>
> vclark at phillynews.com.
>
>
>
>
>
> http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/pa/20101225_Study_recommends_downsizing_Philly_library_for_the_blind.html?page=2&c=y
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