[nobe-l] Accessing rare books and manuscripts

Irina Anisimova ilanisimova at gmail.com
Sat Sep 10 00:34:57 UTC 2011

Hi Lucy,

I do not work with archives, I have chosen to specialize in
contemporary culture so that everything would be available in
electronic form.  But if you need to work with archives, here are my

My sighted friends, who work with archives use cameras to take
pictures of the text, they then view them on their computer.  You can
do the same using the NFB reader technology, which uses the camera on
Nokia phone for scanning.  You can also ask university librarians to
scan the material you need.  I don’t know if they are allowed to scan
fragile materials, but you can definitely ask.  At Pitt, I always ask
interlibrary loan to scan books for me, and they have been very good
about it.  This arrangement also saves me a lot of time.

I have some reservations about using readers.  For one thing, the
university does not provide them, and I would have to hire them
myself.  Your university might have different policy about it.
Moreover, you would not be able to have a direct citation from a
recording.  You also might need to reread the material on your own a
couple of times to figure out what is really important.  The only
problem with scanning manuscripts might be that they would be
difficult for text recognition.  In this case, you might still need to
use the reader, or someone, who could edit your scan.  Let me know how
this works.  I still might do research in 19th century, and would love
to know about your experience working with archives.
The address of blind academics group is

It seems pretty inactive though.  Hopefully everyone in this group is
also on the NOBE-l list.



On 9/9/11, Ashley Bramlett <bookwormahb at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Lucy,
> I've encountered reference books that I am not allowed to take out of the
> library. I have to have sighted help with this.
> Use a reader familiar with the subject. For researching in depth, ideally
> the reader should either be good in research themselves from their
> assignments or have read a lot before so they are good at skimming and
> looking up stuff for you with your guidance.
> I do these things:
> 1. Have a reader read the relevant section. I usually record it because I
> cannot go back and read it again on the computer. I note the pages and where
> it came from.
> 2. Get a librarian to look it up for you and copy the relevant info. Then
> scan it.
> 3. Some staff go the extra mile. Get a staff member to record the
> information for you. Usually the library has a recording device but if not,
> provide them one.
> You could also get a reader to record it if you cannot be there with them.
> I think you mean the student list. That is nabs-l and to sign up go to
> nfbnet.org and click on join lists, then on nabs and fill out the form.
> Ashley
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Lucy Sirianni
> Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 9:39 PM
> To: nobe-l at nfbnet.org
> Subject: [nobe-l] Accessing rare books and manuscripts
> Hi all,
>    How do those of you whose work involves archival research
> access rare books and manuscripts that aren't available in
> braille or electronically and that are too fragile/valuable to
> remove from the library to be transcribed? Also, can someone who
> is part of the blind academics group remind me how to post to
> that list? I can't seem to find the instructions....
> Thank you!
> Lucy
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