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Large Print Outreach - Where the Books Come to You!

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Large Print Outreach - Where the Books Come to You!
By Rochelle Caviness - June 26, 2008

Readers who need or desire large print books are in luck. More and more publishers, such as Thorndike Press, HarperLuxe, and Random House Large Print are releasing many large print editions simultaneously with the publishers standard print editions of popular books, and public libraries are working harder than ever to get the word out to their patrons that they have large print books available. Most important, many libraries now have programs in place that will bring large print books to you, if you cannot get to the library in person!

Public libraries have long served a diverse readership from youngsters just learning to read to those who are simply looking for a quiet place to read a newspaper, or study for an upcoming exam. The burgeoning large print readership is no exception. Readers of large print books come from every spectrum of society, from those with vision impairments who require large print books, to slow readers who find large print books easier to comprehend, to those who spend far too much time on the computer and have come to discover that large print books are much easier to read when your eyes are tired! As a rule of thumb, when you go to your local library, children and young adult books in large print will be shelved along with their standard print counterparts, whereas adult large print books will be shelved together on a separate shelf or, if the collection is large enough, in its own room. If you cannot find your libraries large print collection, ask. You may just discover that your library has more to offer you than you ever imagined...

Many readers of large print books get them from their local public library the old-fashioned way - they walk in, choose a book, check it out, and then leave to read it at their leisure. Many visually impaired individuals, especially those that no longer drive, find it difficult to make a trip to their local library. To reach this audience, as well as aging baby-boomers who are no longer as mobile as they once were, libraries around the country have begun outreach missions to bring large print books to those desirous of reading them.

These outreach efforts run the gamut from the beloved book mobiles and satellite libraries to books sent to readers through the mail or brought directly to them at various locations including retirement communities, assisted living centers, extended care facilities, senior centers, and schools for the visually impaired. In some cases, the librarians will bring out a random selection of large print books for their patrons to select from, and in many cases, patrons can preselect the books they want and the librarians will bring them out on their next visit. Some libraries even have Books-on-Wheels programs where they will deliver large print books right to your doorstep.

For example: Discovering what services your local libraries offers, is no harder than a simple phone call or visit to your local library. You might be surprised to learn that your library has a lot more to offer than you ever possibly imagined. In addition, many public libraries, especially larger ones, have outreach coordinators, or librarians who specialize in large print books. These specialists not only work on ensuring that those requiring large print books have access to them, but they also act as heralds touting the benefits of large print books for readers of all ages. I've even heard that large print books are 'big' at gyms - as they are easier to read while riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill. If you commute to work on a bus or subway, you'll also find that they are easier to read, especially if your ride is bumpy or if your co-riders are pushy.

If you are visually impaired or have some other impediment that makes it difficult for you to read standard print, there are other sources of large print materials available to you, in addition to those provided by your local library.

For example, while the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) only offers audio and braille books to its patrons, many of the cooperating libraries in the NLS system will lend large print books to their NLS eligible patrons. (The cooperating libraries are regional and subregional (i.e., local) libraries that actually mail out the audio and braille books.) These large print books are mailed out as Free Matter for the Blind, and are returned in the same manner, so that you do not even have to pay the postage to return them. For example, both the West Virginia Library Commission: Special Services Division and Maine State Library: Outreach Services not only act as their states' main circulating library for the NLS program, but they also lend their patrons large print books and described (descriptive) videos.

In addition, there are many religious oriented large print lending libraries for visually impaired readers. These libraries include the: These organizations offer not only religious materials in large print, audio, and braille, but also nonreligious works and periodicals. Services are provided free of charge to eligible patrons, and books are mailed to patrons and returned postage free.

As well as religious lending libraries, one of the biggest large print lending libraries in the county is operated by National Association for Visually Handicapped (NAVH). This nonprofit organization's free lending library has more than 9,000 large print titles in its collection that are available to patrons around the country and, like its religious counterparts, books are sent through the mail and they are returned to the library at no charge to the patron.

If you need, or simply prefer large print books, there are a variety of methods by which they can be obtained. In many cases, the books will come to you! So call or visit your local library today and start enjoying the burgeoning world of large print books. Happy reading!

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