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Ashley Atkinson
Editor, Branch Out

The Talking Book Program – Access for All

The Talking Book Program – Access for All

By Jennifer Tchida, Branch Manager, Access Services

Do you, or someone you know, struggle to read books due to blindness, low vision, a physical disability or a reading disability? If so, Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) is home to a branch specifically for you!

The mission of FCPL's Access Services (AS) branch is to remove barriers to library services, programs and resources for individuals with disabilities. From home delivery for those who unable to visit our physical branches to a variety of assistive technologies, the AS team works hard to ensure everyone can experience the joy of books and reading.

One such way they achieve this goal is through the Talking Book program, offered in partnership with National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress. This program allows people of all ages to enjoy books, even if they cannot read print materials, by providing recordings of books and magazines, as well as Braille materials to customers through the mail.

Like audiobooks, the "talking" books are recorded versions of books and magazines that can be played aloud for people to listen to, either on a special machine or via a mobile application. The machines, which are easy to use – especially for those unsure about technology–as well as the cartridges which house the recorded books, are lent out to approved cardholders via the U.S. Postal Service and can also be returned to FCPL through the mail at no cost.

For customers who prefer taking their books on the go, BARD Mobile is available. BARD, which stands for Braille and Audio Reading Download, is a service offered by the NLS that provides customers with instant access to more than 170,000 digital books and magazines in audio and electronic Braille (eBraille) via an application available for download on a multitude of devices. The app houses digital materials in 44 languages, including Spanish, Chinese and Arabic, as well as materials for readers of all ages. For children, they have books ranging from The Berenstain Bears and Curious George to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Wings of Fire series, while adults can check out the newest David Baldacci thriller, Lee Child novel or one of the countless new additions that are added both in talking book format and eBraille every day.

To join the Talking Book program, Access Services requires cardholders submit an application with a signature from a certifying authority. You can find the application and more information about certification, including a list of certifying authorities, at

For additional questions, contact Access Services at 703-324-8380 Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or by emailing

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