Fact Sheet

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

State Support for Libraries Serving the Blind and Handicapped


State funds for libraries providing services to blind, visually impaired and physically disabled residents of Massachusetts are administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. Services are provided through contractual agreements between the Board and the Braille and Talking Book Library at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown and the Talking Book Library (the sub regional library) located at the Worcester Public Library.


Both the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library and the Worcester Talking Book Library are affiliated members of the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) network. This national program provides the materials and playback machines free of charge for use by eligible readers.

The purpose of the program is to provide Massachusetts residents who are blind, visually impaired or physically disabled with library service as effective, diverse and accessible as that which is available to the general public. This goal is accomplished through the provision of specialized services, staff with expertise in meeting the needs of the target population and utilization of new systems, including the application of automated and assistive technologies, to deliver information resources to individuals with print disabilities.

The Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library provides recorded books to borrowers in 13 counties in eastern and western Massachusetts, magazine services to readers throughout the Commonwealth and braille materials to five New England states. Of the 172,000 eligible Massachusetts residents, roughly 21,000 individuals and 1,500 institutions receive services. Through its outreach program, public awareness activities are conducted to publicize services to eligible people who may be unaware of talking book services. The sub regional library at the Worcester Public Library serves about 2,300 residents and 200 institutions in 71 communities in central Massachusetts. The machine lending agency, which is an important part of the library's program, lends the playback equipment for use with talking books to individuals and institutions meeting the federal eligibility requirements.

People can visit either library in person or communicate through print, braille, e-mail, fax, telephone or telecommunications relay service for the deaf (TTY/TTD). Borrowers are able to access the library's holdings through the web-based public access catalog.

Public Law 89-522 states that materials will be loaned to readers "certified by competent authority as unable to read normal printed materials as a result of physical limitations, under regulations prescribed by the Librarian of Congress for this service." This population includes blind and other visually impaired persons. Individuals who are dyslexic, and can be certified by a doctor as having an organic dysfunction, may also qualify for talking books. Individuals with a physical disability, which prevents them from holding a print book and/or turning pages, are also eligible.


The governance of library services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is authorized by M.G.L. c. 78, § 19. Text amended by St.1993, 110, § 134 effective July 1, 1993. This text states that the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners shall cooperate with the Library of Congress or its successor relative to the administration of the program of talking books and may expend such state, federal or other funds as are available for such purpose.


98 North Washington St., Suite 401 • Boston, MA 02114 • 617-725-1860 • 800-952-7403 (in-state only) • fax: 617-725-0140 • mass.gov/mblc
Page last updated on 07/2/2015