Library PenFriend gives greater freedom to the visually impaired


Library customers who struggle with reading have been given greater freedom, thanks to a clever new service.
Customers can now point the Library PenFriend at Larbert Libraries’ range of audiobooks and it will read aloud the author, title and plot blurb. 
The device means that anyone who uses audiobooks because of a visual impairment or dyslexia can now browse the titles independently and at a pace that suits them. 
The PenFriend voice-labeller is produced by sight-loss charity RNIB and has traditionally been used by visually impaired people to navigate the different items in their own homes. 
Falkirk Libraries is only the second authority in Scotland to adapt the PenFriend for library use.
A spokesperson for RNIB Scotland said: "This is a very welcome and progressive move by Falkirk Community Trust Libraries.  For many blind and partially sighted people, particularly those who are elderly, reading is an absolute lifeline. So anything that makes their local library more accessible is a real step forward.
The PenFriend was launched by Falkirk Community Trust board director Provost Pat Reid at a ceremony in Larbert Library last Friday.
Provost Reid thanked Librarian Fiona Fraser and the volunteers from Larbert Library’s reading group - Betty Brodie, Janice Philip, June Plummer, Helen Scott and Irene and Gerry Welsh  - for devoting so much of their free time to record the book information and to get the project off the ground. 
He also gave thanks to Norma Lowrie and Lawson Eades, members of the Falkirk Libraries-run reading group which meets at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre, for helping library staff to better understand the needs of visually impaired customers. 
Visually impaired library user Phyllis Burden attended the launch. She said: “I think the service is brilliant. It will make a big difference to me.”
Published on Thursday, 13th June 2013


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