Sean Murgatroyd, Digital Outreach Librarian at Auckland Libraries, shares his story of helping a visually impaired customer download digital audiobooks from the library’s ‘Virtual Branch.’
“I’m having a great day today. I can’t believe how well today is going.”
I hear the voice from across the library. I notice my colleague working with a teenager on the far side of a serious growth spurt near the adult audiobook section of our small community library.
My role until a few short weeks ago was as Children and Teenage Services Librarian, so I hover to check whether my colleague would like help with his particular needs as a teen. She signals agreement, and I come over to try and diagnose the problem.
After talking to Charlie about his needs and interests, we determine our smaller teen audiobook collection might be of use.
It’s not until I walk toward that area of the library that I realize Charlie is differently abled. He is blind.
I go back to him, and we move slower and converse so I can provide him navigational cues, and also because I want to have a great day too. Why wouldn’t I?
Because I’m technologically curious, I ask him about the black box hanging at his hip. It’s got a Braille keyboard, and it continually responds with a quiet voice to his input. I ask him what its capabilities are.
It turns out Charlie’s main aid in life is running Windows CE and is wifi capable. While we sit down and work through the teen audiobook collection, manfully eschewing titles with “romance” in their descriptions, these facts filter through the back of my mind, and a rather neat solution presents itself: OverDrive.
My part of the organization was relatively new to OverDrive and I’d spent the last few months training staff in its use with the customer. I’ve also got the impression by this point that Charlie is a bit of a hacker, in the best possible way.
I start explaining the technical aspects to Charlie, letting him know how the OverDrive Media Console functions as a download manager, discussing the version of his playback software, search strategies, and so on. I email him a link to key pages so he can download and install himself, and add in a couple of canned searches based on his interests.
In New Zealand, where Charlie and I live, blind and partially sighted people have access to an excellent, progressive and long running library service via the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. They are working on an amazing project digitizing their content, and Charlie will benefit from that more and more as it comes to fruition.
That being said, Charlie needed a great day the day he was in the library I last worked in. Thanks to OverDrive, we were able to share that great day.
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