The U.S. Library of Congress Launches New Software to Simplify the Downloading of Braille and Audio Reading Material

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building
Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

41drgudqojl-_sx365_bo1204203200_I the Library of Congress. For those of us who are writers, readers and researchers, there is nothing that quite compares to the depth and breadth of services and materials that are available and becoming increasingly accessible from the U.S. Library of Congress. Of recent note is a new software system – launched on January 4th –  to enhance the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). The enhanced service uses the BARD Express, software donated to the library by a developer whose wife and son use the National Library Service (NLS, part of the Library of Congress) BARD service.

NLS is a freely available to U.S. residents and citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical disability makes it difficult to read regular print. Local cooperating libraries throughout the United States mail NLS talking books, magazines, and playback equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. Braille books and magazines are also available at no cost. Braille and talking books and magazines also may be downloaded from the Internet through the BARD Express.

 photograph of the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson building The Great Hall interior
photograph of the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson building
The Great Hall interior

The BARD Express, a Windows-based software program, aids in the use of the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service. The free software is available for download from a link on the BARD main page. If you are a patron of the NLS program and a current BARD user, log in at You must register and the application instructions are HERE. The application is intended for use by partrons or institutions in good standing with the NLS.

“BARD Express will make browsing BARD audio materials, downloading titles and transferring them to a cartridge or USB drive much easier for patrons using a PC.” said Karen Keninger, NLS director. “We hope it will make the thousands of books available on BARD readily accessible to more patrons.”

BARD Express manages audio materials that users download to their computers and categorizes the materials as books, magazines, read items and unread items for easy sorting. The program also simplifies downloading and transferring talking books to a cartridge or USB drive by providing a button that unzips and transfers the files to an external storage device. It also provides device-management options from the main menu.

Don Olson, BARD operations manager at NLS, said “BARD Express enables NLS patrons to more easily unzip the books they download from BARD. Gone are the days of having to carry out multiple file-management steps in order to place a book or magazine on an NLS cartridge or a USB drive.”

The BARD Express software provides step-by-step menus to more easily move books from a PC to a patron’s device of choice. The program also simplifies searching for titles on BARD by presenting a range of search-and-browse options from the main menu, such as search by series, search by keyword, browse the recently added and most popular lists, and browse the magazine collection.

The NLS will release the software, along with support resources—such as a BARD Express “how-to” video series, frequently-asked-questions about BARD Express and a getting-started guide to supporting library staff in the network of cooperating libraries.

Kirk Saathoff, the software developer who donated the software, said, “For years, I watched my wife sometimes become a bit annoyed with her computer, and I know software is designed without regard for people with disabilities. My hope in developing this software was that it would allow more people to enjoy books while minimizing the time and frustration involved in accessing them.”

U.S. Library of Congress, Packard Campus (Culpeper, Virginia)
U.S. Library of Congress, Packard Campus (Culpeper, Virginia) for audio-visual conservation

For more information, visit or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building
The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at,. Register your creative works at

Photo credits ~ Thomas Jefferson Building, Carol M. Highsmith under CC BY SA 3.0 license; the great hall interior Carol M. Highsmith and generously released into the public domain; the Packard Campus, Federal Government, public domain.

51qqbcpwhul-_sx332_bo1204203200_The WordPlay Shop offers a selection of books and tools especially selected for poets and writers … and in some cases, activists. Sales from the shop go to support the maintenance of this site.  Suggested reading this week – a read for these times – is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

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