As part of the statutory provision of public library services the provision of services for people with sight loss should be covered within the same funding structure as the general library service i.e. using book funds to purchase large and giant print books, audio etc and equipment funds for magnifiers, adaptive technologies etc.
The development of resources for people with sight loss has, by and large, depended on charities and the third sector continues to play an important role as a provider of specialist materials. Contrary to some expectations, many of these services are not free!
Talking Books subscriptions
The RNIB's Talking Books service is highly valued by many people with sight loss. It complements rather than replaces the general public library service, offering a much wider range of unabridged audio titles. It is a subscription service with an annual fee. Many local authorities pay the subscription for people in their area who are registered as blind or partially sighted. The funds for these subscriptions are usually held either by the library service or by social services (adult and community services and/or children's services).
Public library services or other departments in local government that would like more information or advice about Talking Books and the subscriptions should contact RNIB National Library Service.
Other subscription services
The following organisations offer services to libraries to help them meet the needs of their customers with sight loss. They also offer their services direct to individuals:
- National Blind Children's Society (giant print)
- Talking Newspapers
Calibre's audio services (cassette and MP3) are available free to individuals. Libraries can help people access this by giving their customers information from the Calibre website or helping them subscribe online.
Charities that support library services
Some charities will make grants or donations to public libraries to help provide enhancements for disabled people or to support special programmes or events. For example, local Rotary or Lions clubs have helped to provide specialist equipment. Some businesses have a community fund to support special projects. National charities, such as the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation have supported projects in public libraries. Public library authorities have a duty to provide library services for all and to comply with DDA. Grants from charitable organisations usually require the project to go beyond the statutory service - to experiment with a new way of doing things rather than make up for a shortfall due to other budget pressures.