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THE Isle of Wight Library Service is expanding its range of reading resources for visually impaired and blind people.

The library service introduced the PenFriend devices during “Make a Noise in Libraries” – an annual campaign organised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind to improve access to library services and resources.

Developed by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the devices allow talking books to have audio labels attached to them which can be used by visually impaired people to help them select the talking books they want to borrow.

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When the PenFriend device is run across the spine of a talking book, it reads out details of the book’s title, author and content – just like reading the cover of a book. Volunteers are helping the library service by recording the book details on the PenFriends.

The PenFriend devices are being specially programmed for use with council library talking books, so people with their own devices will need to use the ones provided at Ryde and Freshwater, rather their own.

Special events are taking place in Freshwater Library today (26 June) at 11am and at Ryde Library at 11am on 2 July for people to view demonstrations of the devices and try them out for themselves. There are plans to extend the PenFriend service to Newport, Cowes, Sandown and Ventnor libraries in the next few months.

The Island’s library service already provides services for partially sighted and blind customers in the form of large print books and spoken word CDs as well as talking books that are free to download from the library service website

Pam Willingham, chair of the Island branch of the National Federation of the Blind in the UK, said: “PenFriend is a brilliantly simple device – it has really improved my experience of using Ryde Library. I can now choose my own talking books, without having to ask staff for help.”

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Councillor Barry Abraham, cabinet member for fire, culture and residents’ services, said: “This new technology is a great addition to the range of large print and talking books we have in our libraries. We would encourage residents with visual impairments to attend one the events being planned so they can learn about the new devices and also find out about dedicated reading groups for people with visual impairments.”

A reading group for blind and visually impaired residents has been running successfully at Freshwater Library for over a year, and new members are always welcome. The events on 26 June and 2 July will also provide an opportunity for people to find out about this group and another which is being established in Ryde Library. Everyone is welcome to attend, refreshments will be provided.

For further details please contact Andy Walker, development librarian, operations on (01983) 203886 or email [email protected].


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