Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is LAMP?

    Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians (LAMP) is a free braille and accessible media service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents reading or holding a book. Persons with a reading disability, such as dyslexia, may also qualify for this free program. Library materials are provided to network libraries through the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) and are offered as instant download through BARD. NLS works to ensure that all may read by providing eligible patrons access to NLS materials regardless of age, economic circumstances, or technical expertise.

  • Who can certify people as eligible?

    Eligibility must be certified by a competent authority. In cases of blindness, visual impairment, or physical limitations, a competent authority is defined to include: doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, ophthalmologist, optometrist, registered nurse, therapist, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or private welfare agencies such as an educator, social worker, case worker, counselor, rehabilitation teacher, certified reading specialist, school psychologist, superintendent or librarian.

  • Are people with reading disabilities eligible?

    Yes. Individuals are eligible if a certifying authority determines that their perceptual or reading disability prevents them from reading regular print materials.

  • Is the program available to people who are illiterate or who are learning English as a second language?

    Individuals who do not have a visual or physical disability are not eligible to use the service. Public libraries are an excellent source of information about local literacy and English-language programs.

  • How long does it take for an individual to begin receiving service after submitting an application?

    The goal of network libraries is to send playback equipment and an initial shipment of books and catalogs within five working days of receiving a properly certified application.

  • Does it cost anything to use the program?

    No. The program is tax-supported by federal, state, and (where appropriate) local government or private agencies. There is no direct cost to eligible readers.

  • How are materials received from and returned to the library?

    Library materials are received through the U.S. Postal Service and/or downloaded from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website. Books, magazines, catalogs, and equipment that are sent to readers through the U.S. Postal Service as “Free Matter for the Blind” may be returned the same way. Materials are sent by a network library with a removable address card that, when discarded, will show the library’s name and address for return mailing. Books and magazines, in both braille and audio formats, can also be downloaded from BARD and read using a personal refreshable braille display, an NLS digital talking book player, a commercial digital player, or the BARD Mobile application for iOS or Android devices.

  • What kind of device is needed to play talking books?

    Talking books require the use of a specialized playback device or a mobile reading app. Two types of digital players are available for free from NLS: a standard model and an advanced model. Some commercially available players are NLS-compatible. iOS and Android smart devices may also be used to play the talking books. NLS formats render the books unusable by the general public, a requirement under the U.S. copyright law to protect intellectual property while allowing NLS patrons free use of the material.

  • What is the difference between the standard digital talking-book machine and the advanced digital talking-book machine?

    The standard digital talking-book machine has eight controls and provides basic functionality for the playback of talking books, including volume and tone control, rewind and fast forward, and variable speed. The advanced digital talking-book machine has additional controls for setting bookmarks and navigating through the structured levels (chapters, sections, etc.) of a book. Both machines can be operated on a built-in rechargeable battery and have an internal audio user guide as well as a key describer mode.

  • Can books or magazines be downloaded from the Internet?

    Yes. Registered patrons may download electronic files of braille books, magazines, and music materials, as well as digital talking books and magazines from the Internet through the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) online site. Once these materials are downloaded and transferred to a digital cartridge or USB drive, they may be played on the digital talking-book machine or one of several commercial players. Patrons must have access to a computer with high-speed Internet connection to use BARD. With the BARD Mobile app, audio materials may be played on iOS and Android devices.

  • May I get books or magazines on my personal smartphone or tablet?

    Yes. The free BARD Mobile app is available for your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and your Android smartphone or tablet (including Kindle Fire) so you don’t need special equipment to read. Registered patrons may download electronic files of braille books, magazines, and music materials, as well as digital talking books and magazines from BARD Mobile at the App Store for iOS and digital talking books and magazines at the Play Store and Amazon Appstore for Android. You may be charged for data depending on your carrier’s plan.

  • Is there a special device to help people who are hearing impaired?

    Yes. NLS has developed a high-volume version of the digital talking-book machine for use by patrons who are hearing impaired. The high-volume player, which is paired with a headset, is available as a standard or advanced machine that has been programmed to have an amplified volume up to 120 dB. It can be issued only by NLS and bears a warning label. The high-volume feature works only with the set of stereo headphones that NLS provides.

  • How are books selected?

    NLS selects the same types of books that are available through public libraries. Titles are considered for production in braille or audio format when favorably reviewed in reputable nationally distributed publications or included in authoritative bibliographies. NLS strives to provide classics and informational readings along with popular recreational works that appeal to children, young adults, and older readers. Science fiction, mysteries, romances, and westerns are represented, as well as bestsellers, standard religious works, and some foreign-language materials. Books of local or regional interest are generally produced by network libraries.

  • Where are the books recorded?

    NLS talking books are recorded by professional narrators in the studios of contractors who bid each year on book production. These contractors are usually nonprofit organizations that also provide other products and services for people who are blind, visually impaired, or have a physical disability. LAMP maintains an in-house studio manned by both volunteers and staff to record books from local authors and submit to the national collection.

  • Are books recorded by volunteers?

    Most of the talking books produced for the national collection are recorded by contractors in commercial studios. However, a wide variety of volunteer-produced books and magazines are also available. LAMP volunteers dedicate thousands of hours to narrate, monitor and edit submissions to the national collection. Want to know more about LAMP volunteer efforts? Check out our volunteer page.

  • How can I become a reader/narrator?

    Production studios awarded NLS contracts recruit and hire professional narrators. Many network libraries and other agencies use volunteer readers to record materials. LAMP provides select volunteer opportunities for narrating, monitoring and editing in our Pittsburgh studio. Please contact us here for more information about volunteering.

  • Are magazines available through the NLS program?

    Yes. Magazines are available in braille and audio formats. Criteria for the selection of periodicals are the same as for books. Selection librarians also consider whether the periodicals reflect a balance of current thinking in the various fields represented, have high interest and demand, are representative in their points of view, and provide recreational as well as informational reading. There are also several locally produced magazines.

  • Do you have large-print books and other materials?

    Yes. LAMP offers a collection of large-print books and descriptive videos for patron lending. In addition, large-print books are available from many public libraries such as Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Free Library of Philadelphia. NLS catalogs, bibliographies, and bimonthly magazines provided to patrons for book selection are available in large print.

  • Does your program offer music?

    NLS does not offer music for listening, but offers musical scores and books in ebraille, braille, and large print (sometimes known as bold note), and recorded instructional materials for learning to play various musical instruments. Music appreciation materials are also available.

  • How can I access the music collection?

    Anyone currently registered with an NLS cooperating library that serves individuals who are blind or have a physical disability qualifies to receive music services and should contact the NLS Music Section directly. Other eligible individuals may sign up for service by completing the Application for Library Service: Individuals (available at and returning it to their cooperating library or to the NLS Music Section. Once an application is approved, patrons will be contacted by their library and may contact the Music Section to begin receiving service.

  • At what age can a child start using talking books?

    Books in the collection begin at the preschool level. Parents may consult the reference publication Parents’ Guide to the Development of Preschool Children with Disabilities: Resources and Services for additional information.