Into the bus and over the Susquehanna and Delaware with a group of volunteers from the Washington Unit to visit the National Headquarters of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic in Princeton, N.J. The satellite radio in the bus kept kicking out as we passed under bridges (just as well, ’cause the vocal standards station that our driver chose had far too much Sinatra for my taste), and we spent a few minutes driving around an adjacent office park before we found our building, but getting anywhere in the Northeast Corridor in three hours is a blessing. The one-story building is between U.S. 1 (Brunswick Pike) and the main Amtrak line, on the other side of the Pike from the main university campus.
We were greeted by John Kelly, CEO, and Tom Butler
Duncan (Thanks, Kathryn!) and then toured the facility, pretty much every place except the payroll department. John noted that vision-impaired borrowers continue to decline in proportionate numbers: 80% of new registrants are learning-disabled (in other words, somewhere along the broad continuum of characteristics known as dyslexia). The organization’s ambitious goal is to reach 1 million of the estimated 2 million Americans who could benefit from audio-assisted learning.
The textbooks that RFB&D records aren’t retained afterward, so the only books to be found were in this corner of Library Services, the acquisitions department, if you will. White stickers on the spines identify each book by a five-character shelf number. The org acquires two copies of each title, one for the reader and one for the director/quality monitor.
All new recordings are direct to digital, but there is a sizable collection of legacy analog recordings. This storage room (left) was at one time filled with master tapes, but now it’s being cleared out as the tapes are converted to digital format in this area (right). What used to be a big room with analog tape duplication equipment is now largely empty, being backfilled with desks from staffers who had been located elsewhere. Alas, my snaps of the digital production facilities, including four CD duplication machines, are not release-worthy. The data center is onsite, and surprisingly small. But then again, audio doesn’t eat storage the way video does.
More chat back in the conference room before we hopped on the bus for home. The organization will soon be piloting a program of web-based distribution (to augment the current CD mailings) with the possibility of downloads to MP3 players: borrowers are clamoring for this. Volunteers, in the past only used for production, are now being sought for outreach as well. Teachers are especially wanted to help follow up with members to make sure they’re getting all they can out of the program. And I came away with an idea or two to perhaps follow up on.