Every day, Karen Parsegian walks down the stairs from her apartment to her mailbox with a bit of expectant joy in her step.
“It’s like Christmas every time I go to the mailbox,” she said.
Before 2002, she was a voracious reader and a member of a book club. That was the year a childhood injury intensified. In a matter of a few weeks, she went from driving to totally blind.
“I cried like a baby the day they put that cane in my hand,” Parsegian said. “You feel vulnerable. You feel exposed. You can’t do anything the way you used to.”
Soon after she lost her vision, she was told about The Braille and Talking Book Library. The free service is a lifeline to more than 9,000 people across Northern California who otherwise would not be able to read a book.
“It’s the best kept secret in northern California. It really is. It’s a treasure,” Parsegian said. “This is one of the best reasons I’ve been in a great mood, and I have a pretty good attitude.”
HOW IT WORKS
From their head office in Downtown Sacramento, employees and volunteers send out thousands of books to people in 48 Northern California counties.
“We’re the public library for the print disabled,” director Mike Marlin said.
The print disabled include anyone who can’t read a standard book, from the blind, to dyslexic, to those who simply have trouble holding a book for a period of time.
“There’s people who are scattered thought the state, and most of them are not going to be able to come in and get their books,” Marlin said.
The library is able to cover the expansive region by distributing digital books through the mail. Clients are given special playback devices, and the books are sent in special memory cards. Once they’re done with one book, they just have to mail it back. They can also download books online, and transfer them into the machines.
There’s no limit, and there’s no charge for any of the services.
The library gets funding from both the state, to pay for the building and the salaries of the 16 full time employees, and the federal government, who supplies much of the materials the service uses, including the digital books. Marlin estimates the library mails out 2,000 to 3,000 books a day.
While the library counts clients as young as 3, their largest group of clients are from 80- to 90-years-old. Many of whom went blind later in life, when attempting to learn to read…