Beijing opens first library for blind residents

09:03, February 12, 2011      

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Starting on Feb. 9, audio book services became available at the Heart and Eye Braille and Talking Book Library for the visually impaired in Beijing. Both on-site reading and book lending are offered for free. The library is currently calling for more volunteers to join the audio recording team.

Soon, the personalized service of page turnover and margin labeling will be available too, a current volunteer said. Even the latest bestsellers can be transferred into audio for the blind, according to Beijing Hong Dan Dan Education and Cultural Exchange Center, the NGO for the blind that founded the Heart and Eye library.

Last year in November Ban Soon-taek, wife of the U.N. Secretary-General, visited Hong Dan Dan and its theatre, which is named Heart and Eye as well.

Before the Heart and Eye library there was not a single privately-run Braille and audio library to serve the more than 12 million people with visual impairments in China, said Zheng Xiaojie one of the founders of Hong Dan Dan. Braille publication resources are extremely limited. In 2009, only 152 Braille books were published in China, compared with Japan, which produces between 250 and 300 publications every year although the Braille libraries in Japan are mostly volunteer-supported.

Instead, Yan Xiangdong, secretary-general of the Library Society of China, put his focus on the low utilization efficiency of existing special services of libraries in China. Although more than 10 of 2000 libraries in China have set special reading rooms, the blind still feel uncomfortable reading there because the environments and infrastructures are more suitable for people with ordinary eye sight.

The Heart and Eye library is located in Xicheng District in Hong Dan Dan Center. The 30-square-meter studio has the capacity to allow four people to record audio books simultaneously. Pieces can be issued in a reading room of 15 square meters. In the near future, the library hopes to supply the reading services to the blind nationwide, Zheng said, given the growing number of volunteers and investments.

By Li Yancheng, People's Daily Online


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