by Neil Bernstein and Judith Dixon
From the Editor: Earlier this spring the National Library Service brought its new permanent Website online. It is remarkably user-friendly, and many patrons have had no trouble moving around it, finding what they want to download, and then doing so. Others have found things a bit confusing, so we asked the staff if they could prepare a description of the site and instructions of how to use it. The following article is the result. Neil Bernstein is a research and development officer, and Judy Dixon is the consumer relations officer at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. This is what they say:
On April 30, 2009, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, launched the Braille and Audio Reading Download service (NLS BARD). BARD, a free service for eligible patrons, allows readers to download any of more than fifteen thousand NLS digital Talking Books or issues of forty-four different audio magazines. New books and magazine issues are added continually. There is no limit to the number of items readers can download, and the materials do not expire. The downloadable books are identical to those distributed on flash-memory cartridge by the national network of cooperating libraries.
Any NLS patron in good standing is eligible to use the Website. Simply fill out an application by following the link called “BARD application instructions” at <https://nlsbard.loc.gov>. You will need basic computer and Internet skills, such as filling out online forms and downloading and unzipping files, and a high-speed Internet connection. NLS digital Talking Books can be read using the new NLS digital Talking Book machine, which is free on loan to eligible patrons. Users may also elect to purchase one of four commercial players.
Despite its name, the BARD service does not yet offer Braille materials. For now the NLS Web-Braille service continues to serve that purpose. Eventually the two services will be brought together under the BARD name and site, offering readers one-stop shopping for Talking Books and magazines, Braille books and magazines, and NLS music materials.
This article gives an overview of NLS BARD. The site is subject to future changes, but the basics of BARD will remain the same.
Many of the elements on the BARD pages are consistent throughout the site. Every page begins with a header and ends with a footer. The header is either a brief description of the contents of the page or the library’s name. The footer includes four links:
Within the book listings BARD uses consistent heading levels to help screen-reader users navigate quickly. For example, book titles are listed at heading level 4 on all pages. JAWS users can simply press the “4” key to jump from one book title to the next. Window-Eyes users can press the key sequence “4-H.” Other screen readers have similar facilities. Also on all pages index letters (where used) are at heading level 2. Heading level 3 is always used for each page’s main grouping.
All download links begin with the word “Download” and, for books, are found after the NLS annotation (a short description of the book). Pages with book listings also feature many common navigational links, such as “Next page,” “Last page,” and “Start over.” The “Start over” link always takes you back to where your search began, which is usually the BARD main page.
BARD Main Page
After logging in, users are presented with the BARD main page. This page is the base of operations for the site. Everything you need can be found by starting here, and every page includes a link back to this page. The BARD main page has eleven links and fourteen headings. The content of the main page is divided into three sections: “Find books,” “Find magazines,” and “Additional links.” Each of these sections is at heading level 2.
Within the “Find books” first section are six elements, each at heading level 3:
Each of these is described below.
Within the “Find magazines” section are two elements, both at heading level 3:
The third section, “Additional links,” includes two elements, both links:
Recently Added Books
The first link on the BARD main page leads to the “Recently added books” page. This page lists books that were made available for download during the past thirty days. The number of links and headings on this page will vary over time.
The title of the page, which appears in the title bar, is “Selection by recently added books displaying items 1 through X of Y,” where X is the number of items on this page and Y is the total number of books added in the past thirty days.
At the top of the page is a header (at heading level 2) “BARD books sorted by date of addition during the past 30 days.”
Following the title are “Displaying items 1 through X of Y” and navigational links for moving to subsequent pages or starting over.
The content of the page is divided into sections using the dates that books were added to the site in the past thirty days with the most recent date listed first. Each of these sections is at heading level 2, and the individual titles, listed from highest to lowest book number, are at heading level 4. Each book entry includes the book’s title, author, narrator, reading time, and subject heading, followed by the book’s NLS annotation and a link from which to initiate its download. The bottom of the page has the four footer links described above.
Most Popular Books
The second link on the BARD main page leads to the “Most popular books” page. This page, entitled “Selection by most popular books displaying items 1 to 40 of 40,” lists the twenty most popular fiction downloads and the twenty most popular nonfiction downloads, compiled within the past ninety days. This page has forty-six links and forty-three headings. At the top of the page is a header “Most popular BARD downloads in the past 90 days.”
The content of the page is divided into two sections: fiction and nonfiction. Each of these sections is at heading level 2, and each of the twenty books within each section is at heading level 4. The format of each book’s entry is identical to that on the “Recently added books” page. Entries are not numbered but are listed in order of popularity. The page ends with the standard footer.
Search the Collection
To search the collection, use the sole entry field on the BARD main page. Type one or more terms into the edit box and then select the corresponding “Go” button. The resulting page is titled “Selection by keyword displaying titles 1 through X” where X is the total number of entries found to match the search term.
The header says “BARD books containing keyword” followed by the keyword or words you entered to search. This is followed by the number of matching records and six index links. These six links tell you how the search terms match the records found and allow you to narrow the book search to the part of the record that is of interest to you. They read (with “X” representing the search term used):
Use these links to jump immediately to the type of match you are looking for. (For example, if you have searched on the word “Dowling” because you are looking for a book by Colette Dowling and not for the Father Dowling Mystery series, you would use the link that says “1 in the author” to jump straight to the book in which your search term, “Dowling,” appears in the author’s name.)
At the bottom of this list is another line indicating what is being displayed and a link to start over. The content of the page is six sections at heading level 2. If there are books in a section, they are at heading level 4.
Book Browsing Links
Back on the BARD main page, the next three elements are used to browse through the collection. Use these, not to search for a particular item, but to browse through the listings when you are not sure exactly what you want. These elements are also useful if you are not sure of how a name is spelled or a title is phrased.
The first two elements, “Browse by author’s last name” and “Browse by book title,” work similarly. Each element has a combo box and a corresponding “Go” button. The combo box contains the letters of the alphabet. To browse items beginning with a particular letter, select the letter from the combo box and then select the corresponding “Go” button.
The titles of the resulting pages are respectively “Selection by author” and “Selection by title,” with an indication of the items being displayed. The index letter chosen is at heading level 2, and the book titles are at heading level 4. On the “Browse by author’s last name” page, the author’s name is at heading level 3, with each title by that author after the name at heading level 4. The “Browse by subject” element works in the same way, except that the combo box contains a list of subject areas instead of letters.
The second major section of the BARD main page contains two links that are used for finding magazines. The first is “Recently added magazine issues.” This link leads to a page containing download links for the most recent issue of every magazine title available on BARD, approximating the magazine rack at a newsstand or public library. As new issues are added to BARD, this page is updated to show the newest one. Your Web browser’s “visited link” status is a good indication of whether or not you have already downloaded a given issue.
The page title is “Recently added magazine issues displaying items 1 through X of Y.” Each magazine is at heading level 3. Below each magazine’s title is a link to download its most recent issue available on the Website.
The next element on the BARD main page is “Magazines by title,” consisting of a combo box and a “Go” button. To see all available issues of a particular magazine, select its title from the combo box and then select the corresponding “Go” button. The resulting page is titled “Selection by magazine title displaying items 1 through X of Y.” The magazine title is at heading level 3. The content of the page contains links to the past twelve months of issues, with the newest first, and a link for “Older issues of [magazine title].”
There are two more links before the footer of the BARD main page. The first is “Update account settings.” This link leads to a page by that name holding eight links and other controls. At the top of the page is the text “Update account settings. Current settings for [login email address].” The page then has links to change your password, change your email address, or request an authorization key for a purchased digital Talking Book player. Those links are followed by a combo box for setting the maximum number of books to be displayed on any one page of the site and edit boxes for a security question and secret answer. These last two are used in combination if you need to reset your password because you have forgotten it. All of this is followed by an “Update” button to update these settings and the standard site footer.
The last link on the BARD main page before the footer is “Help.” The “Help” page contains only two links:
Both of these links lead to pages that contain in-depth information on the use and content of the BARD Website.
The Future of BARD
NLS will continue to add features and content to BARD. Some changes, like the inclusion of Braille and music materials, will be immediately obvious. Others will serve to make the site easier to use, more robust, and faster. Whatever the change, please be assured that BARD is now a permanent service of NLS and its libraries.