Braille Monitor                                                                           October 1986


The Impact of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings on the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

by Frank Kurt Cylke

(The address by Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, has come to be a tradition at National Federation of the Blind conventions. Mr. Cylke spends several days at the convention, getting feedback from consumers and answering questions. This year he addressed the delegates on Thursday morning, July 3. Here is what he said.)

It is always a good experience to meet with the National Federation of the Blind in convention. I appreciate the opportunity and find it helpful to discuss our progress, our difficulties, and our plans with individuals who have significant experience in using the materials and various services. This year I will address three specific points:

1. The Emergency Deficit Reduction Act of 1985--better known to us all as theGramm-Rudman-Hollings Act;

2. Work of the NLS Ad Hoc Publications Advisory Group; and

3. The sale of Braille books to individuals.

As you might expect the Gramm-Rudman Hollings Act is the matter of most concern to all of us assembled here today. The Library of Congress has a sizeable operating budget!

This year--FY 1986--it is $18.3 million lower than it was in FY 1985. This is the direct result of two reductions--one a specific congressional cut and, following that, the Gramm-Rudman Hollings sequestration. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped segment of this reduction was $4,150,000. In fact, NLS/BPH is operating during this year on a budget of $32,309,000--rather than on the projected $36,459,000 required to maintain the same level of service as in FY 1985.

Such deep cuts meant reductions in every area of the budget. These affect direct service items for patrons--such as production of books, magazines, publications, and machines--and program items such as travel for consultants and for people staffing exhibits, transportation of exhibit material, staff training, monies for outside consultants and for consumer representation on committees, and even monies to purchase print books for transcribing into Braille or recording on disc and cassette.

Cuts totalling almost $200,000 were determined in administrative areas before any reductions were considered in materials and services for patrons.

To give you a feeling for how the program was cut, I will list eleven areas and note approximate percentage reductions in those areas:

1. Travel - 10%

2. Attendance at meetings - 9%

3. Transportation of exhibits to meetings - 10%

4. Printing of promotional brochures - 11%

5. Printing of forms - 10%

6. Training for staff - 9%

7. Use of consultants - 25%

8. Research and Development - 20%

9. Office supplies - 10%

10. Music services - 26%

11. Pamphlets and documents for free distribution - 46%

Then came reductions in funds used to produce books, magazines, and machines! Unfortunately, because of the size of the total reduction we were forced to reduce in books--100 cassette titles; 37 press Braille titles; and, more than 100 handcopy Braille titles. Ceilings were placed on both Braille and recorded magazine subscription lists, and the machine budget was reduced by 20%.

We were also forced to close one multistate center--the one in the south.

The impact of these "bread and butter" cuts will not impact immediately. In fact, there is hope that the FY 1987 budget will be "balanced" and that a Gramm-Rudman-Hollings sequestration need not be implemented in FY 1987. If this is the case and we can receive moderate increases we possibly can restore most reductions within a reasonable period of time.

If reductions must be taken in FY 1987 I assure you that books, magazines, and machines will not be affected unless absolutely necessary. Indeed, in a worst case planning effort for a 10% sequestration in FY 1987, we have arranged not to cut in these areas, but rather to rearrange media production priorities and quantities.

As in FY 1986, I certainly will communicate with Mr. Jernigan, Marc Maurer, and other appropriate NFB staff to ensure that reductions fall within areas acceptable to you.

Now to a more reasonable subject--that of the Ad Hoc Publications Advisory Group. Four individuals representing consumer groups, four patron representatives, and four librarians were brought together to address four topics. (By now you have guessed that four is a magic number to Bob Fistick, head of our Publications and Media Section.) The topics for discussion were identified as

1. Publication priorities: Recommendations and discussion of NLS publications focused on how to maintain our publications in useful formats while saving money and on how to prioritize publications in their perceived order of importance to the program.

2. Content changes: Recommendations and discussion on content changes for both improvements and for saving money--specifically related to Talking Book Topics, Braille Book Review, and our various catalogs and bibliographies. (Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review are the primary program publications and will remain in some form despite any further budget reductions.)

3. Prioritizing publications: The group considered what should be done if NLS were forced to prioritze the value of publications? What publications should be kept? What should be eliminated, consolidated, or created? What do you consider as the most basic elements for the NLS program?

4. Possible national survey: Recommendations on possible topics to be addressed in a national survey.

Following a three-day meeting, the group offered their collective recommendations. Before I mention them please know that the participants requested that implementation of any or all of the recommendations be delayed until: (1) the recommendations can be discussed at the national meeting of librarians scheduled for Cincinnati later this month; (2) members of the group representing consumer organizations have an opportunity to report to and receive comments from their constituencies; and (3) the results of the proposed survey are in and analyzed.


Talking Book Topics

The following immediate format changes are recommended:

1. Merge the TBT disc and the large-print-full edition;

2. Eliminate disc version and replace it with a cassette version;

3. Change frequency of the publication from six to four times a year to correspond with the four seasons;

4. Do not put foreign language, juvenile books, or the magazine list in each list of TBT. Instead include foreign language books once a year and include magazines once a year. Include juvenile books twice a year. Put these items in separate issues of TBT; and

5. Use L, S, V designations with the following meanings printed at the bottom of every other page:

L = Strong Language
S = Explicit Descriptions of Sex
V = Violence

6. Delete the contents page;

7. Delete the index;

8. Limit annotations;

9. In the audio version of TBT do away with the "In Brief" section. However, include "Newsstand"--space permitting; and

10. Present books alphabetically by author. Further break them down by fiction, nonfiction, and format.

It is the group's belief that with these changes implemented, TBT will become a throw-away order form. It will be a hybrid of the TBT disc order form and large-print order form and should be a self-mailer. Individuals and librarians using it should have all the information necessary to order or send books. Paging back and forth between order form and annotation will be eliminated, as will the mistakes that result from doing that.

Braille Book Review

For this publication the following was recommended:

1. Publish four times a year, seasonally;

2. Eliminate the large-print edition;

3. Retain the print/Braille order form including, as it does now, RDs, RCs, etc. from TBT;

4. List books alphabetically by author;

5. Delete TBT abridged from BBR; and

6. Use shorter annotations.

Priorities for Publications

In whatever format an annotation appears, whether it be print, Braille, audio, or in a catalog, it should be the same.

Publications have been ranked in this order of importance:

1. Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review

2. Catalogs

3. Bibliographies

4. Reference Circulars

5. Newsletters

6. Music Materials

Publications Survey

The group does not recommend a survey for every question discussed--only those questions on where more information is required or where the group did not reach consensus. The survey should produce a ranking of important items by users. It should not be a laundry list that encompasses too much information. The group recommended keeping the survey to two pages so that response will be greater.

Public Education

Any financial savings that result from any of the changes this group recommended should be placed in the Publications and Media Section budget to be used for public education, specifically, to reach physically handicapped people. Another photomural exhibit and concomitant materials should be devised showing a recognizable physical handicap--for instance, a picture of a high-level quadriplegic person in an appropriate setting.

As you can tell from the brief summary of the suggestions a great deal was discussed. I am sure Joyce Scanlan, your representative, will be discussing the implications of the recommendations with the NFB Library Committee and with Mr. Jernigan and Marc Maurer. We at NLS await your comments.


After much discussion, plans have matured to permit Braille book manufacturers producing books under contract to NLS to sell them to individuals at a cost not to exceed production costs-- minus the costs of the embossing plates. As the plates are the largest single unit cost--approximately 65% of a complete book--the cost to purchasers should be in line with that of print books to sighted readers. The decision to pursue this sales project resulted directly from NFB interest. Conversations were held with Mr. Jernigan, Marc Maurer and some of you in the audience.

Then staff worked with both the Library of Congress legal staff and the Braille producers. I believe the result is one which should please you all.

That concludes my comments for this morning. I will be delighted to answer any questions you may have at this time. As you know as soon as this session closes I will also be available for as long as you wish. I urge everyone who wishes to talk in depth on any pertinent subject to join Judy Dixon and me. As in past years we both will stay as long as there is a person with a question.