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Read with your ears at Chilliwack Library

Librarian Smitty Miller sits in the Chilliwack Library
Librarian Smitty Miller sits in the Chilliwack Library's new Listening Station, a place for sight-impaired customers to use the new digital accessible information system.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Whether you like to read books or listen to them, Chilliwack Library can fulfill your needs.

Last week, the downtown library was retrofitted with a listening station, for its sight-impaired customers, featuring four, new digital accessible information system (DAISY) players.

It's a first for the Fraser Valley, and librarian Smitty Miller says it's long overdue.

A few months ago Miller was approached by a blind woman and asked if there was anywhere in the library she could sit and listen to books.

Miller's heart sunk.

She'd been transforming the downtown library for months, making it more accessible, but until that moment, she hadn't considered what the library was like for people who couldn't physically read.

"I was really embarrassed," she said. "That's not fair. We have this collection [of audiobooks], why can't people listen to them here? You can sit and read books, why not read this way?"

Miller approached Friends of the Library and Chilliwack Lions Club for financial assistance, and a few months later, the library was equipped with a listening station – four DAISY players with high quality headphones, and four coffee shop style chairs that have a swivel top table on the armrests.

The DAISY players are easy to operate with large buttons on the top. For every button pushed, a voice will playback what you're doing. For example, if you pause the recording, it will say "pause" and if you eject, it will say "eject." As well, there is also the ability to change the speed of the recording, enabling users to slow the narrator's voice down or speed it up depending on their needs.

"The public library is all about being accessible for all; that's what the public library stands for," said Miller.

"So now, if that blind lady ever comes back, she'll have a place to listen to her books."

The DAISY players play CDs, MP3s, USB sticks, and SD cards.

While predominantly for sight-impaired customers, it is available for the general public as well.

The listening station is located in front of the audiobooks section.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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