Q: What is Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH)?
A: The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a part of a nationwide network that provides recorded books for the blind. These services are completely free to registered participants. The (Michigan) Regional LBPH is headquartered within the state government in Lansing. The Traverse Area District Library (TADL) hosts the Grand Traverse Area LBPH sub-regional component at its Woodmere facility located at 610 Woodmere Avenue in Traverse City.
Q: Who does LBPH serve?
LBPH services are limited to registered individuals who have been professionally certified as handicapped to the extent they are unable to read. Locally, this sub-regional outlet serves 783 registered individuals in a 16-county region; 171 of these registrants are Grand Traverse County residents.
Q: How does LBPH Work?
A: LBPH is primarily a mail service and works similar to Netflix, only it’s free to its registered borrowers and there are almost no borrowing limitations. LBPH is managed by mail and online and uses a database of titles available throughout the national LBPH network. The LBPH network is completely separate from the TADL circulation system, catalog and patron database.
- Registered borrowers set up, and can modify at any time, a reader profile that defines their reading preferences. When they return a book, the computer network uses this profile to automatically select a new title according to the borrowers’ stated reading interests.
- Registered borrowers receive catalogs by mail (and can access them via the Internet) from which they can request new titles when they become available.
- Registered borrowers may keep these recorded books for as long as they like; within parameters, registered borrowers may retain as many books as they like.
- Registered borrowers may and often do call in to ask for suggestions on what to read next, to modify their reader profiles or to ask for help with their equipment.
- LBPH provides recorded books on special flash drives that can be read on specialized digital devices. Recordings can be downloaded on request as a supplement to the mail service.
- Braille is available by mail from the Regional or national offices.
- Two-thirds of the materials supplied to registered borrowers within this LBPH sub-regional are mailed from Traverse City; one-third are mailed from the Regional office in Lansing.
- LBPH use on a walk-in basis is entirely voluntary on the part of borrowers or their families; it does not replace the mail service to which these borrowers are entitled.
Q: Who pays for LBPH services operated out of Traverse City?
A: A combination of local, state and federal support underwrites LBPH services:
- Players and recorded books are provided free by the National Library Service.
- Free Matter for the Blind - provides free postage for all mail to and from registered borrowers
- State Aid for LBPH is provided from the State of Michigan budget to each sub-regional library. This is a fixed amount; the same amount is provided to each sub-regional, regardless of geographic service area or number of registrants.
- The local host library is required to underwrite any expenses that exceed this level of state aid. TADL pays its expenses over the amount of LBPH State Aid received.
Q: What are those expenses?
A: In 2012, TADL budgeted $121,000 to operate the Grand Traverse Area LBPH
This amount includes:
- 1.6 FTE (full time equivalent) staff salary and benefits
- Continuing education and related travel costs
- Supplies and printing for operations and programming
- This amount does not include federal government provided:
- Purchase of players or recorded books or other media
- Mailing cost, except to the general public
Revenue from State Aid for LBPH and contributions offset some local costs:
- $45,000 annual revenue State Aid
- $12,000 voluntary contributions received in 2011
Q: What question is the TADL Board considering?
A: Upon the assurance that no current or future registrants’ services would be compromised, the TADL Board is contemplating the idea of transferring all LBPH services to the Regional LBPH in Lansing. About ⅓ of materials mailed to local residents are already mailed directly from Lansing. The contemplated change would mean that all materials would be mailed to local residents from Lansing.
Q: Why would the TADL board consider making this change?
A: The TADL Board is exercising stewardship over limited operational resources in an economic climate in which, as we all know, municipal revenues have continually declined while expenses continue to increase.
As a district library, TADL revenues are more than 80% derived by local property tax. This tax was voted and is paid by homeowners and business owners in Grand Traverse County. The local LBPH serves a 16-county region and only 20% of registered LBPH users live in Grand Traverse County.
So, while Grand Traverse county residents comprise only 20% of LBPH services, its taxpayers are responsible for 53% of the cost to provide that service region-wide; if voluntary contributions were to drop off, local taxpayers would be funding 63% of these costs.
The Regional LBPH in Lansing reports it is fully capable of taking the additional 3% of the state-wide number of registered users and the additional 5% of the state-wide volume of LBPH use.
A user satisfaction study completed by the MI Commission for the Blind LBPH in January 2012 revealed that 80% of its users were always or usually "very satisfied" with the service they received; an additional 15% were always or usually "satisfied”.
Q: Why is TADL contemplating discontinuing the service? Is it legal to discontinue it?
A: TADL was never contemplating discontinuation of services to the blind.
This transition would not discontinue services but would move the base of operations out of Traverse City.
There is no possibility that services could be discontinued.
A: Sub-Regional LBPH service is completely voluntary on the part of host libraries. There are 10 (ten) sub-regional libraries for the blind in the State of Michigan. If it was illegal not to provide this service, LBPH would also be required in all 200+ public libraries in the state.
Q: What happened at the March 15 Board Meeting?
A: A motion was presented and seconded to transfer all local services for Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to the MI Commission for the Blind LBPH. About 30 members of the community attended the meeting to voice their concern about this change and to implore the trustees to hold off on the decision. The motion was tabled so that the board could gather additional information and address the concerns voiced at the meeting.
Q: What happens next?
A: The Board is investigating and listening
A special follow-up meeting of the TADL Board is scheduled for Monday, April 30 at 5:30 p.m. in the McGuire Room at the TADL Main Branch. All LBPH patrons, their families and interested members of the community are invited to attend.
Sue Chinault, who manages the Regional LBPH services for the state of Michigan, within the Michigan Commission for the Blind, will answer questions from the public and provide answers to the questions that were raised at the March 15th board meeting.
The TADL trustees will be sitting in the audience to listen to additional comments from the public and to the answers provided by the Michigan Commission for the Blind.
There will be no expectation for action or any board business at this informational meeting. A letter has been sent inviting all LBPH registered patrons as well as local advocates to this informational discussion.
There is no timetable for board action. It will not be on the April 19 regular board meeting agenda.
Q: How can I voice my concern or further questions regarding this issue?
A: You can contact the TADL Director, Metta T. Lansdale Jr.
Posted by Metta on Apr 12th 2012, 1:10pm.