TADL Staff Spotlight: Mary Orth

Note: On December 8, Mary Orth is retiring from employment with TADL’s Talking Book Library after a 22 year career. If you know Mary, then you know that she is a “people person” and will be missed. We wish her the best in her new adventures.

What is your role at the library and how did you choose this career?

I am a full time Reader’s Advisor for the Talking Book Library, formerly called the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

It’s been a winding path to my present role. Twenty-two years ago, I was a student at Northwestern Michigan College studying to be a Legal Assistant. Grace Rudd at the Grand Traverse County Law Library asked me to work as a substitute at the Law Library. Then, I also worked as a substitute at the Traverse City Public Library (6th Street) and at East Bay Branch Library for another three years. In the fall of 1999, I was hired part-time at the (new) Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped where I managed the shipping and receiving of book materials to and from patrons. In 2012, I was hired as the full-time Reader’s Advisor for the Talking Book Library which includes outreach…which is what I enjoy the most.

What is the one thing that has changed the most in your work to serve those with visual or physical impairments?

The most dramatic positive change has been the advent of digital downloads for recorded books! It has nearly eliminated the wait for reading or listening materials for our patrons. For almost 13 years I was sending or receiving large print or braille books in the mail, which takes a lot of time and patience on the part of our patrons. Now, I can download the book to a cartridge or the patron can access it through the National Library for the Blind’s Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) app on their phone or tablet device.

Who does the Talking Book Library (TBL) Serve?

The TBL provides free recorded books to visually and physically impaired patrons in eight counties: Grand Traverse, Antrim, Benzie, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford. You do not need to be legally blind to use our services. If standard print has become difficult to read for you or a family member, simply complete an application for this service then have it certified by a doctor, nurse, therapist, or other individual who is qualified to sign the application and return it to the TBL.

While some of our patrons have been blind from birth or early in life, the most common visual impairment is Macular Degeneration (age-related vision decline). Also, sometimes stroke patients may lose some vision and are eligible for TBL services as they are recovering from the stroke.

What’s your favorite thing about your role with the Talking Book Library?

I love talking to patrons on the phone or in person, to answer questions or find out how I can assist them. My work has been very fulfilling, serving patrons and their family members. The best thing is when I get a written note of gratitude for helping them be able to read (or listen to) books for enjoyment.

What’s one thing about the Talking Book Library that you want our community to know?

Many adults are also caregivers for their parents or an elderly family member. There’s a lot of stress when taking care of an adult loved one, especially if you’re still raising your own children and working.

If your parent or relative is eligible for Talking Book Library Services, and you get them enrolled in the program, it can really alleviate some of the stress because library staff can help ensure that they have enough reading materials. Best of all, enrollment in the program is free.

Any last thoughts as you head into retirement?

The Traverse Area District Library is a special entity in our Grand Traverse Region and it stands out as an informational center in the Traverse City community.

I can remember back in the 1980’s when there was a lot of talk about building a larger, district, library. So, in 1996, when the Operating and Debt Millages for the (new) Main Library building on Woodmere Avenue were approved by the voters of Grand Traverse County…that was a special day.

TADL Librarian, Amy Barritt, has been selected as the new Reader’s Advisory for the Talking Book Library. Amy will also continue her work as Special Collections Librarian for TADL.

Amy Barritt