Materials and Equipment Illinois State Library

BARD  •  Books and Magazines  •  Videos  •  Equipment

Through the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), the Talking Book and Braille Service has compiled a collection of over 100,000 titles. The collection includes a variety of popular interest writings such as bestsellers, classics, mysteries, romance, biographies, inspirational, children’s books, and foreign language materials. These books and magazines are provided in a range of formats including cassettes, braille, and descriptive video. If a particular item that has been requested is not available in Illinois, it may be obtained elsewhere through interlibrary loan.

Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD)

BARD is a free Braille and Audio Reading Download service for active Talking Book Patrons with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. There are over 70,000 books, magazines, and music scores in audio and braille formats available for download from the site, with new selections added frequently.

Talking Books

Our collection of talking books includes over 70,000 titles. New titles are announced in Talking Book Topics, a bimonthly publication of the NLS.

Braille Books

More than 15,400 Braille books are currently available. Adult and juvenile titles are available through the Utah State Library Program for the Blind and Disabled. Braille Book Review lists and describes the newest books in Braille from NLS.


Magazines are circulated by mail, but most are available to eligible readers for download in e-braille or audio format from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service at Some titles may also be available in braille.

Descriptive Videos

Descriptive videos are enhanced with narration that describes the actions, settings, gestures, and other key visual elements.

*Due to the age of the collection, some descriptive videos/DVDs are no longer available.


In order to play talking books, the National Library Service (NLS) provides free audio book players to active patrons. Upon registration, a playback machine will be sent to you from the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service. For more information, you may call them at 800–426–0709. It may take up to 7−10 days to receive your player.

Digital Talking Book Machine

Digital books are distributed on flash memory cartridges about the size of a cassette tape that slots into the front of the player. Digital books from NLS are also available for download from Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). A digital talking book machine (DTBM) is required to play the flash memory cartridges, as well as audio downloads from BARD. Books may also be downloaded directly to a smartphone or tablet such as an iPad.

The digital talking book machine (DTBM) is smaller and lighter than the cassette player, weighing approximately two pounds. Each machine is powered by a rechargeable battery that will play up to 29 hours on one charge. The machine can also tell you how much playing time remains.

NLS produced two machines to take full advantage of digital technology: the standard player and the advanced player. The standard machine has eight controls for the basic operations for listening to a book, and is best suited for those who read mainly fiction. The advanced player has some additional features and controls, designed to be useful when reading nonfiction materials. Both players support digital audio files including MAR-WB+, MP3 and WAV.

High-Volume Player and Headphones

NLS has developed a high-volume player for use by patrons who are hearing impaired. The high-volume player is available as a standard or advanced model that has been programmed to have an amplified volume up to 120 dB. It can be issued only by NLS and bears a warning label because it will damage regular hearing levels. The high-volume feature only works with the set of stereo headphones that NLS provides.

To receive a high-volume player and headphones, a patron must provide certification of hearing impairment by an audiologist by completing the application linked to below.

Patrons are also required to return their current player upon receipt of a high-volume player and headphones. A return label will be included with the high-volume player. For more information about the high-volume player, please call a reader advisor toll free at 800–426–0709.

Additional Information About Playback Equipment