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RE: Full Funding Of NLS Conversion Project

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RE: Full Funding Of NLS Conversion Project

WHEREAS, access to library services is just as important for blind Americans as it is for our sighted peers, and the only public library service available to the blind is that provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS); and

WHEREAS, NLS is engaged in a plan to convert its collection of Talking Books, currently recorded on cassette tapes, to a new digital format, and it is critical that this conversion take place as quickly as possible since cassette tapes are now obsolete and the last Talking Book cassette player has already been manufactured; and

WHEREAS, the original budget request of $12.5 million per year from the Library of Congress would extend the plan conducted by the NLS to convert cassette Talking Books and players to digital Talking Books and players from the initially proposed four years to six years; and

WHEREAS, the NLS will cease the production of recorded books using analog cassette technology on October 1, 2010; and

WHEREAS, under the six-year plan only half of library patrons would have new digital players to play Talking Books by October 1, 2010, meaning that under such a plan hundreds of thousands of blind patrons could be without access to new materials for as much as three years; and

WHEREAS, the budget request is only a suggested funding blueprint for the Congress; and

WHEREAS, eighty-seven members of the House of Representatives signed a Dear Colleague letter circulated by Congressman Towns of New York in support of funding that would return the digital conversion to the original four-year schedule; and

WHEREAS, the Congress has ultimate authority to appropriate funds and, under Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and ranking member Tom Latham (R-IA), the House Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch has chosen to exercise this authority and increase this year’s appropriation for the Talking Book conversion program to $34.5 million, an amount that would permit the conversion to be completed in three rather than the proposed six years, which will be extremely beneficial to blind library patrons; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind fervently hopes this appropriation will remain in final appropriations legislation enacted by Congress: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2008, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization express its heartfelt appreciation to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and the ranking member Tom Latham of Iowa for offering support above and beyond our expectations, which if enacted allows completion of the NLS conversion project in three rather than four or six years; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress to maintain the funding adopted by the House Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in final appropriations legislation.

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