Howard VLS Coordinator

I am Howard Gibbs, the Visiting Library Service and Accessibility Coordinator at the Peterborough Public Library. 

Recently, I got a call from Miriam, whose mother, Ann, had just moved into a retirement residence in Peterborough. Miriam explained her mom has Macular Degeneration, an eye disease that causes the centre of the field of vision to become blurry. She hoped to have Audio Books delivered by the Visiting Library Service. Miriam went on to say that Ann has concerns about learning to use new technology, though she had enjoyed listening to books on her iPad that Miriam had bought her from Audible. As she is a voracious reader, purchasing books was very quickly becoming an expensive endeavour.  

After a quick chat on the phone, Ann and I decided the best course of action would be for me to stop by for a home visit to get a better idea of her needs. When I arrived, I noticed Ann kept her home somewhat dark to make it easier for her to see bright objects, and she used voice controls on her smart speaker to turn down her radio.

DAISY ReaderThe first option we discussed was the Books-On-CD available at the Library, but Ann doesn't have a CD player anymore, and in the past, she had found keeping discs in order and changing them every hour challenging. So next, we looked at a DAISY player, an Audio Book device specifically designed for people who are completely blind because they have large, tactile buttons inscribed with braille. An entire book will fit onto a single DAISY disc which can be mailed from the CELA library in Toronto or streamed to the player over Wi-Fi. 

I was curious about how Ann used her iPad and asked her to demonstrate. As Ann is only partially blind, she can turn on her iPad by feel and can navigate to Facetime by pressing the 'Green Blob' in the top left corner or CBC Radio, 'Red Blob - Top Right.' She had tried using the Voice Over feature, where the iPad reads aloud whatever you are touching, but found it too confusing.

CloudLibrary ScreenshotI had an idea at this point, so I pulled out my iPad and opened the CloudLibrary App to access the Peterborough Library's Digital Collection. I asked Ann if she could distinguish between the different eAudiobooks I had checked out. She could, and when she selected a book, she could make out the buttons in the player window. Now we were on to something!

I had set Ann up with a Library Membership and downloaded CloudLibrary to her iPad, making a few adjustments in the accessibility settings. Firstly, we checked Make Display High Contrast and Make Type Bold, then selected a larger font size to make the App as easy to see as possible. We configured the filters only to display Audiobooks and turned on Siri so Ann could use a voice command, "Hey Siri, Open Cloud Library," to get going.

Now for the fun part! After a quick chat about her reading tastes, I logged in to Ann's CloudLibrary account on my computer, and together, we chose some likely titles and checked them out. Then, when Ann used Siri to open the App on her device, the books we had borrowed all appeared on the Top Shelf of the default Home Page.

Ann could distinguish between the different coloured books on the shelf and, after practicing a little, could open them, Play, Stop, go forward or back a Chapter, close them, and return to the Home Page to select another. Success!

Braiding Sweetgrass ScreenshotMy last order of business was to have Ann sign a consent form so I could discuss what we had done with her daughter once I got back to the office. I explained the process to Miriam, who lives in the GTA, and she can now sign out books for her mom from home, making sure she has lots to read between visits to Peterborough. 

With over 12,000 Audio Books in our CloudLibrary collection, Ann is unlikely to run out of reading material any time soon, and best of all, it's included with a Peterborough Public Library membership!

I hope this way of accessing the library might work for other members. Library staff at the Info Desk are always available to recommend books and assist with our digital collections. If you can't make it into the library, you can call them at 705-745-5382 Ext 2340

If you have any questions about the Visiting Library Service or any of the Accessible Technology & Services mentioned in the article, Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me by email at  or by phone at 705-745-5382 x2321