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  • Chris McMillan

Books that touch you, exhibits that move you

China Daily

2nd May 2023

Books that touch you, exhibits that move you

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | China Daily Global

Anyone who has never been to China Braille Library will conjure up various images of the place. Maybe there are wall-to-wall shelves with books piled all the way up, some covered in dust.

Maybe a librarian with a serious look, typically a man in his 50s wearing old-fashioned reading glasses, sits behind a desk and issues books that borrowers pick from the shelves.

Books, multimedia

That is not how things are at CBL, on the third floor of which are several spacious reading rooms with large windows through which sunshine and wind breeze in bringing with them pleasant smells.

The library has 18,269 kinds of books, including 3,523 kinds of braille books, 809 kinds of braille journals, 419 kinds of books written in both braille and visible language, and 142 kinds of children's ordinary books.

The library is open to the 17 million visually impaired people in China. This library has an arrangement with China Post, under which it has manufactured a special kind of mailing bag with cards where the address of the library is printed on one side.

The borrowers can make phone calls, or send WeChat messages or emails to the librarian, listing the books they are seeking. The librarian then fishes out these books, puts them into the mailing bag, fills in the address of the borrower on the other side of the card and waits for a postman to pick up the bag.

Whenever the borrower finishes reading, he or she needs to put the books back into the bag, turn the address card around and put it into a postbox for the books to return to the library.

There are at least four big reading rooms inside the CBL building.

In the age of multimedia, books have taken various forms. That applies to the world of the visually impaired, too.

CBL offers its readers a smart listening device that looks like an old-fashioned cellphone. Guided by a recorded voice, a user has to just press a few buttons to gain access to 20 terabytes of audiobooks stored on the CBL website.

The smart listening device is part of a Digital Reading Project for the Blind launched by China Disabled Persons' Federation in 2017.

As part of the program, the government purchased 200,000 such devices and distributed them to the over 400 Braille libraries and barrier-free reading rooms nationwide for lending to the visually impaired. Now, 80 percent of them are still in use, which means more than 160,000 visually impaired people are benefiting from it.

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