Significant milestones in the history of the library
Following the War of Independence, the Israeli Ministry of Defense was faced with the challenge of rehabilitating soldiers with eye injuries. Dr. Ludwig Cohen, a blind person from Rotterdam, Netherlands, was invited to be a special advisor for the rehabilitation project. One of his recommendations was the foundation of a library for blind persons. This challenge was met by the late Mrs. Haya Bam, who rallied a group of volunteers that enthusiastically studied Braille and started copying books for the blind.
Their goal was to make information accessible to every blind person by means of Braille books.
In addition to book copying, the volunteers taught the blind how to read and write Braille and how to cope with everyday tasks. The development of Hebrew Braille writing was the initiative of the library.
The main library building was established on Hahistadrut Street in Netanya.
Encouraged by Dr. Friedman of Geneva, the library began to record books to
be played on a tape recorder, in addition to the Braille-oriented projects. Each book consisted of a few tape reels, which were recorded in the United Studios in Tel-Aviv. The highlight of that project was the recording of the Bible by the late actor and narrator, Shlomo Bertonov.
The reel-based recorded books were converted to audio cassettes, a medium which offered a more convenient method of "reading" books.
At its peak, the library, headed by Mrs. Haya Bam, served more than 500 subscribers. In this year Mrs. Bam retired and was replaced by Mr. Uri Cohen, himself blind as a result of war injuries, as the Manager of the library. Mr. Cohen initiated an extensive process of change with respect to the library's technological standards and the quality of production and distribution of books offered by the library.
The library's first audio recording studio was established at 7, Smolenskin Street in Tel-Aviv.
The Mobile Library service was initiated. A truck drove around Israel lending Braille and recorded books to blind persons and senior citizens. The service operated for some five years, and provided assistance to many who were unable to visit the library in person. Additionally, the library began producing integrated books, incorporating printed pages and Braille pages in one book. These books were used by blind parents to read aloud to their sighted children, providing them with a shared reading experience.
Following changes in working procedures, the library was thoroughly renovated. The refurbished building was inaugurated by Mr. Yitzhak Navon, who was Minister of Education at the time.
The Library, unwavering in its resolve to take advantage of technological innovations, produced its first computer-generated Braille book. During the following three years, the library computerized the book-lending process and introduced divisions for the production of raised graphics with raised diagrams, charts and maps, and the production of large print books for the visually impaired.
Following the library's expansion, a new branch of the library was inaugurated on 66 Moshe Dayan Street, Tel-Aviv. The new branch consisted of a book-lending library, reference rooms and state-of-the-art recording studios which replaced the previous studios that had been in use by the library in Tel Aviv.
The Library, determined in its search for the most advanced technology and equipment, purchased the "Braillo 400" printer for the duplication of Braille books.
The library experienced a further technological leap forward with the introduction of digital media and the founding of a CD library. Recording using the analog system began to be phased out from this time. Two of the library’s major projects at that time were the conversion of the Bible into four CDs in MP3 format, and the recording (in Hebrew) of the Youth Encyclopedia Britannica.
The end of the era in which books were manually transcribed to Braille using the Perkins machine. A department was formed in Netanya to process typed files of books for Braille printing. The files undergo proofreading, pre-print preparation and full production using advanced Braille printers.
Outstanding major projects of this year included the recording and distribution of the New Guide to Israel published by the Ministry of Defense, Keter and Yediot Ahronot publishing houses, and the recording and production of the Merck Manual – the complete medical guide, published by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir.
The library's analog archives were gradually converted to databases in digital format. This process, which continued into the following year, included the development of new technology for the conversion of books that had been recorded since 1995 in analog format to digital books on CD.
The library serves about 10,000 subscribers. The library's General Manager, Mr. Uri Cohen, retired and was replaced by Mr. Yoav Hepher. The age of analog recordings is over and all the media being produced and offered to readers is in digital format.
During 2011, the process of converting analog literature into digital format was completed, the CD duplication of recorded material has been expanded, enabling subscribers to receive newspapers and magazines within a shorter time-frame and the telephone system has been upgraded to improve the standard of service to the public. For the first time, a month of special events linked to Israel Book Week was held. The goal was to raise awareness of the Library and to solicit funds towards the Library’s activities. The outstanding major project of this year was the production of the Mishneh and the Five books of Moses.
The library's General Manager, Mr. Yoav Hepher, retired and was replaced by Mr.Amos Be'er.
During this year we will launch a new Library website which will be accessible to all our users. In addition, extensive efforts are being made with the Ministry of Education to improve the Library's ability to provide textbook accessibility, for the welfare of the blind students and Library subscribers.