The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL) provides a free public library service which includes easy access to the informational and recreational reading materials needed by individuals in the State of Washington who are unable to read standard print material. Part of the Washington State Library and the Office of the Secretary of State, WTBBL provides the Library of Congress Talking Book & Braille program, local audio book production service, local braille production service, the Evergreen Radio Reading Service, a large print collection, reference and referral service, and youth services. The WTBBL collection includes 459,199 items and circulates approximately 2,000 titles per day. With a dedicated group of 22 staff members and about 400 volunteers, WTBBL strives to provide the best service possible to the print-impaired.
WTBBL is located in a unique building at the corner of Ninth Avenue & Lenora in downtown Seattle. While the WTBBL building houses a wealth of history in book form, it also has a colorful past of its own. Before it became a library in 1983, the Art Deco building was a Dodge dealership anchoring the Westlake "auto row." Designed by the Seattle architectural firm Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson (predecessor to the world-renowned NBBJ), the two-story building is a relatively unmodified example of Streamline Moderne styling. A 2000 survey by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods concluded that the building is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and meets the standards set forth in the city's landmarks preservation ordinance. An interior remodel was completed in 1997 so the building would better function in a library configuration.
Thank you for visiting the WTBBL website and please enjoy the following abbreviated history of our amazing library.
An Abbreviated Chronology of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library:
1906 Seattle Public Library (SPL) began library service to individuals in Washington State who read braille.
1907 First embossed books for the blind were circulated by SPL.
1919 Service had grown to point where librarian Fanny Howley was assigned part-time to serve blind. Braille transcriber groups such as Junior League, Seattle Council of Jewish Women, and Seattle Chapter of American Red Cross were active. (Stephanie "Fanny" Howley 1919-1932)
1931 Washington library became part of the national braille and talking books network started by the Library of Congress (Pratt Smoot Act).
1932 Drusilla Dorland (Acting) head librarian 1932-1937.
1934 Talking books were introduced on special phonograph records that played at 33 1/3 r.p.m. (commercial records at the time played at 78 r.p.m.)
1934 Inception of Library of Congress program; SPL became one of the regional Libraries (serving Washington, Montana and Alaska).
1937 Stephanie Howley, head librarian from 1937-1952.
1945 Library for the Blind moved to SPL Fremont Branch basement.
1952 Mrs. Howley retired and Florence Grannis took over as head librarian from 1952-1960.
1954 The Division for the Blind moved to the basement of SPL Susan Henry Memorial Library, with the lower floor especially designed for work with the blind.
1960 Mrs. Grannis moved to Iowa Library for the Blind; Marcia Finseth became head librarian. (1960-1974)
1962 Records redesigned to play at 16 2/3 r.p.m. down from 33 1/3. This halved the size of books. Later developments reduced the speed further to 8 1/3 r.p.m. on flexible disks. The talking books on records and flexible disks endured through the rest of the century and were finally pulled from service in 2001.
1967 The Books for the Blind program was extended to any handicapped person certified as unable to read conventional printed materials. (1/1/67)
1968 Talking book service to Montana residents was transferred to the Montana State Library. (Braille service transferred a few years later)
1969 National Library Service started the cassette talking book program.
1973 The name in Seattle changed to the Washington Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
1973 The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped moved to new quarters at King County Library building at 811 Harrison Street. (3/12/73)
1973 Radio Talking Book Service started. (3/22/73)
1973 Alaska State Library in Juneau established as a sub-regional library. (7/73)
1974 Marcia Finseth retired; Sharon Hammer became regional librarian. (1974-1979)
1975 Funding for the Washington Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped shifted to the state, and Seattle Public Library's work becomes a contractual service to the Washington State Library.
1975 Braille and taping service was added to the Washington Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. (7/75)
1976 Washington Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped no longer circulated materials to Alaska residents. (7/76 Alaska became regional library.)
1977 The radio became the Radio Reading Service.
1979 Jan Ames became interim regional librarian on 9/5/78 and on 1/2/79 became WTBBL Director until retiring on 9/29/02.
1983 The Radio Reading Service became the Evergreen Radio Reading Service on 4/25/83.
1983 The National Guard, Boeing, WTBBL staff and volunteers moved the Library from 811 Harrison to 821 Lenora Street on 10/1/83.
1985 The Washington Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped circulation was automated. Using adaptive equipment, blind staff members were able to access the system.
1985 The Braille Program was revitalized.
1986 A formal Children's Program began.
1994 On 1/1/94 the Washington Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped changed its name to the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library.
1996 A State grant was secured to renovate the Lenora Street building. WTBBL was moved into temporary facilities at 717 Virginia Street (the Love Building) on 7/20/96.
1997 On 7/12/97 WTBBL moved back to Lenora Street. The entrance and address changed to 2021 9th Avenue. WTBBL continued to have the first floor, but also acquired a new dock area on the second floor, as well as inside parking. WTBBL re-opened to the public 8/4/97.
2002 Gloria Leonard, acting director 12/2/02-12/2/03, became Director 12/3/03 until moving to SPL 4/08.
2008 Danielle Miller (formerly King) was hired by Washington State Library/Office of Secretary of State 4/28/08 as the Program Manager at WTBBL, prior to the transition of WTBBL to the State.
2008 On July 1, 2008, administration of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library moved from Seattle Public Library to Washington State Library/Office of Secretary of State.