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Web Braille Shut Down – Please Write Immediately

May 11, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Please read the article by Jeff Bishop below, then write a short note to NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke at the e-mail address fcyl@loc.gov emphasizing the importance of Web-Braille and asking him to promptly restore this service to the blind community. An online petition effort is being considered. Please let us know your thoughts.

This is just offle news. Web-Braille has been shutdown by NLS until further notice. NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke is under the impression that only a few people will care about Web Braille’s shutdown, so if a lot of people contact him right away, maybe something will be done. His e-mail address is fcyl@loc.gov. Everyone, I plead with you to email him and ask for Web-Braille’s return. Here is more information.
If you haven’t heard yet, you will all probably be hearing from your patrons very soon about the shutdown of Web-Braille. Any patron logging into the Web-Braille site as of 5-10-06 is receiving the following message: NLS: That All May Read Web-braille notice Because of technical and security difficulties, Web-Braille will be unavailable in the near future. NLS regrets the inconvenience and will provide further information as soon as possible. For more information contact: Judith Dixon Consumer Relations Officer jdix@loc.gov On May 11, 2006, the following Operations Alert was issued from NLS: NLS Operations Alert DATE : May 11, 2006 TO : Network Libraries FROM : Network Division Subject : Web-Braille Because of technical and security difficulties, Web-Braille will be unavailable in the near future. NLS regrets the inconvenience and will provide further information as soon as possible. For more information contact: Judith Dixon Consumer Relations Officer jdix@loc.gov Here is the current NLS reply coming from Judy Dixon in response to patron inquiries: “Web-Braille has been removed from public access temporarily. We apologize for the inconvenience that the removal of Web-Braille has caused. At this time, it is not known how long Web-Braille will be unavailable but we have every hope that the curtailment of the service will be short-lived. We are making every effort to resume this service as soon as possible. In the interim, all NLS-produced books and magazines are available in hardcopy braille from your braille-lending library. If the status of Web-Braille changes, information will be posted on the main Web-Braille page.”

In the 8-plus years that Web-Braille has been operational, to my knowledge, there has never been a major technical issue. It has been run with the highest degree of efficiency, and network libraries have been setting up eligible readers without a problem. Now, suddenly, there is a concern about the security of Web-Braille. Why now is NLS worried about the ability to back translate BRF files, it’s always been possible, but who would do it. Back translation is tedious and subject to many reverse translation errors. In all the years of Web-Braille operation, I have never heard of a violation of the lending terms. Braille readers love Web-Braille and want to preserve and grow it, not shut it down because of abuse. This precipitous action strikes me as too harsh a response too late. There is no problem with Web-Braille today, there wasn’t one yesterday, and instead of removing it completely, let NLS work to incorporate Web-Braille into the digital rights management scheme of the new digital talking books for the future. Don’t penalize all Web-Braille users — braille readers of all ages using braille aware devices such as BrailleNotes, Braille Senses, Braille ‘n Speaks, and Packmates; deafblind patrons who have such limited options for reading materials, and classroom teachers embossing materials for students, just to name a few. Don’t make just one more protection scheme for patrons to cope with, it’s getting harder and harder to manage whether or not all of the incription keys are on all of the devices that people use today. The burden of access shouldn’t be placed on the borrower, if they have computer access and a Braille aware device, that should be sufficient to allow them access to Web-Braille. Without Web-Braille, network libraries are going to see a significant increase in their costs for handling and processing braille materials, and those libraries paying for braille circulation services will pay more for hardcopy braille circulations that would have previously been Web-Braille transactions. I urge all of you to contact Frank Kurt Cylke at NLS (fcyl@loc.gov) and express your extreme disappointment at this action, and urge the immediate reinstatement of Web-Braille for all of our patrons who rely on it every day. This service is vital and must be restored to full functionality.

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