Three branches of the Monterey County Free Libraries have a new device, a video magnifier to help elderly and visually impaired clients. Video magnifiers can help people read not only books and library materials, but also documents such as bank statements. Video magnifiers “can work with anything, including three-dimensional objects,” says MCFL director Hillary Theyer.
In addition to making images and text larger, users can manipulate color and contrast to increase visibility. “It can take black on white paper and make it white on black,” Theyer says, noting that this feature can help people with different visual needs. The best part is that neither the internet nor technical knowledge is required to easily handle video magnifiers to better serve the viewer.
This is only one part of a multi-part project to help readers with visual or sensory impairments (sight, hearing and touch). The loupes were purchased using part of a $ 50,000 MORE grant administered by the California State Library (the MORE grant is from the US Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the provisions of Library Services and Technology Act).
The magnifiers are the first part of this project. “This is the first public item of many to come, all reaching out to older people with disabilities across the county,” Theyer said.
Awareness of the library system is focused on older readers, Theyer says, as this demographic is growing in Monterey County. According to the daya census, 14% of the county’s population is 65 years of age or older.
“It’s very common for us to converge with an older person who would say, ‘I loved reading but had to stop because I can’t read the fine print anymore,’” Theyer says.
The next step is to become a hub for the State Library Braille Talking Books program, through which residents can obtain Talking Books and Special Readers from the State Library free of charge at their homes (a card library and normal cash registers are not required).
The MCFL system will also add a new audiobook format called Play Aways. Audiobooks are stand-alone audio players with buttons that allow users to change the speed. (No Play Aways Braille Talking Book program requires Internet access.)
Theyer says they hope to hold fairs in the spring for additional awareness so more people across the county can learn more about these new services and how to use them.
If all goes according to plan, the project will be finished in June. “We hope we can continue to read and learn, engage and enjoy the things they want,” Theyer said.
Video magnifiers are located at the Carmel Valley, Greenfield, and Prunedale branches of the Monterey County Free Libraries.