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The Talking Book Library has been serving Central Massachusetts since 1973. In collaboration with the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library, the TBL loans recorded reading materials and the necessary listening equipment to eligible readers who are unable to read print books due to a disability. The Talking Book Library also has a descriptive video collection and a large print book collection. The Library is affiliated with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Individuals may borrow  from the Talking Book Library if they live in Massachusetts at least six months out of the year and fall into one or more of the following categories established by the federal government:

  • Legally blind with vision of 20/200 or less, or a visual field no greater than 20 degrees. 
  • Vision is corrected, but cannot see well enough to read with comfort for extended periods of time. 
  • Physical limitation that prevents an individual from holding a book or turning pages. 
  • Certified by a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy as having a reading disability that has a physical basis, which prevents an individual from reading standard print. 
  • Hospitals, public and private libraries, nursing homes, daycare centers, schools, and other agencies serving individuals that qualify may also receive Talking Book Library services.

With access to a collection of over 1.2 million braille and talking book volumes, the Talking Book Library offers a broad assortment of fiction and non-fiction books for both adults and children. Nearly 80,000 book titles and over 70 magazine subscriptions are available to registered customers in English, as well as in more than 60 foreign languages. Two free catalogs, Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review, which update customers on recent additions to the libraries' collections, are published every two months and mailed to customers by request. Both catalogs are available in large print, Braille, and on digital cassette. The Taking Book Library also provides a variety of music materials in braille, audio, and large print formats through the National Library Service.

Talking Book Library service is free of charge to registered customers. The program receives funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and support from the Worcester Public Library in order to provide these services. The recorded materials and equipment are provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. Congress also appropriates funds for "Free Matter for the Blind" mailings.

Individuals who qualify for Talking Book Library service may download an Application for Service or request one from the Library by calling 1-800-762-0085. Once the application is approved, new readers are profiled for the Talking Book Library's Turnaround Service. Under this provision, customers receive two to four books in the first shipment. Once some of these are returned, the Talking Book Library will send more books for continuous service. Customers may contact the Talking Book Library to adjust their service plan.

The Talking Book Library has multiple copies of every title in its collection. If there are no local copies available a search of the Perkins collection is conducted to identify available copies. The Talking Book Library will request duplication of titles as soon as possible for school or medical requests. If materials are out, the Library may conduct a search of other libraries' collections or put the book on reserve.

Talking books are available in two ways: either on a cartridge to be played on a digital book machine which is provided by the library, or for the patron to download onto their tablet or phone through the Bard web site.

Yes, there are accessories available for the playback equipment that can be ordered to meet the special needs of the individual, such as:

  • Head phones for those readers who could otherwise listen to talking books.
  • Pillowphone for readers restricted to bed.
  • Extension levers for persons who have difficulty using push buttons on a standard cassette player.
  • Remote control that operates the on/off functions by touch control for persons confined to bed with limited mobility.
  • Amplifier for use with headphones for persons who are hearing impaired.

Yes, the special equipment needed for talking books is as plugging something in. Please be sure to read or listen carefully to the operating instructions which come with the equipment. Additional questions can be answered by contacting the Library at 508-700-1730, 1-800-762-0085 or by email at:

The Talking Book Library urges customers to borrow digital books and shared subscription magazines no longer than six to eight weeks so that other requests for the same titles can be filled promptly. Large Print books are loaned for four weeks. Magazines issued directly by the producers do not need to be returned to the Talking Book Library. To determine if a magazine is a shared subscription, view the Magazine List.

Books and magazines should be returned in the same mailing containers in which they were sent. Remove the address label from the container and turn it over so that the white side faces down and the yellow (or teal) side faces up. It will now show the address of the Talking Book Library (yellow background) or the Braille and Talking Book Library (teal/white background). Reading materials can then be returned through the U.S. Mail postage free.

The Talking Book Library's collection contains many unabridged classics, biographies, popular fiction, and non-fiction often assigned by schools. Every effort is made to provide the books needed by students, teachers and school systems. If a book is not on the shelf at the time of the request, the Talking Book Library will request duplication as soon as possible or obtain it through inter-library loan. It is recommended that a student give the Talking Book Library a minimum of four weeks advance notice for a specific book. Although there are no textbooks in its collection, the Talking Book Library staff can assist with referrals to other agencies that may carry them. In addition, the Talking Book Library has reader advisors who can assist students with information requests. To request a book title, call 508-799-1730, 1-800-762-0085 or send e-mail to:

No, the Library discourages the lending of books and equipment to others for several reasons:

  • By law, the Talking Book Library service is available only to eligible individuals whose applications have been approved.
  • Lending books to others will prevent the Talking Book Library from filling requests for specific titles for other customers.
  • A customer's service may be interrupted because books assigned to them have not been returned to the Talking Book Library.

The Talking Book Library customers are not required to pay for damaged or missing equipment and/or tapes. Please notify the Talking Book Library immediately by calling 508-799-1730, 1-800-762-0085 or e-mailing the Talking Book Library at: if equipment, tapes or other Talking Book Library property has been damaged, lost or stolen so it can be replaced.

Customers should not attempt to repair the equipment. Return the machine to the Talking Book Library so a replacement can be issued. After notifying the Talking Book Library, re-package the equipment inside the original box. Remove the address label from the container and turn it over so that the white side faces down and the teal side faces up. It will now show the address of the Braille and Talking Book Library. No postage is required. Please call the Talking Book Library for assistance to request replacement boxes.

In addition to regular services the Talking Book Library offers a wide range of reference information services. The reference librarians at the Talking Book Library can answer questions and provide information in an accessible format. The children's services librarian at the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library offers a wide variety of services for children and young adults who borrow braille and talking books, including information on a Summer Reading Program.

The Talking Book Library also offers specialized information and government documents in alternate formats. These include: Social Security, Medicare and other health care materials, tax forms in braille, sports schedules and voter information. Information and referral services are also provided on disability-related programs, services, agencies, publications, adaptive equipment and products, plus information on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Anyone who resides in Massachusetts at least six months out of the year is eligible for service from the Talking Book Library. Notify the Talking Book Library of any address and telephone changes and provide dates for when the changes become effective. Customers can request materials be sent to vacation or out-of-state residences, but should take their playback equipment with them. Customers can also place a "hold" on their Library service until they have returned to Massachusetts.

Patrons moving out-of-state should provide their new address and telephone number to the Talking Book Library so it can transfer their service to the talking book library in that state. Patrons may return the cassette player to the Braille and Talking Book Library at Perkins and obtain other equipment from the new library or may take their current machine with them. 

U.S. citizens moving out of the country may also make arrangements to continue borrowing books no matter where they reside in the world.

Yes. Notify the Talking Book Library as soon as possible of address changes so library service will continue uninterrupted. Customers should also ask if the hospital or nursing home has a "Deposit Collection" of Talking Book Library materials on the premises for residents to use. If not, suggest that an administrator contact the Talking Book Library to establish one.

Anyone with internet access can search the Talking Book Library's database by title, author, media format, or key word search. The catalog also allows users to order and reserve titles and contact the Talking Book Library staff by e-mail at:

Registered borrowers can add book numbers from search results directly into their request lists and three of these selections are shipped immediately if available. To access the system, registered users must know their user ID and password. User IDs are located on the mailing cards the Talking Book Library sends customers and the password is the patron's birth year.

Registered customers who would like to search for specific titles or add books to their request list can visit the ONLINE CATALOG.

For help with or answers to questions about the online catalog contact the Talking Book Library at 1-800-762-0085, 508-799-1730 or e-mail the Library at:

Some public and private libraries have a "Deposit Collection" of Talking Book Library materials for eligible customers to borrow. Local libraries without a Deposit Collection can contact the Talking Book Library to establish one. 

Books-on-tape are very expensive and have often been abridged. Books available through the Talking Book Library are free of charge to people who qualify and include the entire book.

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