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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 collection includes digital talking books, large type materials, braille materials, descriptive videos, and assistive equipment. The Library is affiliated with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and has been serving patrons since 1973.

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.

The TBL has access to a collection of over 1.2 million items, including fiction and non-fiction books for adults and children. This collection includes nearly 80,000 book titles and over 70 magazine subscriptions, as well as additional materials in over 60 languages. We also provide a variety of music materials in braille, audio, and large print formats through the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.  

Talking Book Library service is free 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 Print Disabled of the Library of Congress. Congress also appropriates funds for "Free Matter for the Blind" mailings.

Individuals who qualify for our services may download an Application for Service or request one from the Library by calling 1-800-762-0085. Once the application is approved, we create a profile for the patron. Reading materials are shipped out depending on the patron's individual needs.

We have multiple copies of every title in the collection. 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.

Membership includes an easy-to-use audio player for books on cartridge. Alternatively, patrons may download books to their tablet or phone using the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) app.

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

  • Headphones for those readers who could otherwise listen to talking books.
  • Pillow-phone for readers restricted to bed.
  • Extension levers for persons who have difficulty using push buttons on a standard 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.

Listening to talking books is as simple as plugging in and pressing play. Still, please be sure to read or listen carefully to our operating instructions, which come with the equipment. Library staff are available to answer additional questions at 508-799-1730 or by email at

We encourage patrons 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.

Patrons should return all materials in the same containers in which they were sent.  The address labels will have the patron's address on one side, and the library's on the other. When returning, the container should display the library's address.  Materials are free to mail and therefore do not require postage.

Patrons can also visit us and return items to our location in the Worcester Public Library's main branch.

The Talking Book Library's collection contains many unabridged classics, biographies, popular fiction, and non-fiction often assigned by schools. TBL makes every effort 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.

Please do not attempt to repair broken equipment. Return the machine to the Talking Book Library and we will issue a replacement. After notifying the Talking Book Library, re-package the equipment inside the original box. 

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 we can replace it.

In addition to regular services the Talking Book Library offers a wide range of reference information services. The reference librarians at the library can answer questions and provide information in an accessible format. The children's service librarians offer 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).

Any qualified person 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. Patrons 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 we can transfer your service to the talking book library in that state. Patrons may return the player to us 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.

Patrons with internet access can search the Talking Book Library's database by title, author, media format, or keyword search. The catalog allows users to order and reserve titles. Staff can provide patrons with the necessary information to create a login account.

Registered borrowers can add book numbers from search results directly to their request lists.

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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