The Alabama Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (BPH) has been serving the state’s visually impaired residents for more than a century. Initially, Alabama patrons were served out of a school in Georgia. The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) took over that role in 1858 when it was created in an old school building in Talladega. In 1978, The Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) in Montgomery, Alabama, added an addition to its existing structure. Today, the Alabama Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (BPH) is located on the ground floor of the APLS building. In 2018, BPH observed its 40th year of operation as a division of APLS.
In its early years, BPH had five subregional libraries located in Talladega at AIDB, and in public libraries in Anniston, Dothan, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa. Those libraries, along with the regional office, first provided audio books to residents. They later included titles in Braille.
With the responsibility of providing services to residents of the state who are blind, visually impaired, or have a physical disability which prevents them from holding printed material, BPH serves more than 4,500 active patrons. The remaining subregional libraries in Huntsville and Talladega service their own patrons. Together, the libraries give at least 6,000 eligible residents in Alabama an opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of reading.
BPH provides digital recordings of books on cartridges—along with the equipment on which to play them—to patrons who meet the criteria for service. Once an application is received and approved, the patron does not have to come to BPH—all materials are mailed to them and they are allowed to keep the cartridges for three months. No fines are assessed for overdue or lost materials. All material and equipment is free and provided through the National Library Service (NLS), a division of the Library of Congress.
BPH also has an extensive collection of Braille materials. For example, The Bible is available in at least 15 to 25 large bound volumes and all are mailed directly to eligible patrons upon request at no charge.
Through NLS, the Alabama Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (BPH) has access to a catalog of more than 87,000 titles. Books are accessible to patrons and available for downloading to personal devices.
Throughout the year—every Monday through Friday—BPH staff spend their days recommending great books, placing holds on books and other items requested by patrons, processing new digital books, as well as magazines and books in Braille; mailing needed equipment to patrons; processing an average of 400 books per day that are returned to the library, as well as mailing out on average the same number each day, and continuing a special service of downloading titles from BARD for patrons. Additionally, staff are always focused on recommending changes to network library standards, handling outreach programs throughout the state, training volunteers and juggling temporary assignments.