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Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL)

Link to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped webpage

Application forms available on Applications and Eligibility page.


Instructions for iOS (Apple), Android, and Amazon Fire devices for the BARD program available on National Library Service website.



As part of a national network cooperating with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL) provides audiobooks and Brailled materials to persons, living in Wisconsin, who cannot read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations. In addition, WTBBL also circulates audiobooks and braille materials about Wisconsin or by Wisconsin authors, as well as audio-described DVDs. 

WTBBL patrons receive and return books and equipment, postage-free through the U.S. Postal Service. WTBBL currently serves 6,734 registered patrons and over 561 institutions (e.g. libraries, schools, nursing homes, veterans centers). 

The NLS Talking Book Program was established by an Act of Congress in 1931. WTBBL joined the NLS network in 1961. The current digital players and cartridges replaced the cassette players and tapes in 2009. Specially-designed USB flash-drive cartridges hold one or more books or magazines. The digital players include a variety of user-friendly options including bookmark navigation controls, optional battery power for portability, and a sleep timer. Using the player’s volume, tone, and speed controls, patrons enjoy easier listening.

Direct downloading of digitized books, magazines, and braille materials from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website is available. An app introduced in 2013 allows BARD downloads to iOS devices. In 2014, NLS began distributing magazines on digital cartridges.

These services are made available by NLS, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), and the Milwaukee Public Library.


Contact the WTBBL at:

Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library
813 West Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233-1436

Phone: (414) 286-3045
Toll-free within Wisconsin: (800) 242-8822
Fax: (414) 286-3102


Search the Online Catalog

Use the WTBBL Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) to search for books in the collection and order them online. To order books you will need a special user name and password, which you can obtain by calling the Library at (414) 286-3045 (Milwaukee area) or (800) 242-8822 (toll-free within Wisconsin) or by sending an email to A user name or password is not required just to search the OPAC. Registered users who wish to place their requests directly on the OPAC should contact WTBBL for their login and password.


Who is Eligible for Services?

Wisconsin residents, who have one or more of the following reading disabilities, as certified by a competent authority, are eligible for free library services from the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library. Eligibility must be certified by one of the following: doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, ophthalmologist, optometrist, psychologist, registered nurse, therapist, and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (such as an educator, a social worker, case worker, counselor, rehabilitation teacher, certified reading specialist, school psychologist, superintendent, or librarian).

  • Visual Disability: Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material.
  • Legal Blindness: Legal blindness is defined as having no more than 10% of normal vision in the better eye with maximum correction.
  • Physical Disability: Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations, e.g., paralysis, missing arms or hands, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, etc.
  • Reading Disability: Organic dysfunction of sufficient severity as to prevent reading printed material in a normal manner, as certified by a competent authority.

Services are also available to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions that serve people with qualifying print disabilities.

What Services are Provided?

Reading Material: The Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library provides books and magazines in two formats: Braille and audio recorded books. The collection numbers about 200,000 items and over 40,000 different titles. Bestsellers, romances, mysteries, classics, sports and travel are just a few of the many subject areas to choose from. Materials are available for adults, young adults, and children. The Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library also lends audio-described DVDs.

Equipment and Accessories: The library provides playback machines as well as accessories for the machines to include:

  • Headphones 
  • Pillow Speaker (issued only to readers confined to bed)
  • USB Breath Switch (issued only to readers who are unable to use the buttons on the player; contact the WTBBL for an application)
  • USB Digital Talking Book Cartridge Cable (used to connect a blank digital talking book cartridge to a USB port on a computer)
  • USB Flash Drive Adapter (lets you use a personal flash drive with the player)
  • High-Volume Player and Headphones 
    • NLS has developed a high-volume version of the digital talking book player for use by patrons with profound hearing loss. The player has been programmed to have an amplified volume up to 120 dB. The high-volume feature only works when using the high-volume player and specialized NLS-supplied stereo headphones. This new player and headphone combination replace the amplifier/headset accessory currently in use. Patrons will need to return their current digital player after receiving the high-volume player and headset. A return label will be included with the high-volume player that will be mailed directly to you from NLS. To apply, contact the WTBBL for a high-volume and headphones application.

Selection: Catalogs and announcements of new books are mailed to readers in a variety of formats (large print, audio, and Braille). "Talking Book Topics" and "Braille Book Review" are bimonthly publications that inform patrons of new acquisitions and related library services. The majority of patrons choose to have the library "auto-select" their reading materials, based on a profile they set up.

Important News About Talking Book Topics

Due to ongoing supply chain issues and worldwide paper shortages, NLS has informed all network libraries that the Talking Book Topics (TBT) will probably not be available in the large-print edition. This has begun with the January-February 2022 edition of TBT. The HTML and PDF print versions are available at There are also printable order forms. If you would like to receive the audio version of TBT, we would be more than happy to sign registered users up for a subscription. Registered users can also download an audio version of the TBT from BARD at The Braille Book Review has an abridged section of the TBT in both hard-copy and downloadable braille on BARD.  Talking Book Topics is also available in audio through NFB-Newsline.

Reaching Out: Patrons of the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library receive a newsletter, "The Bulletin Board," which provides features, announcements, resources, and updates. If you would like a WTBBL representative to make a presentation about the Talking Books program or to exhibit at a low vision, adaptive technology, or other related fair or show, please call the Outreach Librarian at (414) 286-6918 (Milwaukee area) or (800) 242-8822 (toll-free within Wisconsin) or by sending an email to

What is the Cost of the Service?

All books, equipment, and services, including the mailing of materials, are free to eligible persons. Telephone service in the state of Wisconsin is also free, using the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library's toll-free number (800) 242-8822. Reading materials, machines, and accessories are all sent via United States Postal System at no cost to people in the program.


How can a person sign up for this Service?

Download and send the completed application to the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library by mail, email, fax, or delivered in-person to the WTBBL.

For additional information, contact:

Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library
813 West Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Phone: (414) 286-3045
Toll-free within Wisconsin: (800) 242-8822
Fax: (414) 286-3102

Application forms are available on the Applications and Eligibility page.



What are the loan periods for materials? 


Books on Digital Cartridge 

  • Up to 10 or more audio books on a cartridge
  • Limit of up to 5 cartridges at a time
  • No due dates

Braille Books

  • Limit of 3 titles at a time
  • 2 month loan period 
  • 1 renewal for additional 2 months allowed

Magazines on Digital Cartridges (red cases)

  •  3-week loan for weekly publications
  •  7-week loan if a monthly publication is included
  •  No renewals allowed

Audio-Described DVDs

  • Limit of 3 titles at a time
  • 1 month loan period
  • No renewals allowed


  • Limit of 3 kits at a time
  • 2 month loan period
  • No renewals allowed

Equipment (for your use as long as you are in the program)

  • Digital Player
  • Headphones
  • High-Volume Player and Headphones
  • Pillow Speaker 
  • USB Breath Switch
  • USB Cartridge Cable
  • USB Flash Drive Adapter
2024 Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library and Post Office Closures
Date Holiday Closure

Monday, January 1, 2024

New Year's Day

Library Closed & No Postal Service

Monday, January 15, 2024

Martin Luther King Day

Library Closed & No Postal Service

Tuesday, February 19, 2024

Presidents' Day

No Postal Service

Friday, March 29, 2024

Good Friday

Library Closed

Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day

Library Closed & No Postal Service

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Juneteenth National Independence Day

Library Closed & No Postal Service

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Independence Day

Library Closed & No Postal Service

Monday, September 2, 2024

Labor Day

Library Closed & No Postal Service

Monday, October 14, 2024

Columbus Day

No Postal Service

Monday, November 11, 2024

Veterans Day

No Postal Service 

Thursday, November 28, 2024

Thanksgiving Day  

Library Closed & No Postal Service 

Friday, November 29, 2024

Day after Thanksgiving

Library Closed 

Tuesday, December, 2024

Christmas Eve

Library Closed 

Wednesday, December 25, 2024

Christmas Day 

Library Closed  & No Postal Service

Tuesday, December 31, 2024

New Year's Eve

Library Closed 

Wednesday, January 1, 2025

New Year's Day 

Library Closed  & No Postal Service

For questions about this information, contact Zarina Mohd Shah (414) 286-3045