Binding Braille Books: A Library Labeling Challenge

A few months ago we were sent a set of books to be bound, in a format we had never bound before: the books were in Braille.  Luckily, Wert Bookbinding, our Library binder, had bound such books before, and knew that with adequate stubbing (stubs of pages put into the spine to give space for the rest of the pages), we wouldn’t have to worry about the Braille dots getting flattened.

When the books came back from the bindery, I realized we had a challenge—the title on the spine was written for someone who was sighted.  How was someone with low- to no vision (who wanted to read a book in Braille) supposed to tell that this was the book for them? Furthermore, how would they distinguish between the four volumes in the set without opening the books?

Braille book, bound, with non-Braille title on spine

Braille book, bound, with non-Braille title on spine

I reached out to Ammon Shepherd in the Scholar’s Lab and asked if he knew if Braille could be 3D printed.   He had never done it before but was up for the challenge and printed out some demo titles.

Before I tried to figure out how to attach the titles to the spines, I thought I better run them by someone who could actually read Braille. Christine Appert, who teaches adaptive technologies at the Curry School, came to my rescue.  Unfortunately the spacing on the 3-d printed images was not consistent and made it confusing to read, so she took it to her Braille translator, Ricki Curry, who made us some Braille title labels using a Braille-specific label-maker.

Braille labels

Image of the Braille title labels before being placed on books

At this point I don’t know if the labels will stand up to the test of time, but what I like about the final product is that the Braille title is on the spine for those with low- to no vision, and the title is also visibly printed directly underneath the transparent Braille label, for the sighted patrons and staff who likely are unable to read Braille.  We have provided a solution that gives everyone what they need to use and shelve this book.

Image of books with transparent Braille title labels placed over the titles orginally stamped by the bindery.

Books with Braille title labels placed overtop the titles originally stamped on by the bindery.

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