Lend me your ears

By James Hearne

Henry, a Whatcom student, said that whenever he goes to check-out a book, he always looks to see if there is an audio version available. Students with dyslexia might struggle with seeing the words come together on the page.

Audiobooks can help students with disabilities to visually process printed information, said Kerri Holferty, the Associate Director of Access and Disability Services.

There are vision-based disabilities, which include blindness and limited eyesight, and learning disabilities, which include Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and dyslexia.

It takes these students longer to process printed and other types of visual information,” Holferty said.

Even students who don’t have these disabilities may still have different learning styles, Holferty said. “They may learn better reading or hearing or even both at the same time,” she said.

Although no audio versions of textbooks exist, students can use the screen reader function on many computers and portable devices, which reads aloud the words on the screen.

The benefits of audiobooks are obvious, said Sally Sheedy, an instruction and systems librarian.

One advantage is that you can do other things with your hands,” she said. “It’s great for aural learners.”

The library also offers e-books for rental from Ebsco, which can be downloaded and viewed through a Nook, or similar device. Holferty said that students are also asking for textbooks in a format readable by a Nook or Kindle. “They want to be able to carry them wherever they go, and have them at the ready,” she said.

The program has been going since 2010, said Ro McKernan, an instruction and reference librarian. She said the library uses a service called Recorded Books. Selection is limited at present, she said, but new selections are being added every day. They can also download them from the public library with a library card, and the Washington state library also has a wide variety of audiobooks that are available online.

In order to access the audiobooks, students will need to download the OneClick digital media manager, and create an account. The digital media manager is like iTunes. Audiobooks can be checked out for up to 10 days.

Sheedy said the collection has not gotten a lot of attention yet. “We’ve done some promotion of it, but not as much as we would like,” she said. The library is still trying to find the service that fits its needs.

The lack of promotion may explain why seemingly very few students know about the service. One student, Jessica Wilburn, said she did not know about the service, but may be open to the idea. “It depends on what kind of books were offered,” she said. “I’m in the massage therapy program, so there are a lot of textbooks for which you need a visual component.” She added, however, that she would be very interested if there were a wide array of fiction as well.

Brenda Hagen, another student, concurred that audiobooks are not really practical for the curriculum. “We use videos that our teacher makes,” she said. “I’m really a hands-on learner.” 

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