Like many Minnesota Conservation Volunteer readers, Ben Haller is delighted when a new issue comes in the mail. Unlike most, however, he doesn't thumb through to look at the striking photographs first. In fact, he doesn't look at the pictures at all. Blinded by macular degeneration, the retired Duluth carpenter and cabinetmaker reads his Conservation Volunteer -- "every issue and every word" -- via an audiotape produced by the Minnesota Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
Haller is one of more than 100 visually or physically disabled Minnesotans who have been able to listen to audiocassette recordings of the Conservation Volunteer since 1995, thanks to library staff and volunteer narrators. A soundproof booth and recording hardware donated by the Faribault Lions Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Eagles Club make possible professional-quality recordings.
Wayne Erickson began narrating the magazine in the late 1990s. His widow, Kathy, remembers Wayne looking up pronunciations of unfamiliar words in a dictionary. "The terms were always a challenge, especially the Latin," she said, but added, "He loved reading the articles and being able to share them with others."
Current narrator Dan Carlson schedules about four one-hour sessions in the soundproof booth to complete an issue. As he reads, library staff member Mark Witte operates an open-reel tape machine and carefully listens to Carlson's narration for pronunciation, pace, and volume. The two adjust and correct the narration throughout the process. Next, librarian René Perrance checks the narration against the print copy and verifies pronunciation of names and terms. Witte and Carlson then make final corrections.
Marge Schmitz of St. Cloud has been listening to the Conservation Volunteer on audiocassette for three years. "I am environmentally conscious and aware, so it's something that fits my philosophy of life," she says. "I even like the hunting articles -- I know a lot of people who hunt and fish."
If you know someone who is unable to hold, handle, or see well enough to read Minnesota Conservation Volunteer in print, contact the library at 800-722-0550 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information about this service.
Mary Hoff, freelance science writer