Visit to the RNIB Research Library

Yesterday I went on a Cpd25 visit to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Research Library.

The RNIB Research Library, image credit RNIB

 The sole librarian, Robert Saggers, showed us round (most of the staff who work in the Judd Street building are voluntary, and many of them are partially sighted or blind). The Research Library moved to the current building on Judd street in 2001 from a building on Portland Street which was quite inappropriate with regards to accessibility. The Braille and Talking Book libraries are held elsewhere, the research library is, in the RNIB’s own words “Europe’s largest, most comprehensive and diverse collection of print and electronic materials covering all aspects of partial sight and blindness”.

The fact that they are the the main source of specialist reference material on partial sight and blindness means that their users include students of various disciplines (art and design, education for example); post graduate students; GPs; and even opthalmologists from Moorfields Eye Hospital. It’s worth mentioning too that the library is open to the public, and they do not charge for access to the materials they hold.


The library holds over 22,000 books, pamphlets, journals, reports, offprints and videos on all aspects of sight loss. Robert explained that they try to provide abstracts for many items, including individual journal articles. The libray is well placed next to the Resource Centre, where people can browse and trial equipment that makes reading more accessible. There are a number of PCs available, all are enabled with ZoomText and Jaws. There are also CCTV readers which magnify text, and enable the reader to change the colours that appear on the screen.

Things we discussed that I found interesting;

  • the staff often adjust the lighting to suit an individuals requirements enabling them to read more easily
  • 14pt is the lowest font size the RNIB print any material in
  • Insight is the RNIB’s magazine for parents and professionals offering support to children with visual impairments
  • Reading Sight is an RNIB run website that offers a wealth of information for information professionals, and users, on accessibility to the written word
  • as the e-book, is not an alternative to a traditional, printed book; talking books are not an alternative to Braille. thought Braille is expensive to produce, and has a very limited number of readers, it offers a different experience to the reader
  • e-book reading devices are not always tested very thoroughly for accessibility, unfortunately they are usually designed with out it in mind, and have to be modified
  • if you (a library) are ever offered a Braille embosser, take it, but be prepared to install some sound proofing!
  • From a professional point of view I was interested to hear that the library was researching new catalogue software and were deciding between two main players. In this case, obviously, the key to which they decide on is accessibility, which I realised is probably not something that is first and foremost in most people’s decisions

Thanks for your time Robert! You can search the RNIB library catalogue here.

Searches on our own catalogue for blind and partially sighted indicate that the records of the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations might be a good collection to look at for related material here at the IOE.



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