Receiving a library card is a milestone for some children, but for Kelly Cusack the moment had little fanfare since she could not read it.
“I think for little kids, getting a library card is the first mark of responsibility,” said Kelly, a 13-year-old from Glenmont. She received her library card like other children, but the milestone was less meaningful for her since she is blind. Kelly recently received a new library card though, offering a much more memorable experience.
On New Year’s Eve, Bethlehem Public Library issued its first braille library card to Kelly, which was made in-house using its MakerBot 3D printer. “I never imagined 3-D printers could be used this way,” Kelly said.
The cards are made of biodegradable plastic and measure 1.5 inches by 4 inches, but take on a much larger significance, according to Kelly’s mother, Jennifer. “[Kelly] doesn’t want to depend on people any more than she absolutely needs to,” said Jennifer.
Sean Meek, a 9-year-old Glenmont Elementary School student, received the second braille library card.
“He was so excited,” said Sean’s mom, Tracey. “He read right away what the number is and what it said. … I think it is a little bit of independence.”
Sean, who is visually impaired, can use an e-book reader if he holds it close to his face with the font size enlarged. He listens to audio books frequently, Tracey said, which is one of his favorite activities.
He has a regular library card, but really it is great that one comes in Braille. As he gets older he would need to be able to hold his own card and identify it,” said Tracey.
Sean also enjoys using the library’s 3D printer. Tracey said her husband and son are tech savvy and come into the library with ideas on what they want to design and program into the printer.
Bethlehem Public Library Director Geoffrey Kirkpatrick said the braille cards were developed while the library’s technology and communications specialist John Love was making some braille signs for the library. Love realized the sign template could be scaled down for cards.
“The braille library cards themselves certainly makes the card itself accessible,” Kirkpatrick said, “but it is representative of a commitment on the libraries part to be more accessible to all of our patrons.”
Creating a braille card on the printer only takes about a half-hour, but certain staff members must be available to make one. As long as it’s not the weekend, Kirkpatrick said it could usually be done the same day.
Kelly also helped ensure the braille library cards would be readable. When Kelly and her family attended an orientation program on the MakerBot printer last summer, she was asked to test the readability of a prototype.
Anyone interested in receiving a braille library card must bring in a photo identification and proof of residency. If someone already has a conventional card, a braille card can be made with the same numbers. Call 439-9314 for more information or to request a braille card.
The new cards have spurred increased accessibility efforts at the library, with Kelly leading a