News From 1967

The Cedar Valley Times
Tuesday, June 27, 1967.

Jernigan Cited for Leadership in Iowa Braille Library

Associated Press Writer

DES MOINES (AP) — The blind of Iowa, who only seven years ago had to turn to Illinois for library services, now are served by the biggest library for the blind in the world.

This rags-to-riches success story was recognized Tuesday with presentation of an award to Kenneth Jernigan, director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, at the annual conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.

The award is the Francis Joseph Campbell Citation given annually by the Round Table on Library Service to the Blind. It is named for Sir Francis Joseph Campbell of England, a leader in the 19th century in promoting the use of Braille writing by sightless persons.

The presentation to Jernigan was made by Howard Haycraft of New York, author and board chairman of H. W. Wilson Co., a publishing firm, who received the medal last year.

Jernigan was cited for "his imaginative and constructive leadership" in establishing the Iowa library. The citation said the library "offers to blind residents of Iowa a library service which compares favorably with that of the sighted, and may serve as an exemplar among those who serve the reading needs of blind persons throughout the country."

Jernigan told the Associated Press in an interview that establishing the library as an integral part of a total rehabilitation and training program operated by the commission "has fulfilled a dream that grew out of my own experience."

He himself has been blind since birth, and he said he was severely restricted when he first started to school on the number of books available to him, as most blind people are today.

The Iowa library is one of 34 regional facilities in the Library of Congress system for the blind.

It has some 40,000 feet of shelf span and provides more than 32,000 books a month to more than 2,900 blind Iowans. It doesn't serve sightless persons outside the state except that it may lend books to other regional libraries.

Jernigan said the Iowa library is the only one he knows of that is housed under the same roof and is under the same direction as rehabilitation and training programs for the blind.

He said this makes the difference "between Braille being a novelty and a usable tool," and makes the library a integral part of Iowa's training and rehabilitation program which has received world wide recognition.

Another thing that makes the Iowa facility unique, Jernigan said, is that it is a "browzing library," with open stacks and study areas where sightless persons may have access not only to one book at a time, but can do reading in several at once if they want to.

He said more volunteer workers are transcribing more books into Braille and onto tape for the Iowa library "than the total combined for all other libraries' for the blind in the nation."

"The significance of this," said Jernigan, "is that when a blind Iowans starts as a freshman in college, we find that we already have in the library about half of his textbooks in Braille or on tape. Most libraries would have only one or two."