Seattle Public Library establishes a Blind Division in 1919.

  • By Dave Wilma
  • Posted 4/23/2003
  • Essay 4162

In 1919, The Seattle Public Library establishes a Blind Division to circulate books and magazines to blind readers throughout Washington. Librarian Fanny (Reynolds) Howley is appointed to head the department. The library had offered materials in braille and in alphabets using the New York Point, and Moon systems of raised lettering since 1907. The Blind Division will become the Library for the Blind in 1934 and, in 1994, the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library.

Using census records and referrals from community librarians, the Seattle Public Library wrote to every one of the approximately 1,000 blind persons in Washington and invited them to borrow books. Materials for the blind could be mailed for free and borrowers could keep items for a month. Volunteers became an important component in the library's blind services. They transcribed books and read to blind patrons at the Carnegie Central Library.

In 1931, the Blind Division became the Library for the Blind and with federal and state funding served blind readers in Washington, Alaska, and Montana.


"Washington Talking Book and Braille Library," Historylink Metropedia Library (

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