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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Large Print Books in the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 11, 2012

Large Print books have been part of library collections for nearly 50 years, and have expanded the ability to read to many people who can’t use regular print books.


The production of Large Print books began in 1964 in Leicester, England, an idea of book distributor Frederick Thorpe. 


He felt that people with limited vision would enjoy books with larger print, and that was certainly the case.


The earlier Large Print books were limited to the classics due to copyright limitations for reproducing book titles.  In addition, the books were twice the size of a regular book.


In 1969, Thorpe’s company, Ulverscroft, began to reset the Large Print books in a 16 point type, and print them in normal size bindings with the color-coded plain jackets.


Users loved the new physical format, as they were easier to hold and use by the visually impaired population.


About this time, I started working in public libraries and one summer I was assigned to be the librarian who took books to nursing homes for their residents.


Most people were delighted to have the library bring books for them to enjoy and read, but I encountered one lady who had a specific opinion.


She asked me, “Why do you bring these books that are too big for me to hold?”


And she said, “These books have such boring covers!  Yeech, plain white with blue and red printing.”


“And who wants all of these classics?  I don’t want to read ‘War and Peace’ here in the home!”


I wanted to tell her that I was just the young fellow who drove the library car and delivered bags of Large Print books to the nursing homes, and frankly I had no idea what the answers to her questions might be.


To me, the books did look rather dull on the outside, and they were all classic titles like we had been assigned to read in high school English class in the 1960s.


I did say, “The newer Large Print books are normal book size, and I will try to bring all of your books in the smaller size next time.”


She added, “At least bring me Mark Twain, if all you have are classics!”


I did, and she was happy the rest of that summer.


Within a short time, publishers recognized the demand for Large Print titles, and new books were often printed in both regular and Large Print format at the time of the initial publication.


The covers were the same for both versions, with a descriptive blurb on the fold of the dust jacket.


Our library system has several thousand Large Print titles in our collection, many thanks to the generosity of donors, and in particular to the former Denmark’s Employees Association who annual provided funds to build the initial collection.


Large Print titles include both fiction and nonfiction of current popular titles.


Of course, a new feature is the ability of eBook readers to adjust the print and font to meet the needs of the reader, making almost any eBook to be Large Print.


Some people report that eBook readers remain too difficult to hold and manage depending on limited mobility.


I am sure that my 1969 library customer would be delighted at the advance of Large Print formats in regular size, and popular topics.