IDB Announces the 2023 Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Award Recipient

Our Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award is given in honor of Elizabeth Perowsky of Des Moines, Iowa, who was a volunteer Braille transcriber for more than 60 years. She taught herself to Braille and was certified in literary, Nemeth, and music Braille by the Library of Congress. Elizabeth was the group leader and main teacher for the Temple Sisterhood Braille Group. She also conducted Braille workshops throughout the country, teaching others how to Braille.  Near the end of her life, Elizabeth’s hands were so impacted by arthritis that she would tell her assistant which keys to press on the computer keyboard to form the Braille letters. This allowed her to continue Brailling when she could no longer type. Elizabeth was still Brailling within a few weeks of her death at the age of 97 in May 1996.

The text on the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award states: “For extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind” is one of the best ways to describe this year’s recipient.

It is our honor to present the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award to Sandi Ryan.  Sandi has shown inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind in so many ways.  Her true dedication has shown through in her many volunteer roles.  These have included advocacy, mentoring, braille proofreading and public service as a four-term member and Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind.  “We are thankful for Sandi’s constant support of the library.  Her passion for braille and braille literacy especially for our youngest patrons is infectious.  Sandi exemplifies exactly what this award stands for,” said Library Director, Sarah Willeford.

Her work as Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind has helped the Iowa department for the Blind to continue to innovate and expand services to blind Iowans of all ages. Sandi’s amazing attitude, words of wisdom and sense of humor have impacted so many. IDB Director, Emily Wharton, stated: “Whenever I needed anything, someone to look over a draft policy, someone to talk through a challenging decision, someone to make me laugh instead of cry at one of the many absurdities that arise when trying to make change within the state bureaucracy, Sandi was there with ideas, honest feedback, understanding, and a swift kick when I needed it. She has been an invaluable mentor and so much of the success we have achieved is at least in part due to her work on behalf of blind Iowans.”

“Sandi completed all of the lessons in the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing from the National Library Service, which is quite an accomplishment!  Sandi proofread and made corrections on collection books done on a Perkins by one of our volunteer braillists. We could always count on Sandi to take on proofreading projects and help with scorekeeping for the Braille Challenge. Sandi’s work was always accurate & detailed,” shared Karen Cunningham, IMC Librarian, and Roxanne Book, Braille Coordinator.  

Youth Librarian, Denise Bean expressed, “Sandi’s warmth and love for others is simply undeniable. Sandi lives her life with a clear vision and intention to make this world a better place, if only more in the world could be like her, if so, our world would be a better place. She would share countless stories of her family that would bring laughter and even a tear to a room. Thank you, Sandi, for being a rock to so many around you. You have taught all of us to stay strong, stay determined, and most importantly, stay passionate in what you believe in.” 

Normally this award would be awarded during the library’s annual Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon in April.   However, after a year-long battle with liver cancer, Sandi has entered hospice care.  We determined it would be wise to present her with the award early. We also look forward to celebrating again in April at the Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon.  

Please help us in congratulating Sandi Ryan for her many years of impactful volunteer service to the Iowa Department for the Blind. She has made a difference in the life of countless blind Iowans. Her work will go on and her work will be picked up and carried forward by other passionate and hard-working volunteers and advocates.

A Message from Our Friends of the Library

Save the Date

Holiday Benefit Concert
Friday, December 2nd from 7:00pm – 9:30pm
at the Iowa Department for the Blind (524 Fourth Street, Des Moines)

Time to get in the holiday spirit!  Sing along with Antique Harmony and Midnight Madness as they harmonize to your Holiday and Barbershop favorites also with Frank Strong & Dave & Cindy.

Only $10 a ticket – Tickets available at the door

A benefit concert for the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

2023 Friends of the Library Campaign

If you love the services you receive from the Iowa Library for the Blind and would like to see them expanded, read below about a great way to make your gift go even further.

The Friends Board of Directors have renewed their matching challenge. For the first 50 new members (defined as someone who has not been a member for 2 years) or renewals of those who were new last year who joins by February 28,2023 $20 will be given.  This year we have a donor who will match our Board match dollar for dollar up to a total of $475.  This means, for each new member and renewal of the new members from last year, the Friends will receive an additional $40 per member!

If you are not already a member of Friends, this would be an excellent time to join since your membership will generate an additional $40 for Friends.

If you are already a member of Friends, please renew your membership and help spread the word about our matching grants.

Below is our 2023 Friends Campaign Card.  Please fill out the card and return it with your check.
2023 Friends of the Library Campaign Card

Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

PO Box 93046

Des Moines, IA 50393Friends of the Iowa Lilbrary for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Logo

Website:  iafriendslibraryfortheblind.org

E-mail:  frndslibblindph@gmail.com

Reminder: Join NLS for Tomorrow’s The Many Faces of BARD Program

On Thursday, November 10, 2022 at 6:00pm (central), the Patron Engagement Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) will hold its monthly virtual program called The Many Faces of BARD on Zoom.  The topic for the November program will be the new features in BARD Mobile 2.0 for iOS.

For the full Zoom invitation information

Many Faces of BARD is held on the second Thursday of every month. It lasts for one hour and covers one aspect of BARD (the Braille and Audio Reading Download) usage.  Each program will start with a brief presentation. The remainder of the time will be spent answering questions about the presentation or other questions related to BARD usage.  These sessions are open to all patrons and are held over Zoom. 

November Will Have Two NLS The Many Faces of BARD Programs

Last month’s The Many Faces of BARD program by the Patron Engagement Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) was canceled due to technical difficulties, and has been rescheduled for Monday, November 7th, at 6:00 pm (Central). The program will last for one hour and will be entirely in Spanish. The presenters will be Juana Gonzalez and Yanci Munez, who are Reader Advisors and BARD trainers at the Braille Institute in California.  For the full Zoom invitation information

Also, this month’s The Many Faces of BARD program will be held on Thursday, November 10, 2022, at 6:00pm (Central), on Zoom.  The topic for the November program will be the new features in BARD Mobile 2.0 for iOS.  For the full Zoom invitation information

Many Faces of BARD is held on the second Thursday of every month. It lasts for one hour and covers one aspect of BARD (the Braille and Audio Reading Download) usage.  Each program will start with a brief presentation. The remainder of the time will be spent answering questions about the presentation or other questions related to BARD usage.  These sessions are open to all patrons and are held over Zoom.

 Image of National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Logo

Join Us in Celebrating National Friends of the Libraries Week!

Friend Your Library LogoJoin us as our library spends this week, October 16-22, 2022, celebrating our amazing Friends of the Library group as part of the annual celebration of National Friends of Libraries Week.

Our Friends group gave a $12,000 donation this year to the library.  These funds helped the Library do so much over the last year including:

  • Add activity kits to the Youth Library and Makerspace
  • Provide Kindle Fires for volunteer audio narrators to use when recording books
  • Purchasing program materials for youth activities
  • Support of the Iowa Regional Braille Challenge activities
  • Print/Braille and large print books for the youth collection
  • Support the library’s outreach activities

We would like to thank our Friends Group for their financial support and the advocacy work they do for our library.  These help the library provide great programs and services across the state.


For more information about the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped fundraising and membership, initiatives check out their website at http://www.iafriendslibraryfortheblind.org/

National Friends of Libraries Week is coordinated by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association with approximately 4,000 personal and group members representing hundreds of thousands of library supporters. United for Libraries supports those who govern, promote, advocate, and fundraise for libraries, and brings together library trustees, advocates, friends, and foundations into a partnership that creates a powerful force for libraries in the 21st century. For more information, visit www.ala.org/united.