Most of the first books our library recorded in audio were created by the library’s volunteer narrators. The recording was done in the volunteers’ homes using cassette recorders. These cassette “master” tapes were hard to edit because it was so easy to inadvertently record over good sections of tape, so minor mistakes were often left on the original master and overlooked! It was fairly common to hear background noises on the tape like sounds from clocks, pets, appliances etc. and the tape itself would produce a slight “hiss” when playing it back – and the hiss problem would increase each time the tape was duplicated from this master.
As things do, technology progressed and in 2006 we began to record books “digitally” instead of using the cassette recorders. These digitally recorded books were much easier to correct when mistakes were made, and had virtually no “noise” in them. Now with the digital recorders, and using better quality microphones and equipped with a little more understanding and awareness of their audio surroundings, the home narrators audio recording quality was much improved.
During this time while transitioning our home narrators from the analog cassette based recordings to the new much higher quality digital audio recordings, there was a dream to have a voiceover studio here in Des Moines where narrators could come to record books in a very pristine audio environment. That dream was realized in 2005 when the library constructed its own recording studio. The first digitally mastered book from our studio, Wanted by Caroline B. Cooney, was recorded by the library in March 2006. Hundreds of books have been recorded in the Library’s studio since.
We still had one minor obstacle: the National Library Service did not have a “Digital Talking Book Machine” created or available yet that would play back our high quality digital audio books. So our digital recordings still needed to be “formatted for and transferred to” cassette tapes for playback.
After digital talking book players became available (around 2010) the library had hundreds of “digitally recorded and mastered” cassette titles. Now to make these titles available and playable on the new digital players, they need to be edited, marked up for navigation, and converted in the proper format needed for the digital cartridge and digital players.
As library staff and our amazing volunteers have transitioned to working from home during our current situation, they began to focus on the titles that still needed to be converted from the digitally mastered cassette format to the digital book format. The wonderful news is that digitally recorded books can be stored for many years and do not lose their initial quality, as cassettes will after being stored for years.
Over 40 titles have been converted and more are being done every day. The books include westerns, romances, science fiction, children’s books, religious books, history, and more.
In addition to providing different titles to the collection, this project also helps the library offer books that were recorded by different narrators. Some of the narrators of these books only recorded books for cassettes.
Here are some highlighted authors and titles:
Loren Zane Grey’s Lassiter Series:
Lassiter Gold DBC15177
Lassiter Tough DBC15180
Lassiter’s Ride DBC15188
Lassiter on the Texas Trail DBC15179
Titles by Grace Livingston Hill
Marcia Schuyler DBC15192
Mary Arden DBC15181
Phoebe Deane DBC15173
Lone Point DBC01680
The White Flower DBC15190
Reflections Along the White Pole Road DBC15183
Last Man Out: Glenn McDole, USMC, Survivor of the Palawan Massacre in World War II by Bob Wilbanks DBC15175
Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War in Peace by Mark Perry DBC15178
Biographies and Autobiographies:
Lute!: the Seasons of My Live by Lute Olson DBC15170
Abigail Adams: First Land of the Faith and Courage by Evelyn Witter DBC15102
The Night Angel by T. Davis Bunn DBC15189
This Loving Land by Dorothy Garlock DBC15184
Cause for Alarm by Erica Spindler DBC15191