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.

Latest Iowa Department for the Blind Volunteer Newsletter

Iowa Department for the Blind Logo features the state outline of the state of Iowa with idb in braille in the center of the state.Welcome to our Volunteer Newsletter! In this issue the Instructional Materials Center Launches New Ordering Portal, Director’s Update, and the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Enhances Library Services for All Patrons.

Iowa Department for the Blind Volunteer Newsletter Volume 4 Issue 4

Latest Iowa Department for the Blind Volunteer Newsletter

Welcome to the Iowa Department for the Blind Volunteer Newsletter! In this issue, we are celebrating our volunteers and the work they have done for IDB over the last year and discussing braille literacy. We hope you find this newsletter useful and informative.

Iowa Department for the Blind Newsletter Volume 4 Issue 2

Our Volunteers Take the Prize

Thanks to our volunteersApril is National Volunteer Month and the library would like to thank and acknowledge our many volunteers during that month who generously donate their time and efforts to the library.  The library has many behind the scenes volunteers who help with narrating books, braille transcription, editing, shelving and processing books, and much more!  Even during this challenging time, we have volunteers who are assisting our library in providing services and resources to our patrons all across Iowa.

Today we are wrapping up National Volunteer Week with our Elizabeth Perowsky Workshops and Luncheon.  Our volunteer audio narrators are attending a workshop to share their knowledge and expertise with each other and discuss their continued work on recording books for our library collection.  This afternoon our volunteers from all areas of the library will enjoy lunch, networking and awards.  The Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will also host their annual meeting which will feature the library staff as they discuss their work over the last two years.

Every moment our volunteers give makes a huge difference in so many ways.  Their willingness to share both their time and talents by volunteering with the Library says a lot.  Their willingness to give selflessly to help others speaks to both their strength and the quality of their character.

Staff member, Jodi Aldini, wrote a poem honoring our volunteers.

Volunteers Take the Prize

Today’s the day we celebrate
All of our volunteers.
You’re a crucial part of our Library,
And have been for many years.

You give of yourself and your time,
As if it’s no big deal.
We want to reach out to all of you
And tell you how we feel.

Whether you’re a Pioneer, Transcriber, or Narrator,
Or tackling the new braille.
The impact you have on blind Iowans
Is something no one can curtail.

We couldn’t do it without you,
Your work is second to none.
We’re in awe of your dedication
To get each task done.

The difference that you make,
Cannot be disguised.
That’s why we’re honoring all of you,
Because our “Volunteers Take the Prize!”

— Jodi Aldini

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering for the library check out our Volunteer Page.

Library News Podcast: March 2022

Join library staff for March’s Library News podcast which features information on customized Talking Book Topics called Tiny TBTs, the top ten fiction books downloaded on BARD last month, information about the 2022 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge, the Great Reading Challenge, information about the upcoming Des Moines Book Festival, save the date information for the Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Workshop and Luncheon, upcoming Youth programs, and information about ongoing library events and programs.

Latest Iowa Department for the Blind Volunteer Newsletter

Iowa Department for the Blind Logo features the state outline of the state of Iowa with idb in braille in the center of the state.Welcome to our newsletter! In this issue, we are celebrating Braille Literacy Month and the upcoming 2022 Braille Challenge. We hope you find this newsletter useful and informative.

Iowa Department for the Blind Volunteer Newsletter