You can positively affect the lives of Iowans by volunteering with the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. By volunteering with us, you can use your skills and talents to help us reach more people.

Every year, hundreds of volunteers across the country share their time and talents with the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and the Iowa Department for the Blind.  Their efforts are an invaluable resource to our agency and those we serve.

We are always interested in more volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities please see our volunteer page on the Iowa Department for the Blind’s website.

2021 Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Program and Workshops

Each year the Library and the Iowa Department for the Blind honors their volunteers with the Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Program.  This year’s theme was Volunteers Help Tell Our Story and was held virtually using Zoom rather than in-person on Thursday, April 22nd.   Despite a difficult and complicated year, the library accomplished so much by continuing and expanding services and programs which could not have been done without the help of our volunteers.

During the program, the Friends of the Library presented the library with their annual contribution in the amount of $12,000.00.  Throughout the year the Friends raise funds through memberships and events which is then given to the library.  These funds are essential to the success of many library programs such as; the Iowa Regional Braille Challenge, year round youth programming, the new youth library space, the purchase of a 3D printer, additions to the library’s collection and so much more.  The library would like to thank the Friends of the Library for their constant support, advocacy and commitment.  For more information about the Friends of the Library http://www.iafriendslibraryfortheblind.org/

As part of the Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer program we honor volunteers who have gone above and beyond throughout the year to assist and support the library.


We would like to thank these individuals for their service and commitment to the library and wish them all the best in their retirement.

  • Barb Kates, Braillist, 54 years
  • Judy Overbeck, Narrator, 14 years

Lifetime Achievement Award

Anita Sundin started narrating for IDB in 1979 and served our Library and patrons for 40 years! She was awarded the Elizabeth Perowsky Award in 2006 and received a Florence Grannis Library Service Award in 2016. She narrated over 150 books for us – probably close to 3000 hours of volunteer service! Anita was friendly, out-going and had a real can do attitude!  Anita is no longer with us, but the work she did for our library continues to impact our patrons.

Transcriber Pins

This small bronze medallion is given by the Iowa Department for the Blind to volunteers. It recognizes the completion of the first book by a Braillist, Narrator, or forty hours of other service. The pin was originally designed to symbolize the skills of the Braillist and Narrator with the two rings of an open reel encircling the outline of the State of Iowa, and six dots of a full Braille cell on each side of the state outline.  The pin has become symbolic of all volunteer service to the Department for the Blind. It celebrates the generosity of the volunteer and an on-going relationship with the Department.

  • Jeff Fitzhugh, Narrator
  • Jonathan Ice, Narrator
  • Morey Knutsen, Narrator
  • Tara Kurtt, Narrator
  • Matty Tate-Smith, Narrator
  • Catherine Wood, Braillist
  • Aggie Zicari, Braillist

MVPs (Master Volunteer Partners)

The MVP or Master Volunteer Partner recognizes individuals or groups who have gone above and beyond during the year to assist the library with projects and programs.  Moving the library forward and helping us reach our goals we had for the year.  Thank you to the following MVPs:

  • Doug Cole, Library Assistant
  • Judy Fausch, Narrator
  • Jonathan Ice, Narrator
  • Christine Mak, Narrator
  • Al Root, Audio Editor
  • Mark Tauscheck, Narrator
  • Betty Urbanek, Braillist

Florence Grannis Library Service Award

The Florence Grannis Library Service Award is given annually to honor individuals whose exemplary service recalls the selfless spirit of Ms. Grannis, the founder of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Grannis, who died in 2004, served as regional librarian from the Library’s inception in 1960 until her retirement in 1976.  Florence said, “A library for the blind should supply borrowers the books and information they want when they want them.”  This year we had two individuals who received the Florence Grannis Library Service Award.

Angela Graham, Braillist and Proofreader
Angela is very deserving of the Florence Grannis Library Service Award as both a Volunteer Braillist and Proofreader. She became a Braillist for IDB back in 1980. In her over 40 years of volunteering, Angela has been with us through a lot of changes from transcribing on a Perkins Brailler to learning and using Braille 2000 software to producing materials in EBAE and UEB. She has also been through numerous changes with Braille Formats, which requires ongoing learning. Angela is always happy to take on any task that is asked of her. She has transcribed materials for our students, such as, worksheets, workbooks, twin vision books, little readers, and even some foreign language. For our other patrons, Angela has transcribed crochet books, cookbooks, product user guides, sports schedules, and countless menus. She has also helped those in the workforce by Brailling items that they need for their jobs.  These are just a few examples of the work that Angela has done for IDB. In addition to Brailling, she has also helped process and assemble twin vision books, and this year she has been especially helpful in volunteering to proofread library collection books transcribed by other Braillists. This has aided us in getting more books added to our collection and to BARD for others to enjoy.  Through all of these projects and changes, Angela is always positive, helpful, and selfless. She is a blessing to IDB and Braille readers, and she is always a joy to work with. Congratulations, Angela!

Bob White, Audio Narrator
Bob is receiving the Florence Grannis Library Service Award for the second time.  Looking back over the year we had to ask what didn’t he do! He recorded eight books, recorded magazines and he helped other narrators with questions. Bob is one of our go-to narrators when we have a book that has a tight deadline that a patron needs.  Also, he helped us as we developed programs to help reach our patrons when we weren’t able to meet in person.  Bob started our IDB Read Western program with us over a year ago.  Bob meets with the IDB Read Western group each Tuesday and Thursday morning to read portions of a western book and to chat.  Bob and the group are currently reading book 10 of The Sackett’s series by Louis L’Amour.  Bob was also willing to do a IDB Read Kids series this summer for our younger patrons.  They got together and read books from the James Howe Bunnicula series.  Bob does just read the books – he performs bringing the story to life. We had kids that would listen in the car or wherever they were so they wouldn’t have to miss any of the story.  Bob’s knowledge, experience, passion and commitment has lasting impacts for patrons around the state.  Thank you Bob for all you do!

Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award

For more than 60 years, Elizabeth Perowsky of Des Moines was a volunteer Braille transcriber. 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 disabled 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.  In honor of Elizabeth, the text on the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award states: “For extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind”.

This year’s Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award goes to:

Michael Barber, volunteer and advocate
Michael’s connection began as a library patron and reader as well as through a long and rewarding career with the Iowa Department for the Blind. He selflessly served others for years before retiring in 2014.  Retirement did not stop Michael’s desire to serve, as he served as a board member and president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, the Diabetes Action Committee and Summit House HOA Board.  He also collaborated with other consumer groups, Disability Rights Iowa, National Organization of American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind to try to improve accessible voting for the blind. He fought these battles up until his passing.  Michael was also a member of the Library Consumer Advisory Committee becoming a committee member in 2015.  He served as chair of the committee for 2 years.  During this time the advisory committee worked on advocacy, how to share information about the library and the tedious but important task of updating their bylaws.  Michael’s work with the Iowa Friends of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped began in September 2016 when he was asked to fill an open position on the board.  Michael served as president of the Friends board for 2 years.  From 3D printers, a new youth library space, the Braille Challenge, Adult programs, programs for our volunteers to fundraising and advocacy efforts, Michael helped our library grow and offer more services and programs to our patrons. Michael’s passion for the library and ensuring that our patrons received the best possible services, especially for our youngest of patrons showed how he continued what Elizabeth Perowsky established – an extraordinary spirit and dedication to volunteer services.  Michael’s calm and gentle nature, his patience and kindness toward others, and his enthusiasm to teach were traits from which many benefited.  Kim Barber, Michael’s wife, accepted the award.

We thank all of our volunteers for your continual support, contributions, enthusiasm, dedication, and passion that help us serve our patrons and Iowans.  Thank you for making a difference in the lives of others and for helping us tell our libraries story.

The Library Staff put together a short video to express our thanks to our volunteers.  Watch the video here.