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In November 2011, the Administration of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, (BA), Egypt advised the California Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (CFBA). that the Director and the Senior Staff member of its Taha Hussein Library Service to the Blind (TH) had received a modest UNESCO grant to study various agencies in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco that serve the blind and visually impaired. The two men are respectively Osama Zakaria and Amr Hegazy, and they had prepared some specific learning objectives to apply to their existing services.

The Bibliotheca wanted them also to familiarize themselves with the activities and resources of libraries’ services to the blind, which are extensive in California and the US. The CFBA has connections with the California State Library, and contacts with both the San Francisco Public Library and the Santa Clara County Library with which the men already had communicated, so the CFBA was pleased to coordinate and arrange schedules of visits. Their plans with UNESCO had not foreseen the US Thanksgiving holidays. And in the meantime, Egypt itself was coping with its Revolution

The best plan was to establish a team of these three host libraries which immediately set about internal planning to receive the visitors. Each of the 3 library systems have substantial strengths to offer to this specialized kind of service, each had important contacts with other agencies, each was outstanding in its immediate enthusiastic willingness to help these Egyptian visitors. Their Reports follow this Introduction, as does a list of the agencies and libraries the Egyptians visited.

These reports document how this kind of staff development can work effectively. In addition to the goals of the BA and the TH Library, the CFBA tried to make sure the two men returned with valuable professional contacts and resources. Questions may be directed to the three responsible contacts and the CFBA.

Professor Rosalie Cuneo Amer, chair of CFBA, and I met them in San Francisco for an interesting dinner meeting about their tour in Northern California and matters in Egypt. We are heartened by the dedication, energy and initiative these two men exhibit and we wish them and their country the best possible future.

Carmela Marie Ruby
California Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina


by Amr Hegazy and Osama Zakaria

This study visit was very useful and helpful for the upgrading of the services and technologies we provide at the Taha Hussein Library for the Blind & Visually Impaired, and we also did benefit from the experience, in producing digital talking book and Dealing with & serving blind people, that we were able to gain through the visit.

We visited:

1-San Francisco Public Library; Mrs. Jane Glasby, Manager, Library for the Blind and Print Disabled; Mrs. Andrea V. Grimes, Special Collection Librarian; Ms. Marti Goddard, Head of Access Services.

2-The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, San Francisco; Mr. Bryan Bashin, Executive Director, CEO

3-The Internet Archive, San Francisco; Mr. Robert Miller, Global Director of Books; Mr. George Oates, Director, Open Library

4-Meeting with Mr. Mike L. Marlin, Manager of the Braille and Talking Books Library, California State Library (CSL) , Sacramento

5-Bookshare, Benetech, Palo Alto; Ms. Kristina Pappas, International Program Manager; Mrs. Liz Dracknik, Project Manager; Mr. Gerardo Capiel, Vice President, Engineering; Mrs. Carol James, Collection Development Manager; Mr. Robin Seaman, Director of Content Acquisition; Mr. James R. Fruchterman, President & CEO

6-Santa Clara County Library, Los Gatos; Mr. Derek E. Wolfgram, Deputy County Librarian, Community Libraries and Human Resources; Ms Patricia Lorenzo, Library program & Outreach; Ms. Karen Apland, Bookmobile Service; Ms. Lora Cokolat, Accessible service & Website

7-Cupertino Library, Cupertino; Mr. Mark Fink

8-Martin Luther King Library, San Jose; Ms. Joyce Meurer, Executive Director; Ms Toby Matoush; Mr. Ryan Brady, Manager of Adaptive Technology Center; Ms Jane Light, Library Director

9-Saratoga Lbrary,Saratoga; Mr. Derek E. Wolfgram, Deputy County Librarian

10-Learning Ally, Palo Alto; Mrs. Trish Bubenik, Ed.D, Director of Philanthropy, Northwest; Mr. Harry R. Hall, Formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

11- Meeting with Rosalie Cuneo Amer, Chair, California Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Carmela Ruby, Co-Coordinator, CFBA, International Library Consultant

During this visit, we learned a lot about:



Amr Hegazy and Osama Zakaria came to the SFPL for a visit of three days in November 2011. They met with me and with Ms. Marti Goddard, Access Services Manager. Those services include the Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, with its specialized equipment, a Learning Disability collection, Project Read, the Deaf Services, Large Print collection, Friends for Life Books by mail, and assistive technology accessible throughout the Library. The visitors were happy to identify in our International Center Collection a book in Arabic by a colleague in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Andrea Grimes, Books Arts and Special Collections Center, requested information about Egyptian Humor to add to our Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor. The visitors were shown some of the circulation practices , e.g. the use of our catalog to choose titles to be automatically sent out to patrons, allowing them to request titles. The digital talking books, and BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) system, which downloads those materials from the Internet from the Library of Congress’ National Library Service, were of particular interest to our visitors. Their collection is for access within the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

They brought us information about the B.A. and examples of recorded books on CD. They were able to share a You Tube video of the demonstration and march that they organized in Alexandria for White Cane Day in 2008. Unfortunately, we were unable to give them examples of NLS talking books since playback of this federal government property is restricted to authorized users on authorized equipment only.

We enjoyed a visit with Bryan Bashin, CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco. It is a non-profit advocacy organization of blind people. Bryan demonstrated the NFB-NEWSLINE, a National Federation of the Blind service which reads current newspapers and magazines on the telephone to patrons. Developers at the Lighthouse demonstrated a new mapping system they are working on with Smith Kettlewell. It was immediately applied for directions to Bookshare, in Palo Alto, the visitors’ next visit.

In their quest to record digital talking books, Osama and Amr are particularly concerned about copyright issues. Unlike the USA they do not enjoy the benefits of the Chafee Amendment. This was a point of discussion also at the Internet Archive the next day. Robert Miller, Global Director of Books, explained the way that they accommodate copyright. They warehouse a print copy of the book and lend out a digital copy, one for one. SFPL has donated a book to this effort and now people at SFPL, or with a library user card through the SFPL website, can check out digital books from the Open Library at the Internet Archive.

Amr and Osama are familiar with some of the work of the Archive since the B.A. hosts
a mirror site for the Archive’s complete archive of the World Wide web. We attended the regular Friday Open House lunch, except this was a Thanksgiving holiday meal. The Books team showed us the Open Library website, and Amr showed us their website with talking books at the BA and searches for digitized books in Arabic. The whole visit was a pleasure for me. I very much enjoyed meeting librarians in the field from Egypt, and found them delightful company.

Jane Glasby
Project Manager
Library for the Blind and Print Disabled
San Francisco Public Library



I met with Osama Zakaria and Amr Hegazy on the morning of November 18, 2011 at San Francisco Public Library for the Blind and Print Disabled (LBPD), a subregional library of the California Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) within the National Library Service for the Blind and Visually Handicapped BPH network. I described our service and approach to providing digital content to our patrons, including BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) site, provision of digital book cartridges, and the accessible content on our web site. They both told me about their localized efforts with braille and talking books, primarily digitized into electronic braille or narrated audio files for use in-house only at the Taha Hussein Library. We exchanged information about the types of software we used, including Jaws for Windows screen reader and Duxbury Braille Translation software, and their process for creating braille and audio books. I described both the NLS as well as our local California process for digitally recording and marking up audio book files, including the various software used in this process. I am unclear whether TH is providing any live narration at this time.

I found the most  profound topic regarding the creation of digital content at Taha Hussein Library to be the narrow content selection, e.g. mainly the use of textbooks or other government information due to stringent copyright laws in Egypt.  Osama told me TH staff are afraid that a book publisher would be pulling them into court in what feels like "a few hours" after they might  decide to narrate a work of fiction, and thus their hesitancy to produce copyrighted content! They tell me this is improving and that they have hope, but that it could be a while yet before any type of copyright exemption is available. This restriction has been a legal, societal, and cultural challenge for TH ever since its inception, and the present indeterminate climate obviously does not clarify matters.
In the afternoon, Osama, Amr, LBPD librarian Jane Glasby, and I visited the Internet Archive, which I had never visited. We shared a Thanksgiving lunch with Archive staff and several other affiliated information professionals, and we went around the table and introduced ourselves. Amr and Osama were not the only Middle Eastern folks in attendance, and in fact there were attendees from the UK, Australia, and Ireland in addition to Iran, Egypt, and New York! We were given a tour of the impressive building (formerly a church) and then sat down in front of a large screen for a question and answer session with IA staff. We looked at digital versions of some Arabic books and that was a nice resonating moment for Osama and Amr.  Throughout the course of the tour I had a chance to compare notes with both gentlemen and in the Q&A session we also talked about issues facing blind library and information users.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to have met and made a connection with these two fine gentlemen, and for that I thank the California Friends of Bibliotheca Alexendrina very much.

Mike L Marlin
Director, California BrailIe and Talking Book Library
California State Library
Sacramento, CA



Itinerary for visits to Santa Clara and San Jose Libraries

Mr. Osama Zakaria, Head of Section, Taha Hussein Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Special Libraries Department, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (

Mr. Amr Hegazy, Head of Digital Talking Book Unit, Library Services Sector, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (

November 21

November 22

We did have a great visit with Osama and Amr. Iíve attached the final itinerary(above). In my mind, the highlights for both of them were touring our libraries to see the adaptive technology workstations we have available, the magnificent rotating Islamic art exhibit that just happened to be on display at the Saratoga Library, hearing about our bookmobile service and online services from headquarters staff, and touring the San Jose Martin Luther King Library (including finding a copy of a book by Taha Hussein in the Arabic collection.) †

Derek E. Wolfgram
Deputy County Librarian,
Community Libraries and Human Resources
Santa Clara County Library District
14600 Winchester Blvd. Los Gatos, CA 95032


P.O.Box 138 Chatby, Alexandria 21526, Egypt | Phone: +203 483 9999 | E-mail:
Last updated 8-may-12 /contact California Friends