Speaking Volumes
Worcester, Massachusetts

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THIS BOOK CLUB of nine can be
heard by thousands of listeners in central Massachusetts. The nine make up an over-the-air book club, whose purpose is to Speak Volumes to the visually-impaired.

This is remarkable! Tell us how you got your start.
Valerie Clapham works with Audio Journal, a radio service for those with vision problems. In 2011, she was struck by a question: how do people who are blind or vision-impaired get to a book group?

Most meetings are held in the evenings, she realized, but night travel is hard for her radio listeners. From that single question, it was only six months until Speaking Volumes had its first broadcast.

How does the club work?
Nine of us, all told, volunteer for the book club. About six of us meet each month in the Audio Journal studio to talk about the book we selected. We broadcast live and take listener call-ins.

The titles we choose are announced several months in advance. That gives our listeners time to borrow audio books from the Talking Book Library—part of the Worcester Public Library but also connected to a state lending system of audio books.

You mentioned Audio Journal twice. What is it?

Audio Journal is a nonprofit radio reading service for Central Massachusetts for those who are unable to access the printed page. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Volunteers read local and national newspapers and magazines over the air. The service also produces entertainment and educational programs—like our book discussion club.

How do listeners tune in?
Listeners in Massachusetts can hear the broadcasts through their local radio reading service or online — — from anywhere in the world.  All programs are archived for one year.

Terrific! So let's talk about what you've read recently.
This is our list for 2013:
Catherine the Great
Tale of Two Cities
The Searchers
Book Thief
Light Between the Oceans
Gone Girl

Bonesetter's Daughter
The Crucible
Color Purple

What about your actual meetings?
We hold our meetings in the studio at Audio Journal, and we broadcast live—for one hour. Our group members are fantastic about keeping to the subject and not drifting off topic. We're also terrific about not talking over each other, but if we get excited (and it does happen), it all seems to naturally work out somehow.

How do you select your books?
Any book we select must be recorded by the The Library of Congress and available as a digital cartridge through The Talking Book Library—the service for patrons who are blind or vision-impaired. We bear in mind that, most likely, our listeners have similar tastes to those in book clubs. That said, we try to be as eclectic as possible because we broadcast to a varied population of listeners. So we probably cover a broader range of literature than the average book club

Do you have any rules?
That fact that we are broadcasting brings it own disciplines, so we do have a few rules:

  • One rule is punctuality—and no one has ever been late!!!
  • We have to be courteous to each other on air (that comes naturally).
  • We can’t have any "dead air." Fortunately, if there's a second or two break, Valerie (who's at the control board—top-wide photo) always refers to her notes or the generic questions from LitLovers.

Generally, how would you describe your group?
To be honest, we're unique. We've never heard of a radio book group before—not even the BBC does one!!! We're forever grateful for the enthusiasm and commitment each of us has. Our guiding principle is that if WE enjoy ourselves, then our listeners will enjoy having us come into their homes.

From the start we made it clear—this is not an English class, so we will maintain a loose format like any other book club. The only imperative is that we're scheduled to broadcast—the first Tuesday of the month, 8-9:00 p.m.—so, come what may, we HAVE to be there!

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