Perspectives from NLS: Selecting Material from the ABC Global Book Service

December 17, 2021

By Kelsey Corlett-Rivera

[Blog from an ABC Partner]

As the Foreign Language Librarian at the U.S. National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), it’s my job to select books in foreign languages for the national collection.  That includes the process of identifying which books to add to the collection, as well as determining in what format they are available and how we can acquire them. My first stop for foreign language books is always the Accessible Books Consortium’s (ABC) Global Book Service (GBS). As a participating Authorized Entity, we are able to download accessible books to be added to our collection from the GBS under the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty. With over 730,000 titles to choose from, this can be a rather daunting prospect.

I have developed some strategies to make the process more manageable, allowing us to identify the content that will be of most benefit to our patrons. I will cover our overall approach to collecting Marrakesh Treaty content and then share some specifics about how I am doing that via ABC.  NLS has been fortunate to be able to obtain content from ABC for a number of years, but our approach shifted once the Treaty was legally implemented in the United States in July 2020.

When determining what content to add to the NLS collection, we are prioritizing DAISY audio and electronic braille books as follows:

  • Unique titles (those we do not own in a particular format)
  • Titles by authors we already collect
  • Titles published by important and well-known imprints
  • Bestsellers (translations of U.S. bestsellers as well as other countries’ bestsellers)
  • Award-winning authors and books
  • Titles receiving positive reviews in major venues
  • Titles/authors/series requested by patrons and/or network libraries
  • Titles we own in translation but not in the original language, and vice versa
  • Titles that are not available commercially

We have used U.S. Census data to determine which languages are spoken by our potential patrons, that is, people with a vision difficulty in the United States, to guide our collection development efforts.  Our highest priority languages for inclusion in our collection are:

1. *Spanish (70%)

2. *French

3. Tagalog/Filipino

4. *Vietnamese

5. *German

6. Chinese

7. *Italian

8. *Russian

9. *Arabic

10. Haitian Creole

11. *Korean

12. *Portuguese

The starred languages are currently available from ABC.

While the majority of our material is targeted for an adult audience, we do collect both juvenile and young adult books in certain languages, based on the ages of potential patrons who speak those languages.


Arabic, French, German, Haitian Creole, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish

Young Adult:

Arabic, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese

I always keep these collection development guidelines and priority languages in mind when deciding which books to add to our collection.  I have developed two main approaches for finding the titles I would like to add from ABC.

Method 1:

  1. As part of my regular selection process, I identify titles to add to the NLS collection. These might be bestsellers, award-winners, books with positive reviews, well-known authors, etc.
  2. I then check the titles’ availability in GBS before any other sources, using the advanced search feature to narrow down by language, format, and title/author. Frequently I will search by author name and then order everything by that author in that language. I also use this search method to ensure we have high interest titles (e.g. Harry Potter or the Jason Bourne series) in multiple languages and formats.
  3. I primarily use this approach for Western European languages.

Below you will see a screenshot of a search in GBS for audio books by a popular author (Robert Ludlum) in Spanish. You can see that 15 results were identified, the first of which is The Bourne Ultimatum in Spanish, which we added to our collection. Along with other materials, we’ve also been able to add Spanish recipe books and U.S. history books in both Spanish and French via ABC, all of which were requested by patrons.

screenshot of the Global Book Service advanced search results from an author search with the word “Ludlum,” along with Spanish language and DAISY audio format options selected.  15 titles are found through this search

Method 2:

  1. Rather than identifying a particular title or author that I would like to add to the collection, I also do bulk title selection by language.
  2. To do this, I filter the GBS catalogue by language and format.
  3. I review the full list of available titles with some help from Google Translate.
  4. I select appropriate books for the collection in bulk.
  5. I primarily use this approach for non-Western European languages (such as Arabic and Vietnamese).

Below you will see GBS search results filtered for DAISY audio books in Vietnamese. Selecting from these results can be a little tricky, as I do not read Vietnamese and have no idea if these books would be appropriate for the NLS collection.

screenshot of the Global Book Service catalog with the options DAISY audio format and Vietnamese language selected. 219 titles are found through this search

I export the filtered results to Excel and use Google Translate as shown below in order to get some idea of what these books are about and to decide which ones would be appropriate for the NLS collection.  It is important to note this is just for my decision-making process. We do not include Google-translated text in official catalog records because we have no way to verify accuracy of the translations in many languages.

screenshot of a spreadsheet showing a sample of eight records translated by Google Translate into English from Vietnamese. Each record includes the translated title, author, language, format, and publisher

Using the above methods, NLS has been able to add 528 curated ABC books to our collection in languages such as Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Spanish, and Vietnamese in about nine months, with another 600 in the queue to be added. All of the books we have added meet our collection development criteria and have been produced according to international standards. Overall, every time I go into GBS to do some “shopping” for books I feel like it is my birthday. GBS is a treasure trove of original language literature, non-fiction resources, translated U.S. bestsellers, and everything you can imagine. My job would be exponentially harder without being able to augment the NLS collection via the ABC Global Book Service and the Marrakesh Treaty in general.