An Interview with the Director of the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped


The interior of the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Sam Bisno and Isaac Degenholtz

Mark Sachon is the head of the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Pittsburgh. Recently, we gave him a call and picked his brain about the incredible work he does. Below is an account of what he told us.

The goal of the library is to aid those who have difficulty reading standard books or other print materials by supplying accessible audio recordings from a variety of sources. According to Mr. Sachon, his mission statement is simply “to provide acceptable reading materials to folks with visual or physical disabilities.” Currently, the library services over 16,000 registered patrons, and its collection of audiobooks numbers in the tens of thousands.

To qualify for the library’s services, someone must be unable to, or struggle severely with, reading standard font – that is, 14-point or smaller. This can be due to a wide range of reasons, from physical disabilities such as arthritis and Parkinson’s to mental disabilities like Alzheimer’s, dyslexia, and autism.

Mr. Sachon began his Carnegie Library career at the main branch, but was transferred to the Library for the Blind several years ago to help modernize their technology from cassette to digital. He says that, although he was at first apprehensive, he now loves his job and is glad he made the switch. “Now that I’m here,” he remarks, “I really like being out with the people. I love the mission of this library. I love the teamwork, but I also love the fact that these books would not exist for our patrons if we didn’t do it.”

On an average day, Mr. Sachon works to coordinate the 220 volunteers that help out around the library, organizing recording and editing schedules, training newcomers, and troubleshooting any issues that may arise. His role as overseer certainly doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the full effects of the program’s efforts, however; he recalled for us a time when one of the volunteers discovered that the book she was reading was written by her estranged son about their falling out: “I was her monitor, and we were in tears reading the chapters as we realized that she was actually in the story.” Throughout the interview, Mr. Sachon returned to moments like this as a way of stressing the profound impact the library has not only on its patrons but on everybody involved.

Mr. Sachon expressed a great deal of positivity with the current state of service for the blind and physically handicapped but encouraged readers of the Eagle to get involved in helping record audiobooks so that those who cannot always read the words on a page will always have the access to literature. Mr. Sachon also added that anyone at Obama interested in reading for the library should reach out to him at [email protected] or contact Mr. Chapman. Additionally, students can go to the library’s website for more information about the program.

We’d like to extend our thanks to Mr. Sachon for generously taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk about the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and its mission to help get everyone access to high-quality written material. We look forward to continuing to contribute to the cause in the future.