Heiskell Braille & Talking
Book Library Honors Selis Family
The New York Public Library’s Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library held a ceremony recently to celebrate the naming of the second floor in honor of Irving and Sara Selis. Library officials, Selis family members and library regulars gathered to express gratitude to the Irving and Sara Selis Foundation for its considerable gift to the library.
Both visually impaired, Irving and Sara Selis dedicated their lives to helping those who were in the same position as them. Operating a newsstand in Greenwich Village for over 14 years, the Selis’ contributed to the creation of the New York Association of Blind newsdealers in 1928. Then, in 1938 Irving and Sara founded The Associated Blind, an organization dedicated to the welfare of the blind.
Carol Heller, niece to the Selis’ recalled her aunt and uncle’s pioneering mission. They wanted “to bring light to those who sat in darkness and help the visually impaired become self-sufficient,” said Heller.
The library boasts a significant collection of Braille texts, as well as audio books for those with visual disabilities. The facility contains a vast selection of fiction and nonfiction, spanning from the classics to the bestsellers. The library also features audio equipment for recorded texts, magazines, and special format materials.
Susan Kent, Director and Chief Executive for the Branch Libraries acknowledged the library’s diverse collection. “We even have weight-training for Dummies,” Kent said. With the Selis Foundation contribution, the library will be able to acquire more resources, allowing the library to continue to flourish, she said.
New York Public Library President, Paul LeClerc was also present for the naming of the second floor of the library. LeClerc recognized the significant need for a facility, such as the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. “We are reaching an enormously broad audience with other forms of need,” LeClerc said.
The ceremony ended with a poetry reading of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” by a professional actor who is part of a volunteer program that records books for the blind.
Although the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library is supported by funding from New York State, as well as New York City, the biggest impact is felt through private donations. A plaque, emblazoned with Irving and Sara Selis’s name in script and Braille, can be read by those who visit the second floor of the library. It is a testament to an extraordinary couple whose lack of physical vision was surmounted by their inner vision and spirit to help future generations of beneficiaries to this great library.#