Meet Our Volunteers


Below you will find a selection of bios provided by our dedicated volunteers. Our volunteers are a very diverse group of people. We have students, homemakers, retired professionals, and many more. Our volunteers utilize a variety of tools to help them with their volunteer activities, including screen readers, Braille, Kurzweil, Opticbook Scanners, and many Microsoft Word tools. It is always interesting to learn about the many ways technology helps our volunteers contribute to the Bookshare® library.


Chela Robles


Hello I'm trumpeter Chela Robles and I began volunteering for Bookshare in 2007. Because I am a member of the Bookshare community and wanted to keep renewing my membership, I thought I'd gain credits by scanning/proofreading books and have done so since then. Since I'm totally blind, I use a Braille display and Kurzweil 1000 and Microsoft Word and IBM Lotus Symphony for proofreading. Kurzweil is for scanning and proofreading but since I'm currently shopping for a scanner at an affordable price, I'm just proofreading. I also work on special projects such as looking up metadata and checking the collection for certain books.


I hope to continue to help Bookshare and Bookshare members in any way I possibly can. Thanks for allowing me to give back to the Bookshare community along with several other volunteers...after all, time is precious and with that time we can give a few hours or dollar donations to help make books more accessible. I'm especially thankful for how much the community and the volunteer program have grown, and for the increase in the number of books from when Bookshare first started, so let's keep at it!


Sandi Ryan


I grew up blind in a world of books I couldn't read because they weren't Braille.  At about age three, I began memorizing the stories in books my Mother read me, then "reading" them to myself while turning the books' pages.


I first signed up for Bookshare in 2009 and discovered a world of books I could read!  I have avidly searched the Bookshare collection, downloading fiction, science, biographies and cookbooks ever since! 

I retired in December 2009 from my career as a registered dietitian, with plans to "do some volunteer work."  The answer to my need to give back was volunteering for Bookshare.  Over the last nine or ten months, I have scanned about 30 books for three volunteer proofreaders.  I have loved scanning since 1991, when Arkenstone made it possible for blind people to create our own books!  At the time, scanning a page took about 11 minutes.  Now I can scan two pages at a time in about 15 seconds.


Learning and reading have been the foundation of my life.  Making books available to others through Bookshare makes me proud and happy. The bonus for me is getting to read the books as I prepare them for submission!


Ann Parsons


My name is Ann, and I have been volunteering for Bookshare almost since its inception in 2001. I am a proofer. I enjoy volunteering because I’m passionate about information access. The more material that is made available for those who are print impaired, the better. Informed citizens are the best citizens. Besides, reading has been a life-long activity for me. If I can help others to do that, I’m happy.


I’m also an AT Trainer and would be most happy to help anyone to access Bookshare. I run a small business called Portal Tutoring: http://www.portaltutoring.info.


Lori Castner


After retiring in 2005, I searched for a volunteer opportunity that would enable me to be of service to others. In 2007, I became a Bookshare volunteer, and the work has been a perfect fit. First of all, I love literature and enjoy working with books in any way, shape, or form. I also love working on a computer, and this volunteer opportunity has enabled me to fine tune my skills with Openbook (a scanning program) and with Microsoft Word. I began volunteering by submitting books, and while I still occasionally scan books which are of particular interest to me, I soon found that I much preferred proofreading. I always longed to be an editor, and proofreading has fulfilled that desire. In addition, through participating on the two Bookshare Freelists, I have met many interesting people, and have made a few long-distance friends.


When I'm not proofreading books or fine tuning my computer skills, I write poetry and short articles, bake yeast bread and all sorts of sweet concoctions, participate in church activities, read extensively, and spend time with my husband, who is also a Bookshare volunteer, and with our cat Charley.


Kim Friedman


I joined Bookshare through the encouragement of friends. I got my computer in 2008 and it was the first time I ever had an accessible device. I felt totally incompetent and intimidated by it. The first thing I learned was how to make the screen reader talk when it stopped. Then I learned how to navigate a web site. Next, I got some help from Robert Turner, who works at Bookshare. He taught me how to change my password, how to download a book from the Bookshare website, and how to copy and paste books on to an SD card. I now am considerably less intimidated by the computer and know how to unzip files, how to do cut-and-paste operations, and, thanks to friends, I know a lot more than when I first started, though I can't in any way call myself a “technogeek.”


Once I learned enough to navigate the Bookshare website I experienced a severe case of what I call “download fever.” First of all, Braille books take up a lot of space so accumulating a huge library of them was out of the question. Can you imagine how happy I was to realize I could accumulate a library of Braille books and audiobooks, all going on to SD cards or flash drives? I felt just like a kid in a candy store or bakery with all the choices that were available to me.


When I became a Bookshare member, I started out by just downloading books I wanted to read which I couldn't find in the NLS program (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped). Then I'd buy books from amazon.com and donate them to Bookshare if I found gaps in a book series. Then I joined as a volunteer and I learned how to proofread books. I always proofread books which I'd ordinarily read out of interest, such as fiction books. I do it because I enjoy reading and it doesn't bother me to correct scanning errors. I like to correspond with the submitter and I like to make sure the book is readable. I use my BrailleNote as a backup for my screen reader when proofreading. If there are too many spaces or if I come across a scanning error, it helps to have it in Braille. I also like to know how things are spelled. I suppose another reason I proofread is because it doesn't intimidate me as much as scanning does!


Cindy Rosenthal


I'm a 76-year -old grandmother who began volunteering for Bookshare when I retired from the working world 10 years ago because I wanted to do something to help other people. Although I also volunteered at my public library, I could volunteer for Bookshare from any place and at any time. I'm one of those people who work like to work at night (and into the wee hours of the morning), so Bookshare was a great option for me. A possibly amusing side comment (and a suggestion to others who need to check spelling and don't have the print book to look at): the first book I proofed had a lot of names that weren't familiar to me, so I googled them to find out if they were spelled correctly or had to be changed.  It was a 724-page book and not until I had almost finished did it occur to me that I could get the book from the library and check the spelling!


Gail Johnson


My name is Gail Johnson. I have been volunteering for Bookshare for about 4 years. I proof books only. I volunteer for Bookshare for several reasons: first, I love to read, and second, I believe in everyone having the right to read any subject of interest to them. In my zeal to help provide a wide variety of books for blind people to read I have many times learned about a new subject. I spend hours working on a book. I often choose books that have sat in the queue for a while. My third reason for volunteering is the many wonderful individuals in the volunteer community.


I live in Texas 20 miles outside of Austin. For my own reading pleasure some of my favorites are: books on spirituality, mysteries, biographies, and books on food.


Robert Tweedy


I have always liked to read and liked doing book reports. From the 60’s to the early 2000’s I was limited in what I could read. In 2003 I became a Bookshare member and read what Bookshare had to offer. I wanted to do more and started scanning, and then about two years ago, I started proofing. Now if I scan, I also fix page numbers, etc. In school, I was told that I would be good at helping others and this is just one way to do that. There are those who can’t afford to buy the equipment to read, so this is for them.