1968 – Auxiliary for the Blind established
The Queensland Narrating Service was formed in 1968 as an ‘Auxiliary for the Blind’ with its purpose of creating audio books. It was established from a bylaw of the Queensland Tape Recordists Association (QTRA), in November 1967 as a social club for those interested in tape recording as a hobby. Many members were associated with radio broadcasting. The first project was completed in June 1968 for the ‘Narbethong School for Visually Handicapped Children’.
In May 1969 the name was changed to ‘Auxiliary for the Handicapped’. The Inaugural Meeting of QTRA Auxiliary for the Handicapped was held on 13 May 1969. 18 people attended. QTRA presented a donation of $20 to the Auxiliary. $30 was collected from immediate donations. The recordings were to be made on open-reel recorders. The users were students of Narbethong, a number of vision impaired students at tertiary institutions; and other blind or disabled people and elderly partially-sighted people.
1972 – Contact Magazine
The first issue of Contact Magazine was sent out in May 1972. Contact was a free audio magazine for vision impaired people. It was produced on standard C90 audio cassettes for play back in both ordinary cassette tape recorders or on variable speed Talking Book machines. It consisted of an editorial, current news items, discussions and hints, interviews, an Australiana segment (maybe a prominent author or a person with an interesting hobby etc.) and a range of varied articles, all interspersed with stereo music. It was non-political and non-sectarian. All users were encouraged to offer input to the magazine. This first edition was sent out to 47 members, 27 copies were on cassette and 20 on open reel. Gradually production was made on cassettes. Contact produced its last magazine mid 2002 after 25 years.
1972 – Change of Structure – QTSH
In November 1972, QTRA no longer wanted to be associated with the Auxiliary so a new name was required. The new title “Queensland Tape Service for the Handicapped” was officially adopted in February 1973 and the Constitution was sanctioned by the Justice Department in November 1973. At the October, 1975 Meeting for QTSH, members were advised that the State Library planned to set up an Audio Book Section and had already given the President blank cassettes for copying existing masters. The Service was to operate through the Country Extension Service, under the guidance of the Acquisitions Librarian. By this stage all recordings were made on cassettes. In 1976 QTSH purchased a second copier. This was to be housed in the State Library on indefinite loan. The QTSH masters of 120 audio books (comprising 580 cassettes) were given to the Library for copying and formed the nucleus of the original collection. In 1977, a further donation of $2196 enabled QTSH to purchase 2 slave units for the fast copier held in the Library, thereby speeding up the copying process.
1978 – Copyright Clearance
By 1978 it became necessary to seek copyright clearance on all works produced. This is a process of seeking permission to narrate books which is in place today. Standard copyright application forms were devised by the National Library to facilitate this procedure. In March, 1979 QTSH applied to the Attorney General for registration as a producer of audio material. In 1981 the Department of Social Security proposed giving grants of 1/3 of the cost of production materials to Producers of Material for the Print Handicapped.
1985 – State Library of Qld Buys Audio Books
In December 1985 the State Library proposed to pay a “fee for service” based on work done for them by QTSH, amendments to the Constitution were made to make provision for fundraising, and for paid employees. Library Grants and Grants from Special Education ensured that adequate funds would be available. This meant that QTSH could appoint an administrator for 10 hours per week from 24 February 1986. This role involved creating a catalogue of available audio books distributed to libraries. A cost recovery of $3.50 per cassette was requested. Some narrators had backgrounds in the theatre and radio broadcasting. In 1988 and 1990 Graham Webster’s reading of “Special Dynamic” and John Rowell’s reading of “Polar Star” were short listed for the National Audio Book-of-the-Year Awards.
1994 – New State Government Funding
The Community Information Program was established in 1994 through a new grant from the Department of Family Services, Aboriginal and Islander Affairs to extend the services of QTSH to Government Departments and Service Agencies. This meant that QTSH could narrate documents that inform people and have influence over people such as government department and city council information. Many non-profit organizations and Blindness agencies continue to use this service.
1997 – Name Change to QNS
The name Queensland Tape Service for the Handicapped was changed in 1997 to Queensland Narrating Service to more adequately reflect and describe the services provided. By this time narrators were recording onto cassette recording machines using home-standard recording machines with a microphone input adaptation. There were around 50 volunteer narrators.
Queensland Narrating Service is no longer funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (Australian Govt.). As of 2010 QNS is solely funded by Queensland Department of Communities and cost recovery. Three part time Development Officers are employed to liaise with State and Local government departments, community organisations and the corporate sector. A sound engineer converts analogue to digital audio and manages technological updating. QNS still relies on cost-recovery for business to continue.
2002 – Digital and DAISY
QNS sold our first digital recording which was converted from a cassette recording and noise-reduced in 2002. Narrators began experimenting with digital recording in 2003 using their own equipment. In 2008 we had around 10 narrators recording to digital. The process has moved from cassette to CD to mp3 and now DAISY. Through successful grant applications QNS built up a collection of Apple E-Macs with Audacity recording software for narrating. Apple E-Macs are used by office volunteers to burn copies of CDs, mp3s and DAISY. Just recently we have received a grant from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund for computers and Rode podcasters. This has improved the quality of QNS narrations.
2006 – QNS is housed with Vision Australia
The State Library of Queensland moved to its new building on the Brisbane River. Its Public Library Service moved to Runcorn. QNS moved to Vision Australia, Kent Street, Woolloongabba near Dutton Park Railway Station. The QNS office was in the old School for Deaf and Blind Children building.
2010 – Present Day
In July 2010 Vision Australia moved to new premises in Coorparoo and offered QNS a place in the new building. This was gratefully accepted. QNS owes the staff at Vision Australia a big thank you for being so generous and accommodating! QNS now has 55 volunteer narrators and 40 of those people are narrating onto computer.
The success of the Service has been due to the team of past and present voluntary narrators, to whom we acknowledge a debt of gratitude, and without whose services and dedication through the years, QNS would not exist.