Largest braille library in Europe comes to the Midlands

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has more than 25,000 titles at its National Library Service in Peterborough Photo: ITV Central

Inside an unremarkable warehouse on a Midlands business park can be found the largest collection of Braille books in Europe. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has more than 25,000 titles at its National Library Service in Peterborough.

The charity has just moved the library from its old home in Stockport, a vast logistical operation involving 37 articulated lorries over twelve days.

Braille was invented in France in 1824 by 15 year old Louis Braille Credit: ITV Central

This week is National Braille Week. Braille was invented in France in 1824 by 15 year old Louis Braille, who invented a code based on combinations of raised dots to represent numbers and letters. People with visual impairments read Braille by running their fingers across the dots. Nearly two centuries later, it continues to give independence and the joy of literature to millions of people worldwide.

In the UK, there are thought to be around 20,000 Braille users, mostly people who have had sight loss from birth or an early age. Many use the RNIB National Library Service, ordering books and music over the phone or online. The library lends more than 83,000 volumes of Braille every year.

The library also prints new titles on state-of-the-art embossing machines Credit: ITV Central

Library manager Pat Beech told ITV Central, "People do appreciate it and they do love the Library. They've got very strong links with the Library - many of them have been using it for 50-60 years which is incredible."

The library also prints new titles on state-of-the-art embossing machines. Transcribing the written word into Braille is a slow and complex process and can take up to four months. Braille books are also very large - a small paperback often running to several volumes. The largest fictional book in the library is "An Unsuitable Boy" by Vikram Seth which contains 39 volumes and takes up one and a half shelves.

Library user, Steve Tyler, who has been blind from birth, says "I can't imagine what I'd do without Braille. I went to school and university, I use it in my job, as well of course as for leisure reading. It's the nearest I've got to the printed word."