Library services specifically for the visually and print disabled has been present in Missouri since 1924, when Arthur Boswick formed a department for the blind with the St. Louis Public Library system. The Pratt-Smoot Act of 1931 and the establishment of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled talking book program in 1933 helped grow the services of the St. Louis Public Library. When overcrowding of the reading room for the blind became an issue, funds were collected to build a separate library dedicated to serving the blind. In 1938, the new location was opened and named the Henry L. Wolfner Memorial Library, in honor of a noted eye specialist who practiced for 53 years in St. Louis. (This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005).
In 1939, Wolfner Library began distributing books to the Missouri School for the Blind and expanded its services to children and to outside of the St. Louis area. In 1963, the State of Missouri began to pay the St. Louis Public Library for the statewide use of Wolfner Library services.
In 1977, Wolfner Library acquired its first automated circulation system, and the Missouri State Library took over Wolfner's administration. In 1985, the library relocated to Jefferson City and became a division of the Missouri State Library. Since 1991, Wolfner, along with the other divisions of the Library (Reference Services and Library Development) has been located in the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center, under the administration of the Office of the Secretary of State, and continues to expand its services. Wolfner is advised by the Wolfner Advisory Council, and also in part supported by the Friends of Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library.
1993: Circulation of descriptive VHS tapes
1997: Online search of collections available
2000: Accessible newspapers available to patrons via NFB-Newsline
2002: In-house production of print/braille books
2004: Wolfner Library Recording Studio opened
2006: Winter adult reading programming introduced
2008: BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download program)
2009: Digital Talking Book Machines
2012: Circulation of descriptive DVDs
2013: BARD Mobile app debuted on iOS
2014: BARD Mobile app debuted on Android
2015: Collection of large print books for adults created and print/braille board and card games entered circulation
2016: Book clubs and Racing to Read (early literacy programs) debuted
2017: BARD Express
2017: Cassette tapes and VHS tapes stop circulation
2018: Wolfner Library's Racing to Read available in Spanish
2018: Accessible STEM kits
2019: Book club kits
2020: Prerecorded virtual story times, podcasts and crafting videos for youth patrons
2021: Duplication on Demand, with multiple books on each cartridge began. Adult Summer Reading program and Wolfner Beanstack introduced.
Coming soon: a second recording booth in the studio!
Visit Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library's webpage to learn more and/or apply for services that are available today.