Who Your Gift Helps – Katja Newman

Photo of Katja Newman

The Race for Harry
Katja Newman

Change Catalyst: The CNIB Library and Ann Saunders’ superhuman efforts to produce Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in an alternative in record time – less than seven working days – so Canadians with vision loss could join a worldwide phenomenon. Just part of the Library’s support for lifelong learning.

When the last volume of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular series was released in July 2007, 13-year-old Katja Newman from Burlington, Ontario, was eager to get it in online audio format from CNIB. She would be able to listen to the narration instantly, right from her computer, and she couldn’t wait.

Meanwhile, Ann Saunders, CNIB’s “voice of Harry” since 1999, was in the middle of a critical, marathon assignment. Normally she worked as a CNIB recording studio volunteer three days a week. But as always when a new Potter volume appeared, Ann was working flat-out to record Deathly Hallows as quickly as possible. The book’s final recorded length: 23 hours and 10 minutes. When it was posted to the CNIB Digital Library, site visits skyrocketed.

Back in Burlington, Katja sat in front of her computer wearing her headphones, filled with excitement as she started the book. For two-and-a-half weeks she read three chapters each afternoon (sometimes more at night). It was hard tearing herself away each day. Her friends were reading it too, and they spent a lot of time discussing it. By the time she got to the epilogue, Katja was on the edge of her seat. She was sad that it was over – but exhilarated.

“They’ve always been there for me no matter what,” she says about CNIB’s Library. “It’s nice being able to grow up with them.”

“If the CNIB Library didn’t exist, I’d probably have very little access to books I'd like to read.” – Katja Newman

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