The author is the board secretary of the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS) and coordinator of volunteers for the Audio-Reader Network in Lawrence, Kan. IAAIS commentaries are featured regularly at radioworld.com.
As professionals in the audio information service industry, we work with volunteers every day. We rely on them to provide quality broadcast programs, describe live theatre, raise money, plan events and spread the word about our services. This happens on the local level. But there is also a system of volunteers who work at the national level to support local reading services by providing education, advocacy and programming. One of those volunteers is Art Hadley, producer/engineer at the Kansas Audio-Reader Network for 39 years. Before Art retires this month, we made him own up to the significant impact he has had for thousands of listeners all over the world.
Art Hadley in 1994 at the Hawaii Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Honolulu
Art was working for Meredith Broadcasting in 1977 when he heard about a broadcast producer job at the University of Kansas’ Audio-Reader Network. He was happy in his current job, but programming changes meant he was going part-time, so he decided to see what Audio-Reader had to offer. “What I found was a very professional talk radio station operating on a very low budget,” he recalls. The talk, he notes, was volunteers reading daily newspapers, magazines and best-selling books. “They had obtained a grant that funded a great production studio with a huge 16-input TV console, ITC carts, a stereo Ampex 440 and a four-track 1/2-inch Ampex. I took the job, built that studio, and to top it off, brought my beloved ARP 2600 synthesizer. It was a lovely room.”
He quickly grew to love his job, which ended up being radio with a bit of a twist. “Audio-Reader has always had a small staff, so even when everyone is at work there’s a lot of job overlap. The challenges of this job over the years have allowed me to do all kinds of interesting things, from interviewing really interesting people, to driving all over the state and flying all over the country, designing and building a broadcast automation system (powered by Commodore PET, and later the C-64), designing logos and posters and graphics, flying to Central America to meet with organizations for the blind and encourage them to create audio broadcast services. Plus, some of my favorite people in the world work there, so it’s just always fun to come to work.”
Art soon got involved, as many of us do, on the national level, assisting in the annual conference for the National Association of Radio Reading Services (now the International Association of Audio Information Services, or IAAIS) and running workshops. His commitment expanded about 20 years ago when the association started its first website. “I’ve designed and programmed everything on it since,” says Art. “Some time ago we added a Program Share to the site, and nowadays more than 20,000 hours of programming is exchanged between reading services annually, at a cost of virtually nothing.” Art has also put his graphic design skills to work, designing logos for both IAAIS and Audio Description. In addition, he created the two displays IAAIS takes to trade shows and served on the board of directors for several years. “And at some point, IAAIS hit a talent desert so bleak that I was somehow appointed MC-for-life at our annual awards banquet,” he jokes.
IAAIS President Stuart Holland (left) presents the Bob Brummond Award to Art Hadley in 2014.
When it comes to career highlights, Art has many. His technological innovations for Audio-Reader, NARRS and IAAIS earned him the industry’s highest honor in 1999, the C. Stanley Potter Lifetime Achievement Award (named after the founder of the first audio information service, Minnesota Radio Talking Book). The award is presented to those who have demonstrated a deep commitment to innovative initiatives that not only empower audio information services, but also advance the industry and ultimately benefit people who need access to information in audio format. Art also won the Bob Brummond Award in 2014, another IAAIS honor for his work developing and running the association’s website and program share.
In addition, Art recalls fondly a time when he spoke to more than a thousand people at a public radio conference in Florida on two days’ notice. “I was to represent IAAIS and our 100 member services across North America, and had to figure out my own speech. I met the amazing NPR team there — Mike Starling, Rich Rarey and John Kean I already knew from his IAAIS work. The three smartest guys I ever met, and funny, too,” he recalls. “And I loved spending the winter in Waikiki building studios for the Hawaii Library.” The experience inspired him to start two Internet stations filled with Hawaiian music: Hawaiian 101 and Slack Key Paradise. But he says the biggest highlight of his 39 years in the AIS business has been mixing with the volunteers. “Brilliant professors, sharp bankers, rich housewives, street people, mayors, sorority girls, jazz musicians: a big crowd of people I might never have met anywhere else. And I get hugs and even the occasional loaf of Stollen for Christmas.”
Art has seen a lot of change to the industry, but says that’s nothing new. “We’ve always watched the worlds of technology and broadcasting and made pretty good use of new ways of distributing our information. I’m sure that will continue. Artificial speech technology is really good these days, and while we may end up using more of it in the future, the paradigm of people sitting home listening to other live people on a radio is a winner, and it’s not going away any time soon.”
Looking back on his career, Art has no regrets. “If I had it to do all over, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he smiles.