Jewish Journal

Librarians worry about Jewish Community Library takeover

by Julie Gruenbaum Fax

February 4, 2009 | 6:29 pm

The potential merger between the the Jewish Community Library at American Jewish University, which I reported on in last week’s Jewish Journal (click here for story), has many people worked up, chief among them a passionate network of librarians. While reporting the story, I interviewed several librarians who spoke with eloquence and conviction about the need to maintain an easily accessible, complete collection where entire families could enjoy the books, videos, music and archives. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include most of those interviews in the printed story, due to space considerations.
One of the librarians I interviewed was Barbara Leff, a past president of the Southern California Branch of the Association of Jewish Libraries. She wrote to me after the story was published:

My only disappointment is that you interviewed 3 of us (Suzi, Ellen, and myself - library professionals in the community and Suzi as our national president of the Association of Jewish Libraries) - but you didn’t reference it. I was not looking for name inclusion but rather a simple statement that the national and local professional library communities were not in favor of the merger - so the community will know that JCLLA has our support.

It’s a point well taken, and I learned a lot about libraries from talking to these women. Some of what I learned:
• Librarians get regular notices of new publications from which they order their books. Librarians at Jewish libraries get different and more specific catalogs, which is why their collection can be more complete than say a public library’s Jewish collection.
• The County Library system has cultural and ethnic collections at each branch. The Culver City Branch of the Los Angeles County Library houses the Jewish collection.
• Libraries are generally most successful when they are a convenient stop in a person’s daily agenda. Picking up a book, and especially returning books, has to fit in as stops on other errands. That is why some librarians fear that the AJU, on a hilltop campus off Mullholland, might not work for a community library, even though it is geographically a midpoint between Valley and City Jewish communities.

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