February 10, 2009
Jewish Community Library Director Resigns Amid Merger Talks
With a possible merger between the Jewish Community Library and the library at the American Jewish University on the horizon, Abigail Yasgur resigned from her post as director of the community library.
Yasgur, who has held her position for 12 years, says she did not want to shepherd the library through a potential transition she feels will harm the institution and the community.
“I am disappointed in the direction,” said Yasgur. “What I would really like to see instead is people thinking about something bold and ambitious, that is concerned with the community and providing them with the resources they need.”
The library, housed at headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard, is currently operated by the Bureau of Jewish Education with funding from Federation. The collection has 30,000 volumes, including films, music recording, community archives and modern and ancient books in English, Hebrew and many other languages.
A group of library supporters and lay leaders have created a committee (www.savethejewishlibrary.com) to explore spinning the library off into an independent non-profit that could occupy a street-level storefront, which they maintain can spike library visibility, patronage and community support.
The president of the Association of Jewish Libraries and of its Southern California branch are advocating against the merger with AJU, which they say will undermine the library’s mission as an easily accessible, community institution.
“Libraries like this need to be integrated into daily, community life, because books and literacy are a part of daily life. It can’t be so set apart that you have to travel 20 minutes on the freeway to get there,” Yasgur said.
Under Yasgur’s leadership, the library established an online catalog and strong Web presence, increased programming, raised the library’s profile in the community, and grew the client base.
“Being able to connect people with books or information that they are looking for, and seeing them glow or smile as a result, is remarkable work,” Yasgur said.