Monday, December 29, 2008

What libraries should do better -- part 1

1> Marketing and promotion:

The information resources and programs of the library are constantly changing. I learned a couples of nights ago on the local news that the Chicago Public Library has downloadable media for its patrons. One can download books, CDs and videos. The system allows a patron to check out the items for a period and then it can't be viewed on the local system. I have viewed e-books, but I have not found any non-print items that I care to use. The news piece probably started as a news release from the library marketing department.

Libraries must constantly market their resources to additional audiences who currently under use the resources such as: potential new patrons, distance learners, students, and faculty. The image of the library should be an atmosphere where anyone needs information thinks of the library. Market the library's expertise. This is part of the branding of the library.

I just read a comment on AUTOCAT saying that teachers need to encourage library usage. The librarian making the comments was aghast that college students studying to become teachers did not know how to use the library and there are elementary school teachers who are clueless about the role of the library in the education process.

2> Space Issues:

The library should provide spaces that have a combination of seating options and a logical arrangement of service points. The library should have hard and soft chairs; very quiet areas and conversation areas. The space should meet the diverse needs of the patrons and library programs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Perfect Cataloger

AUTOCAT, a listserv for catalogers, recently had a discussion what a cataloger will need to know in 5,10, or more years in the future. I was surprised when Anne Welsh quoted me in her blog:
Daniel Stuhlman’s answer displays concision, comprehensiveness and elegance when he says “The skills of analysis, synthesis, communications, creativity, and thinking out of the box are important for catalogers and most professionals.” (Comment on AUTOCAT. Re: ACRL top 10 assumptions. 17 December 2008 18:23:51)
It's always nice when I get compliments.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Emerging Ideas in Libraries : Negative ideas

The Library is a “stepchild” – misunderstood, under supported, and unappreciated even though the institution pays lip service to the contrary. (i.e. words don't match actions)

The Library as a building – needs cleaning, repair, or renovation

The Library’s space is too small or not adequately configured for the tasks required

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What is the Hebrew Word for Cataloger?

Last week when someone asked me about a Hebrew word, I thought the answer would be easy to find in a dictionary. It wasn't. The latest Librarian's Lobby traces the roots of the English and Hebrew words for library and librarian.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Emerging Ideas in Libraries: Positive ideas

The Library is :

  1. A student or patron meeting place
  2. A place with the resources to help students, faculty, staff, or members of the community
  3. A hub for students to visit
  4. A place that supports learning, knowledge, and history
  5. A source of information
  6. A vibrant cool place
  7. A “comfort zone”
  8. A quiet place
  9. A repository of books, data and information
  10. A place for scholars and neophytes
  11. The Library staff members are helpful people, offering assistance, and are good co-workers

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Counter productive? 1

Why do people shoot themselves in the foot? Or this could be the next installment of "Where is the sechel (common sense)?"

In college I hated to write tests in those little blue books. I wondered how in the world a professor had the eyes and the energy to read handwriting. My handwriting was not great. No matter how hard I try, I can not write long hand for very much time. I even got permission one time to bring a portable typewriter to a test. (It was before the days of personal computers.)

As a professor now, I would not accept anything that was not typed with the help of a word processing program and spell check.

So -- Tell me why a company has a job application on line that one can not fill in on the screen. That company has a PDF file with the application on their website that one must download, print, and fill in by hand. To set up a PDF file that one can fill in is just a change in a setting. There is no extra work in the set up. The company could save the applicant and the people reviewing the application lots of time. Also this could be a legal issue. What if someone has a disability and can not write this kind of application? The disability could be a sore thumb that has nothing to do with job performance.

Then there is application that is entirely on line. An applicant fills in a form on line that gets parsed and digested, but does not allow the applicant to show his/her essence.

Sehel seems to dictate that process should be designed to waste as little time as possible and achieve maximum results.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


An informal survey of college librarians found librarians are salaried and do not receive over time pay. There are wide variations in working time and expectations. Some are required to fill in exact time sheets; some are not. Some have the flexibility to arrange their working hours and some don't. Some places seem to have rules that are counter productive to balancing work and life. They may get extra pay for teaching a class or for an assignment above and beyond their normal responsibilities.

"Being a professional means that you aren't just putting in hours on the job, you are paid to perform a service." Suzanne M. Stauffer, Ph.D. Louisiana State University.

Librarians are educators. Parents, teachers, educators, managers, and leaders are supposed to set good examples. This my principle of
teaching by example. Professionals are supposed to not only talk, but look and act the part. I tell my students that it is our job to smile and be helpful even when you are having a lousy day.

Reference Service Management Issues 1

The business model for a library is not the same as a business; we can not move people, objects, and information at a pace like a manufacturing company or retail store. We do not receive direct payment for service. We can not easily measure productivity. We may not even know when we have succeeded. Even so, we mush not forget that the reference desk is a point of customer service. Customers, patrons, users or any other name we use for people requesting our services are more demanding of quick answers than in the days before computers, but the mechanism of learning has not changed. Wisdom still requires the gathering, assimilation and analysis of data and information.

The reference manager as any teacher, parent, or business manager must be aware that there are individual learning styles of both their staff and patrons. Some people need greater detail than others. While we all learn with all our senses, some people favor information visually while others favor hearing. Some people never learn until they have multiple stimuli. Because of this service delivery models change must keep pace. The reference desk is a point of personal contact, but other contacts may be online, phone calls, chats, lessons, and documents.

Staff must be able to take on new roles from the traditional print based services. Change is continuous and improvement is always possible. Staff must address new needs, leverage technology, and still be friendly and helpful. All this helps to maximize resources of all kinds including staff, collections, and physical space.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bean Counters and Librarians

I did an informal survey of working hours for librarians. There is an interesting trend with those who reported. In general librarians work 35-40 hours per week and are exempt from overtime. They are considered management, professional, faculty or some combination. In smaller libraries they are more likely to work longer hours and have more varied duties. Some libraries gave comp time when the librarians work in excess of their scheduled time. Some said they just work long enough to get the job done; which may be 32 hours or 50 per week. Very few of the librarians report an enlightened or flexible schedule One reported that clerical staff could not make up time. If they came in 2 minutes late they would need to take vacation time and could not even make it up.
I am sure that those who control the budget want to make sure there is no abuse of the system. Sometimes the "bean counters" make rules that lack common sense.

In the
Dec. 9 online version of the Chronicles of Higher Education, they reported that professors in the history department at the University of Montana at Missoula were told the long distance phone calls would no longer be paid for. Travel expenses were reduced to $350 per year and when the toner ran out for the copy machine they could make no more copies. What are those students thinking about the uses for their tuition? The university is being foolishly frugal.

Some of the libraries have no time sheets; while others had to account for every minute. When I worked for the State, we had time sheets, but hours were flexible. If we scheduled our time with our supervisor our hours could be from 7 am to 8 pm. Most people were gone by 5 PM. But sometimes I needed to perform tasks after hours and I stayed until 7 or 8 one day per week. The other days I left before 4:30. My boss started at 7 and left at 3 or 3:30.
This was possible because very few people in the agency dealt directly with the public. An enlightened policy of work would allow flexibility both to serve the needs of the institution and the individual. There would be core hours that full time people would be expected to be on the job except if the job was nights and weekends. Beyond a certain limit overtime would be compensated with money or time.

What should be reasonable for a professional to work? In any institution that serves the public, someone must be "on duty" at the door, the desk, etc. The people not facing the public have more flexibility. The funding agency needs to balance institutional needs and individual needs. One time I was scheduled to keep the library open until 8 pm. I was the only staff member there. One day I really couldn't stay that late. I arranged to switch hours with another librarian. 4 o'clock came and she
didn't come in. She didn't answer her phone or cell phone. 6 o'clock came and still no one knew what happened to her. The library director said that it she didn't come in I was to close the library early because I had made an approved arrangement. Luckily another librarian was able to stay until 8, but we didn't hear from the first one until the next day. She had forgotten about her schedule for that day. It is nice that someone could be flexible even if only a few people in the public would have been affected. People need a work-life balance, but also realize that your actions affect others. Working 50 hours a week without additional compensation is not fair to the individual. Missing your scheduled hours is not fair to the rest of the staff.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The printer won't work

One of the common areas of questions the library staff concerns getting help with computers, printers and copier use. Most of the time the staff knows the answer because we had dealt with the problem many times. I was not a participant in this incident; only an observer. A library user whom I call "M" in this story came to the circulation desk demanding, "I want my money back." A student assistant ("SA" in this story) answered, "Excuse me, may I help you?"

M: The printer won't work.
SA: What's wrong with the printer?

M: I can't get it to print my stuff from Blackboard. I want my money back.

SA: I'm sorry it won't print. Did you lose money?

M: I put $5.00 on my printer card. I want my money back.

SA: Did the printer take your money and not print?

M: I can't even sent to job to the printer. I never inserted my print card. I just want my money back.

SA; Perhaps you should go downstairs to the printer lab? They have staff who can better help you. I can't give you your money back.

HC: May I help you? M: I want my money back?
HC: Did you lose any money?
M: I can't get the file to print from Blackboard.
HC: I'm sorry I don't have the ability to refund your money. Once your card has a stored value, that is yours. There is no way to refund the money. Did you try the computers downstairs?

M: NO!!! Who is in charge?
HC: I'll see if he is available.

LD: What is the problem?
M: I just want my money back.
LD: What program were you using?
M: I was trying to get a PowerPoint file to print from Blackboard. I need it for my class now.

LD: The library computers are for research. They don't have PowerPoint installed on them. The computer lab downstairs has computers for you to use. Those computers have PowerPoint. You can use your printer card there.
M: How do I get there? Could you show me how to get there?
LD: She wanted me to stand over her and make sure the pages printed out. I refused and came back.

M managed to get everyone annoyed. Everyone who encountered her was glad she was gone. This woman waited to the last minute to complete her assignment, then got everyone annoyed because she did not listen to the solution.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Way We Communicate

A few weeks ago I was talking about how some students don't know enough about writing. I mentioned this to my 8th grade daughter, Adina, and she said, "Don't they know enough to answer in full sentences?" When I went to visit her teacher for parent-teacher conferences, the teacher showed me the following essay. Adina told me what she had already thought about and wrote for her class. The essay below was edited for presentation here. The ideas are hers. I only edited it as I would any article for publication.


The Way We Communicate


Adina Stuhlman

Since the 1940’s we have changed the way we communicate. Now we have email, online chats and blogs. When writing we should write in full and complete sentences. E-mail, chatting and blogs are okay if we write correctly. We can communicate very easily with these things. However, if we do not write correctly when using e-mail, online chats and blogs there will be bad consequences to our wonderful language.

1. Many people, when writing on online chats, blogs and e-mail, use abbreviations such as: ttyl = talk to you later, l8er = later, btw = by the way, ur = you are, etc. When people use these abbreviations they start to speak and write like that all the time, which corrupts our speech. Our speech is corrupted because people start to think that these abbreviations and altering of our words is how we really write them or say them, when in fact they are not. These people lose the ability and the desire to write in full and complete sentences. Apathy toward writing correctly is bad for the English language.

2. When we e-mail or snail mail a letter or note to another person, (like an English teacher), and we use these new abbreviations, he or she might not understand them. The person who received the letter could think the abbreviations meant something other than what you, the sender meant, or not understand them at all. It is important that we do not use these abbreviations so people know what in the world we are talking about.

3. We need to write and speak in full sentences so that others can understand what we are trying to make a point of. If we ask a friend of ours (by e-mail, in the hall, or on the phone) “Hey what’s do we have to do tonight?” the friend will not know if we are talking about homework, your dance lesson, or play practice etc. Instead, we should say “Hey what was the homework in class? I did not catch the assignment.” When you say something like this the friend knows what you are trying to find out, and why. It is then much easier for the friend to help you.

In conclusion it is important to write correctly so that our wonderful language does not get ruined. We need to not use abbreviations because they can cause people to lose their want to write their word out fully. We also need to write and speak in full sentences then other people can understand us. If we do not write correctly there will be bad consequences.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A disagreement between a student and a teacher

Last Wednesday there was a disagreement between a student and a faculty member. I know about it because I overheard part of the discussion. On Thursday night I went to a lecture discussing teenage behavior and this put a question in my mind as to who was more mature on Wednesday-- the student or the faculty member. I will do my best to explain the story, but keep in mind that most of what I know is from being an unwilling witness. Part of the time I was trying to ignore the discussion, but when security was called I found myself in the middle. This is an open discussion and I welcome your opinion.

One of the skills a reference librarian needs to learn is listening and trying to figure out not just what the reader says they want but also what they really need. This a skill that also applies to the supervision of employees and as I learned on Thursday listening is one skill needed within one's family. The expression of the skill varies with the situation. Within a family love and family relations are involved. This relationship do not exist in the work place.

Some background -- The Writing Center has its office in the library a few feet from the reference desk. It is staffed by writing "experts" who other than proximity have no connection with the library. Sometimes they send "clients" to the reference desk for research help. They see "clients" by appointment and on a walk-in basis, however, they encourage appointments. Frequently the library staff directs students to the Writing Center (I say this in jest -- the students can't seem to read the 18 inch letters on the Writing Center sign.) I will refer to the student as "S" and the teacher as "T."

S made an appointment for 6:00 for the Writing Center and was assigned to see T. They had never met before. S arrived at 6:06. T was meeting with another student. The next part of the story I am not sure about what really happened. I overheard them talking and was debating whether to ask them to talk quieter. I didn't approach them. Had another library user complained I would have acted immediately. T (evidently) told S that since S was late, T thought he wasn't coming. T started helping a walk-in. S didn't like that. The appointment was scheduled for 30 minutes and S was held up talking to another teacher in another part of the building. S was annoyed. ( I did not hear any shouting.) T accused S of being aggressive and combative. Faculty members are not supposed to fight with students. They are supposed to call security.

At this moment I stepped out of the library to visit the men's room. While I was gone T had the library staff call security because the Writing Center does not have a phone. I walked back into the library before security got there. I was wearing a black suit coat and a name tag. I am tall I can look very official or threatening. Seeing them at the circulation desk I though T was referring S to me for help. I said in my most helpful tone, "May I help you?" S thought I was security and began telling his story. I listened and told him that I was the reference librarian. Then security showed up and T told his side of the story. I retreated, but I could hear most of what when on.

The library director, who was also wearing a dark suit jacket, heard part of the discussion with S, T and security. In reviewing the events, the director said that he and I should have handled it as the "Men in Black." (But he was joking. )

What can you learn from this concerning reference? Learn to listen without making judgments. Validate what each person has to say without making judgments as to who was right and wrong. Learn to step aside when you do not own the problem and really have no way of solving the problem. Sometimes, just listening will help people solve their own problems.

What should have happened? First the student should have thought "Do I trust such a teacher to help me? Is there another person who can help?" There were three librarians nearby who may have been able to give just as much help. T should have thought how to help both students. The librarian should learn to stay out of disagreements that concern other departments. Choose which battles to fight. S should have retreated and reported the incident to the director of the Writing Center. (However -- here is my rant -- too often I have seen reactions from the administration that indicate a serious lack of understanding the faculty member. I would never say a faculty member or administrator made a mistake in front of a library user. In this case I was a witness and if asked I would give my opinion to the administration. I have witnessed at least two other incidents with T that indicate a lack of professionalism. One act could have even been potentially dangerous.)

Librarians deal with management issues. Based on what I learned on Thursday, we should listen to the people and validate that we are listening. Sometimes active listening will help the people solve their own problem. If a decision needs to be made, explain your case, listen, and make your decision. If you argue or nag the person may just turn you out. Sometimes you don't need to give a reason. If you don't give a reason, the other person has no grounds to wear you down with counter arguments.

I hope this does not sound preachy. I just think that the combination of the Wednesday event in the library and the Thursday lecture helped me understand the people's actions. In the words of Dr Phil, "Would you rather be happy or right?" S could have gotten much more help if he stopped arguing and invested his time in getting real help and then writing his paper. T could have saved a lot of time if he just stopped the arguing and figured out a way to give S and the other student help.

What do you think? This is a discussion.


Comment from Jean M. Gerber

For your part I believe you handled it correctly by not getting involved. If the Writing Center was managed by the library you might have had to step in, but since it is just housed there you shouldn't be involved unless as you mentioned they were bothering patrons of the library.

Both the teacher and student were at fault. The student was late, but since he did have a half hour block, the teacher could have still helped them explaining that he needs to help another student, also.

The student should expect that due to their lateness, the teacher may have been helping another student and may not get the teacher's full attention.

As a teacher I deal with issues like this all of the time. Confrontation never works from both sides. Good listening is one of the most important skills you can develop. You need to listen to the person's argument and understand where they are coming from before you can make any judgments. Most problems occur when people rush to judgment. It seems like both the teacher and student did this and were somewhat unreasonable. If one party becomes irate or unreasonable then it is time to call for assistance.

A teacher should never have to deal with a student out-of-control, especially in front of other students. The same would go for a librarian. People in our society today seem to quickly move to anger when things don't go exactly as they want. It is a shame people can't take the time to relax, listen and not rush to judgment.

Most arguments could be avoided.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Education and clarity of thought

On TV today I heard a character say, "Education! Of course I believe in education. As long as it doesn't get in the way of clear thinking."

Last night I think one visitor to the reference desk had neither education or clear thinking. Here is the exchange (enhanced for maximum humor.)

Visitor: Is this the library?
Librarian: This is the library. May I help you?
Visitor: Yes. I'm looking for the library.
Librarian. This is the library.
Visitor: I looking for room L131 in the library.
Librarian: Room 131 is downstairs. It's the testing center, not the library. The library is on the second floor.
Visitor: I was told L131 was in the library. How do I find it?
Librarian: L131 is in the library building on the first floor, but the first floor is not the library.
Visitor: Oh! How do I find the library building?
Librarian: You are in the library building. You need to go to the first floor. As you enter the building L131 is on the right.
Visitor: Thanks, but the security desk told me L131 is in the library. Where is the library?

The first task of the placement test is finding the test center. Fail that and you will be letting the lack of clear thinking interfere with education.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding an artist

Last week a fellow librarian asked a question about an artist that she had scant information. Here is her question:
I have a group of pen and ink drawings by the Israeli artist David that I want to donate to a local group. They would like to know something about the artist. Each drawing is from a different book of the bible, all from KETUVIM (Writings), JONAH, RUTH, ECCLESIASTES, ETC. Does anyone know what I am talking about and can tell me about the artist? A google search has not been fruitful.
Since I knew the answer right away with just a moment to double check my memory, I wondered if others would know the answer. Of all the people I asked over Shabbat, no one remembered the book that contained these drawings. Then I posed the question to my students in a reference class. I wanted to know how they would approach solving this problem. None of the students had an answer. Do I have special knowledge or just a very focused memory?

Let's examine the question to figure out what is known and what one needs to know to figure out the answer. 1) We know the drawing are pen and ink, but there is no way to search by type of drawing. Let's use this information later.
2) The author has "David" in his name. We don't know if this is his first name or family name.
Since the librarian said the artist was Israeli, one can surmise the article signed the drawing with Hebrew letters. But that may not be correct. A search of "david" as a family name in the Encyclopedia Judaica or using Google does not help with the answer. There are too many hits on "david" as a first name to be of use.

3) We know the drawing or from books of the Ketuvim section of the Bible. The question only includes three of the books. Had the question included all the book represented in the drawing this would be easier to answer. This is a case of: read this list and tell be what does not belong. All books listed are read in the synagogue some time in the year. All are from one section of the BIble. However, there is no easy connection for these three titles. Perhaps if the questioner listed all the books prepresented, the search would be easier. If we say "Jonah" does not belong in the list, we are left with
"Ruth, Ecclesiastes, etc." From the question we have no idea how many books are represented by "etc." We ask what Ruth and Ecclesiastes have in common. They are part of the "five scrolls or hamash megillot." If we search "five scrolls" "hamash megillot" AND "jonah" will find so clese matched, but none that fill all the requirements. If you search five megilloth and jonah david The first hit will point you to the book: The Five Megilloth and Jonah, by H. L. Ginsberg (foreword), Ismar David (illustrator). This book is out of print, but it is on my shelf.

Looking at the book we can see the each of the Biblical books has a pen and ink drawing by Ismar David. I remember that the publisher, JPS, sold the drawings in a portfolio. This portfolio containing the drawings on heavy paper is most likely what the original questioner has. Searching Ismar David will point to a whole book on his life and work:
The Work of Ismar David, by Helen Brandshaft, David Pankow; Contributor Helen Brandshaft. Published by RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2005. There is also a web site with a short bio of Ismar David.

Monday, November 3, 2008

At what point does "sehel” kick in?

Part of the job of the librarian is to balance resources and the needs of users. Part of the balancing involves having a circulation policy that is fair. Books need to be available for all users. What happens when the needs of one reader conflict with the needs of another? What happens when the library staff tries to enforce the library rules?

Here’s the story -- A library patron borrowed books from branch library #1 last February and still has not returned them. Automatically the library system billed the patron for $445 and put a hold on the account. The patron went to branch library #2 and wanted to take out more books. The system would not let the patron check out books and the circulation person is not allowed to over ride that kind of the fine. The fine must be cleared with the business office at library #1. The patron became irate and yelled at the circulation staff. The library director was not in the library at the time.

The patron was so irate that she went to the president. The president sent an e-mail to the library director saying, "Please tell me why this student can not take books out?”

The library director wrote back and said there are 445 reasons why she can’t check out books.

The president wanted to know where the policy was written saying the students who own fines can’t check out books.

The district policy is: Persons who have a delinquent account will have a delinquency service indicator placed against all records. Students with delinquency service indicators will not be allowed to register or receive transcripts, degrees or certificates until their outstanding balances have been resolved and the service indicator has been released.

This should be “common knowledge.” That is a policy that is obvious. At what point does “sehel” (common sense) kick in?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jewish Chaplaincy

My son and I just finished studying a unit on the struggle to commission Jewish chaplains for the military and hospitals during the Civil War. The original federal law allowed only for Christian chaplains. The struggle for the appointment of Jewish chaplains was an important beginning of the formation of a united front for American Jewry and a precedent setting incident in the history of religious freedom in American law. I had forgotten that in February 2005 I wrote a Librarian's Lobby column on Jewish chaplaincy (, where I mentioned something about that struggle. Today while doing a Google book search I found that someone quoted my article in his book on chaplaincy. In the book, Leadership Paradigms in Chaplaincy, the author Joel Graves not only quotes me on pages 70-71 but also grants me the title, "Rabbi." I wish it was that easy to be granted the title.

I don't consider myself an expert in the subject. I was just writing some thoughts after hearing a sermon in shul about the need for chaplains in today's hospitals.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Monty Python moment

A Monty Python moment

Sometimes patrons of the library are so off the wall, their story needs to be told for everyone to enjoy. Last night a real zinger of an exchange went on. I had to bite my tongue to avoid laughing out loud.

I can't repeat it all but it was something like this. Richard is the librarian.

Richard: May I help you?
Lady: Can you help me? Where is the office?
Richard: Which office would you like?
Lady: Where is the office?
R: Is there someone you want to see?
L: Yes, where is the office?
R: Do you want a faculty office?
L. Where is the office?
R: What would you like to find in the office?
L. The office.
R: Do you want the GED office, registrar, or continuing ed office.
L. : Yes, the office.
R: Do you want the business office?
L. Yes, the office.
R: Do you want to register for classes?
L. I just want the office.
R. Ok. The security office is on the first floor, let me show you the way.

Richard finally got rid of her by politely showing her the stairs to the first floor.

Yarmulke Part 2 : Head Gear in General

Shana tov everyone,

So far I've been working on the question of yarmulke and Jewish head gear for 6 weeks. The more I investigate the more I find out is unknown. Here is the link to part 2 : Head Gear in General. Please consider this a work in progress. Changes and corrections are always possible.

The topic this month for Librarian's Lobby September 2008 is Head Gear in General

May everyone have a happy and sweet new year.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tetragramaton in St. Louis

A couple of weeks ago the St. Louis Jewish Light published a magazine with an article about St. Louis Jewish history. ("Historic Heritage" by Jamie Sokolik. St. Louis Jewish Light , September 2008 vol. 61. no. 36 pages 22-30,48)The writer made a comment that the tetragramaton name for God appears on the outside of the St. Louis Old Cathedral. She thought it was misspelled and did not know why. Upon examining some old Bibles I am not so certain this is a mistake.
The letters look like yod-chet-vav-chet instead of yod-hey.

While viewing Library of Congress' web site for Hebraica I saw a picture of a Bible published Amsterdam --Biblia Hebraica (Amsterdam, 1667).

Note the four-letter name of God, the Tetragrammaton, surrounded by light, at the head of the title page. This edition was aimed at both Jews and Christians. The letters look just like the inscription on the Church. I don't know if the church caligrapher was copying from a Bible like this, following a tradition of not writing God's name, or just made an artistic error, but I would not be so quick to say that he made a mistake.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Etymology of Yarmulke

After much research I finally finished the first part of the the study of yarmulke. It is posted as part of my Librarian's Lobby column for August. It is double the length of my usual column and includes 17 footnotes.

It is hard to believe that this is my 100th column. Please spread the word.
Use this link to read the article:

The additional parts will appear in the coming months. Since this month is the start of the school year and next month starts Elul, I can't promise when they will be done.

In the research and preparation process I had many discussions with people at shul. For some without an understanding of linguistics or history they are quick to quote what they were taught as a child. The type of head covering one wears today is related closely to the message you want to give to the people around you. If you wear a big black hat the message is different than a kippah with your favorite sports team.

Whenever I research a Yiddish word that does not come from Germanic or Hebrew roots there is always an interesting story. The next word people have asked me to search is "parve."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When did the yarmulke become Jewish?

Last Friday night someone at shul asked if I knew anything about the origin of yarmulke. He said that he found an interesting source and wondered if I could confirm or refute it. Since then I have been searching for answers. The problem is, there is no exact answer. The origin of the word itself is uncertain and could be the subject of a full article. The more I search, the more uncertain the answer becomes. In my next Librarian's Lobby I will explore some of the story. As a librarian the search is almost as interesting as the answer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Targum or Targum Publishing

On AUTOCAT a cataloger was puzzled by the heading

Bible. O.T. Psalms. Aramaic. Targum.

“Targum” is the Hebrew for “translation,” but when referring to the Tanakh it is used for an Aramaic translation. In this heading "targum" is noted as the name of the version. There are a couple of targumim around, Onkelos, Jonathan and Pseudo-Jonathan, but Psalms only has one “Targum” and it is not attributed to any particular author. It seems repetitious to have both "Aramaic" and” Targum."

Targum Onkelos on the Torah is the official, authoritative Aramaic translation. The Aramaic translation of Psalms is partly allegorical and partly literal. It was probably written by more than one person in the time of the Roman Empire.

Similar LCSH headings are:

Bible. O.T. Deuteronomy. Aramaic. Onkelos.
Targum sheni.
Bible. O.T. Former Prophets. Aramaic. Targum Jonathan
Bible. O.T. Genesis. Aramaic. Onkelos.
Bible. O.T. Isaiah. Aramaic

Not used are:

Bible. O.T. Deuteronomy. Aramaic. Targum Onkelos
Bible. O.T. Esther. Aramaic. Targum sheni
Isaiah Targum

However, since I did not see the book that the cataloger had there is another possibility. The heading is created with the “Bible” as the collective name of the work followed by the name of the book. Thirdly is the language of the translation followed by the version. If I wrote an English translation of Psalms a possible heading is: Bible. O.T. Psalms. English. Stuhlman. If the publisher is more prominent than the individual translator the version would be the name of the publisher.

The daily student newspaper at Rutgers University, The Daily Targum was founded in 1869. The name of their publisher is Targum Publishing. If they published the work that the AUTOCATer had in hand, then the heading would be perfectly reasonable as “Targum” would be a version.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fun with employment ads

I sometimes wonder who writes the amusing ads that Jay Leno has on his Tonight Show. However, even in the library field ads are written without paying attention to the ambiguity of the English language. Recently I discussed some of the amusing features of the following ads. I have removed the identifiable features of these ads to protect the guilty and edited them to better amuse you.

I should start with a well worded ad --
Librarian for Young Adult (YA) Services
AR Memorial Library

We are looking for a dynamic person to be the advocate for teens in our library. Provides reference, outreach, and readers’ advisory services to teens.

The poorly written ad.
Teen Librarian
ST District Library
The Teen Librarian is responsible for providing reference assistance to patrons in the library's fiction collection and is responsible for answering staff and patron teen questions. The ability to read write, speak, and comprehend English. Ability to read computer screens, type, and move about the public service area.

Both positions require an MLS, but tell me where are you going to find a teenager with a masters degree? Are there patrons lost in the fiction shelves? Do they want someone who can both type and move about at the same time? Do they provide special keyboards to do that? My daughter does have English language ability that exceed the norm for her age, but is that enough for the job? I've seen college graduates (some with advanced degrees) who can't write a coherent sentence.

My all time favorite computer related ad was from a company that wanted five years experience running an IBM AS 400 computer system that IBM only started selling a month earlier.

=== Note from Aug. 11--
I did find some teenagers with masters degrees. One of my neighbors reported that some girls in Brooklyn earned college credit as high school students and were able to earn a masters degree before their 20th birthday. However, I don't think any of them attended an ALA accredited library school.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is work?

A couple of weeks ago I had to fill out an application that asked for average number of hours worked per week. I thought the request was odd to ask of a professional. In some ways line between my hours of work and not work is fuzzy. Even when I was in college there were times I could not differentiate between working, preparation and studying. Just to make sure that I was not totally on my own in this question over Shabbat I asked a teacher how many hours a teacher works per week. He answered that it is hard to tell. Teachers need to make preparations outside of class. There is no end to the preparation and study. Even though as the years go by the preparation for any given subject may be reduced or be less intense, preparation is still part of the job. When a teacher has vacation, they continue to think and learn.

In halaha we have an exact definition of work that is forbidden on Shabbat and holidays. In physics we have a definition of work. Many kinds of work as defined in physics are allowed on Shabbat and many aspect of forbidden Shabbat work are not work in the rules of physics. If an employee keeps track of hours for the purpose of getting paid, they one can calculate the average number of weekly hours. If the amount of work never ends, then how do you answer the question of hours worked? If I grant that one can not work every hour in week, how is work defined? Is reading a book for pleasure work for a librarian? Is down time for sleep part of preparation? If your machines are working for you, are you working? If your investments are earning a return are you working? If one preparation hour can be used for two or more paid jobs, how many hours do you credit for that work? One can easily say they work more than 168 hours per week if they consider sleep as preparation and every hour their machines work is credited to more than one paid job.

So -- What is the definition of work as applicable to employment history?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Urge to Yell!

I spend a lot of time teaching future librarians and trying to promote the idea that librarians are skilled professionals. Compared to computer programmers and analysts, new librarians know about information and how information is used. Librarians also have a greater depth to their knowledge of technology. So-- why do computer programmers get paid more?

Two incidents happened this week that make me want to yell. I will hide the names to protect the innocent.

On Wednesday I wanted to get away from my study and computer to read in preparation for a class. No more than 10 minutes after I left the study and computer I get a phone call. It was fellow librarian, MJ, asking if I knew the phone number of a person in our group. The MJ said the number wasn't listed. First, I did not know the number. Even if I did based on our last meeting I would have been hesitate to share this person's number. I asked MJ to check or MJ indicated that she did not know of these services and asked how to spell them. OK, I spelled s-w-i-t-c-h-b-o-a-r-d dot c-o-m. MJ said thank you and I went back to my reading. 15 minutes later MJ called and said that she still couldn't find the number. I told MJ that I was not near my computer. I told her where this person worked and told her to call the office. MJ begged me to look up the office number. Reluctantly, I did. I asked if she had experienced trouble with MJ replied, oh no. I don't use the computer, I leave that to my husband.

Luckily for us -- MJ retired from working in a library.

Second --
I came across an advertisement for a synagogue librarian that included:

Requirements: Responsibilities include: •Selecting books for acquisition •Maintaining periodicals, as well as general catalogue •Proficiency in managing circulation. •Coordinate library activities and programs with Rabbis, Gan Shalom pre-school, youth and adult education departments.

Qualifications include: •Interest in Jewish education and issues •Some library experience and skills •Part-time availability- includes Sunday mornings, as well as one full weekday.

Salary: $12- $15 an hour

I sent this to other librarians in our group with a comment that the salary is pretty low. Comments came back such as:

that's about what ABC Temple, in [city deleted], IL, used to pay its librarian, until they decided they could no longer afford one at all."

"Not surprising, since they aren't looking for a professional librarian."

"....the job requirements do not match the qualifications."

" I have been getting only $15/hour for about 10 years even though I have an MLS."

Librarians who work in schools should be on the same pay scale as teachers. This how the public schools calculate compensation. Teachers can start with a BA and no experience in Chicago public schools in the mid $40's. With a masters degree and experience they get more.

The urge to yell subsided when I shared the story and we all had a good laugh.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Web page updates

I updated one of my web pages to include the sunrise and sundown times for Chicago. Try it out at:>

The JLN Newsletter web page was updated for the new president of the chapter.
JLN Newsletter

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Visit to JTS Library --> Corrections

Today I heard from three librarians who had corrections for my Librarian's Lobby column of July. They each had corrections to the article. No one outside of the JTS would even know about the errors. One was in the caption to a photo. I mentioned that the staircase was closed. It is not. I fixed the mistake in identifying people. Since I didn't mention names, no one outside of the library would notice.

However, no one noticed a word that I misspelled in the first line. It was in Hebrew and I guess the spell checker couldn't help me.

The article has been corrected and I hope everyone is happy. I am just flattered that someone reads what I wrote and took the time to help me fix it.

The corrected column may be downloaded from:

I received a request to review the online bibliographies of Hebrew books, but I am not able to do it because I do not have access to them. I am looking for ideas for new columns. Please send me your ideas and questions concerning libraries and Jewish books.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

JLN Press Release

Text Box: Local participants included:  From the left: Cheryl Banks of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El (retired),  Marcie Eskin of the Board of Jewish Education and Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah, Rose Novil of Oakton Community College, Rachel Kamin of Des Plaines Public Library, Debbie Colodny of Cook Memorial Public Library and Sefer So Good,  Donna Stewart of Temple Chai, Joy Kingsolver of Spertus Institute. Seating in front Shoshanah Seidman of Northwestern University, and Judy Weintraub (retired).  Missing from picture: Debbie Feder of Ida Crown Jewish Academy.

From : Judaica Library Network Of Metropolitan Chicago

Date: July 2, 2008

Contact: Daniel Stuhlman

Chicago Area Librarians Attend Annual Professional Conferences

The Judaica Library Network of Metropolitan Chicago (JLN), an organization of over 50 local librarians, had 10 members attend the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) annual convention held in Cleveland, OH June 22-25, 2008. The convention’s theme was: Jewish Libraries: Tradition, Text & Technology. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Ellen Frankel, editor-in-chief and CEO of the Jewish Publication Society. Her topic was: “How the People of the Book Became the People of the Book Business: A History of Jewish Publishing in America.” Dr. Frankel examined the rich history of the Jewish Publication Society and how it promoted Jewish history, culture and religion in English.

The 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Awards for children’s books were presented by Rachel Kamin, outgoing chair of the award committee, to: Sarah Gershman and Kristina Swarner for The Bedtime Sh'ma, Sid Flesichman for The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, and Sonia Levitin for Strange Relations. The ceremony also recognized other notable books and continued with a special celebration of Jewish children's literature in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Awards.

The Research and Special Libraries division (RAS) had sessions on the digitization of archival collections, changing the Jewish National and University Library to the National Library of Israel, the history of Yeshiva University Libraries, and the role of printed ephemera in special collections.

Chicago area Judaica librarians have been participating in AJL for over 33 years. The national association's annual convention last met in Chicago in 1995 and JLN will host the convention in July 2009.

This international gathering of Judaica librarians included specialists from academic, school, research, community center and synagogue/temple libraries. It is a wonderful opportunity for professional development and networking with other Judaica librarians.

In addition, librarians attended other educational and training conferences to help them in their work. Rena Citrin, of Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, will be attending with other area teachers a two week seminar in Israel. We at JLN are proud of our members' dedication to their profession and to their libraries.

The officers for 2008-09 are: President: Debbie Feder; Vice-President/President-elect: Rochelle Elstein; Treasurer: Susan Bayer: Recording Secretary; Rena Citrin; Corresponding Secretary: Joy Kingsolver.

For more information about the Association of Jewish Libraries, visit or locally the Judaica Library Network of Metropolitan Chicago

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Subway Librarian Moment

Last Wednesday (June 18) I was taking a subway in Brooklyn going to Penn Station. Since I was unfamiliar with the route, I didn't know that the train went from underground to above ground and I asked the person next to me if I was in the right direction. The person next to me was wearing a kipah and we started a conversation. I was obviously a visitor and he asked what I was doing in New York and where I was from. I told him that I was a librarian from Chicago and I was on my way to the university where I teach. He told me that I he was working on a book and asked for my help. I was reluctant to help; I didn't think I could help someone in the few minutes of the subway ride. He was getting off at the same stop I was and so I gave in.

I have always wanted to advise a publisher before publication the best way to create a title page. I helped him with the title page and some stylistic advice. He also sent me a PDF copy of the book via e-mail.

Friday morning in shul I related the story because I was so amazed that I had a conversation while riding the New York Subway. Usually we think of New Yorkers as those who keep to themselves in public places. My friend in shul said in an amazed voice, "you got a seat on the subway?"

Monday morning (June 23) I got a call from the author thanking me for my advice and asking if I had more comments. I told him that his bibliography needed to me more standard so that readers could find the sources.

Friday, June 6, 2008

One Laptop

I have been experimenting with the One LapTop per Child computer. It has some interesting features such as built - in WiFi connectivity, 3 USB ports, a microphone and a camera. It runs on a limited version of Linux.

This machine is supposed to be for children and I can't figure it out. I can't figure out how to save or use files from the USB drive. The directions and on screen prompts are not helpful. I was hoping to use it as a web browser and e-book while on a trip. It is much smaller than business PCs. The included books will not display the pages. I can't find another book to download. How do they expect children to figure out this system?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Ten Commandments 2

The professor who originally asked the question wrote to say thanks and he wanted to know both about the concept and the term, "ten commandments." Another reader asked if I found someone who already wrote an article on the topic. I did not look for an article. In the old days before computer data bases, researchers would tediously search paper indexes or flip through pages of the books. Google is a great tool, but it misses much older material. This reader, who is also a Ph.D, says that today researchers don't bother to look for older stuff. I thought that my research used three ways to find answers and should have been sufficient. I did find English books from the 15th century.

After talking to people today, I realize that my research is not complete. I am interested in searching for more Jewish sources for the use of the term.

Monday, June 2, 2008

More Ten Commandments

After talking to people over Shabbat about the term, "Ten Commandments" I decided that the topic needed a fuller treatment. My June issue of the Librarians' Lobby reports my findings. I am not certain when the term entered into Jewish usage. In the 1930's Rabbi Hertz used "Decalogue."

To read the issue goto:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Subject headings

This morning on AUTOCAT (a listserv for catalogers) someone asked about helping non-librarians assign subject headings. I just finished preparing a lecture on subject headings. Cataloging is both a science (follow the rules) and an art (application of the rules to the library and item in hand.) One can not hurry experience. In my lecture I deal with the theory and the practice of assigning subjects. I wish that I could just tell the original poster to sign up for my class.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ten Commandments

This week a Judaic studies professor asked on the listserv, H-Judaic about the earliest usage of the term, "Ten Commandments" as compared to the Greek, "dekalog" or Hebrew עשרת הדברות. This is a great question for a librarian because all I needed to do was to search for term using Google Scholar. Google Scholar also searches for alternative spellings.

I got some hits and then went to the data base of early English books to read the actual page. This opened more questions. Did the professor mean modern English, middle English, or Anglo-Saxon? Did a Latin term match what he wanted? Here is what I answered --

I found several books published in Middle English before 1500 with the subject heading of Ten Commandments. Below are two books from the 16th century with Ten commandments (in an early spelling) in their titles. There are many books from the 1600's with the expression "Ten Commandments" spelled as in modern English.

Author: Hooper, John, d. 1555.
Title: A declaratyon of the ten holy commaundementes of almyghtye God [electronic resource] : wryten Exo. xx. Deu. 5. Collected out of the scrypture canonycall, by Iohn Houper, with certeyne newe addisions made by the same maister Houper.

Published: [Imprynted at London : In Paules churche yarde at the sygne of ye Byble by [T. Gaultier? for] Rycharde Iugge], Anno. M.D.L. [1550]

Title: Ihesus. The floure of the commaundementes of god [electronic resource] : with many examples and auctorytees extracte and drawen as well of holy scryptures as of other doctours and good auncient faders, the whiche is moche vtyle and prouffytable vnto all people. The. x. commaundementes of the lawe. Thou shalt worshyp one god onely. And loue hym with thy herte perfytely ... The fyue commaundementes of the chyrche. The sondayes here thou masse and the festes of co[m]maundement. ... The foure ymbres vigyles thou shalte faste, [and] the lente entyerly.

Published: [Enprynted at London : In Flete strete at the sygne of the sonne by Wynkyn de Worde. The seco[n]de yere of ye reygne of oure moost naturell souerayne lorde kynge Henry ye eyght of that name, Fynysshed the yere of oure lorde. M.CCCCC.x. [1510] the. xiiii. daye of Septembre]
Here is a quote from: Laurent, Dominican, fl. 1279.

Title: This book was compyled [and] made atte requeste of kyng Phelyp of Fraunce ... whyche book is callyd in frensshe. le liure Royal· that is to say the ryal book. or a book for a kyng. ...
Date: 1485

¶Here after ben conteyned & declared the x comandementes of the lawe which god wrote with his propre fyngre / & delyuerd them to Moyses the prophete for to preche to the peple for to holde & kepe capitulo primo

Based on this published evidence, the expression existed in Middle English, but the current spelling is from the early 17th century. [book is not paged, this is from image 2]

Notice the author lived in the 13th century even though the book was not printed until 1485.

Based on this print evidence, the term in English "x comandementes of the lawe" existed in the Middle Ages, but the modern spelling, "ten commandments" was first used in early 1600's. It is possible the term existed in St. Augustine's Questiones in Exodum, (5th century) but he did not write in English. The professor thanked me, but he didn't say if he was only interested in modern English answers.