Thursday, January 28, 2021

Remembering the past few years


Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman 
August 2000

Remembering the past few years

I would like to publicly thank Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld and wish him hatzlacha in his new position. Working with him at Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel and the Chicago Rabbinical Council has been a wonderful experience. We have learned from each other and hope that the projects and ideas that we shared have made KJBS, the CRC and the larger community a better place. 
This is my last column as the Librarian of the Saul Silber Library. The column will continue next month with a new focus. I will be working with the new Executive Director and with my loyal readers to write about the world of books, learning and knowledge. I would appreciate any ideas and suggestions for topics for my columns.

In the last issue of (Chicago Rabbinical Council) Hadashot several staff members reviewed the accomplishments of the CRC. One of the accomplishments of this column has been to guide readers to new ideas about books and knowledge. The column I wrote on the story of the two brothers who met on what became the site of the 1st and 2nd Temple has been quoted and referred to by librarians ever since. In my columns I have tried to show a process of finding information and turning that information into useful knowledge. Later in this column I will tell you how this process will be part of my new venture.

I would like to review some of the Library's accomplishments that allow library readers to help themselves.

1. We put up signs to help readers. It is amazing how a sign can help readers find what they want more effectively. The Library has signs on each tier of book shelves. The stacks have signs and posters to guide the readers to the place to find their books. Each book tier and area of the reading room has an identification number to ease locating of materials. These location codes are posted and in the library guidebooks.

2. The Library's computer catalog now has over 23,500 items from all branches of the Library. Every item added to the collection since 1995 is in the computer catalog. The catalog is also available on the World Wide Web at : This is a temporary URL and will be changed when the vendor upgrades their software in October. While the cataloging is far from complete, it is a vast improvement over the card catalog. Since the Library never had an inventory, the card catalog has items that have been missing for over 40 years. Every item in the computer catalog that has been recataloged has been processed and relabeled. I have been complimented that our spine labels are much easier to read and they make finding a book much easier than most of the big university libraries in the area.

Cataloging is a never-ending project. The idea and mission of cataloging is to organize and record the information about a library item so that it can be found and used. The catalog contains not only books, but also videos, CDs, articles, analytics, "see" references, museum objects and even the Library's equipment. Some books are easy to catalog because they have clear information on the title pages and cataloging in publication. Some books are difficult because they are missing vital information such as author, date of publication, and publisher. Serials are a special challenge because they are published periodically and have multiple authors. Publishers that change the name of their publications make cataloging difficult and make readers struggle to find the issues they need.

3. The Library branch in the Blitstein Teachers Institute has blossomed from a small collection of text books into two attractive rooms with new book shelves holding over 3000 volumes. The collection contains books in areas that support the curriculum. In addition to Judaica volumes that largely duplicates what is in the main collection, the library has literature, psychology, business, education, and computer science books that are not duplicated in the main library. All items are cataloged in the library management system.

4. The Library has received major gifts from CRC members over the past five years. Their names have been mentioned in my columns. The Library has been able to fill in major gaps in our collections thanks to these gifts. However, gifts are a mixed blessing. Chances are that two CRC rabbis have similar interests and collect many of the same books. The Library keeps what we need and then passes the others to appropriate places. The CRC office itself has many of the duplicate gifts. These gifts are an important source of out-of-print books that the Library could never purchase at a book store.

Adding value to data and information to make knowledge

Libraries are store houses of knowledge. Books are the frozen knowledge of their authors. Understanding the terminology of "data", "information" and, "knowledge" is important to understanding how each one of you adds value to information. Data is easily stored and retrieved in a computer data base. The pieces of data are assembled to become information. Information is integrated in the brain then changes it into knowledge. Knowledge is learned by humans based on information. Once learned knowledge changes behavior.

The above paragraph may sound unclear, but let me describe knowledge in terms that are very familiar. Rabbis make sermons. Think of the value rabbis add to data to make sermons that share knowledge. For example, a rabbi will start with an idea from the sidra (or any other source). This idea is one of the datum. The rabbi will look for sources in the Torah and later rabbinic and Jewish literature to support the idea. These sources (data) are gathered and then become information. The information is integrated into the rabbi's experience, background and previous knowledge to help synthesize new ideas. These new ideas are integrated to make the knowledge that will be shared in the sermon. The knowledge is received by the congregation and if it effects a change in behavior, it is part of the person's knowledge. Each step adds value to the previous step. The initial idea needs the added value of the sources; the sources need the value integrating them into new thought worth sharing and finally the congregation benefits from the integration, synthesis and integration into knowledge.

This adding value is not limited to sermons. The project could be anything that requires gathering data and adding value before passing it on to another person. My new venture will be helping organizations and businesses understand the process of adding value to information and turning that information into knowledge. This process is called knowledge management and it is what I have been doing for over 30 years and never knew it before four weeks ago. Cataloging is the most important aspect of the organization, storage and retrieval of knowledge. Knowledge is the most valuable human endeavor that can be shared but never touched, felt, or seen. Librarians are experts in adding value to data through their dedication to organizing, storing, and retrieving data and information. In future columns, I will continue discussing adding value to data.

©2001 by Daniel D. Stuhlman.  Last revised April 8, 2021  CRC33

Monday, January 25, 2021

President Interview pt 44-- Gifts for the College


New President Interview  part 44
Gifts for the College

Question> I read in a local newspaper about a major gift of 12,000 volumes to a small college in Stonebrook. Since I know you are passionate about books and libraries, did your college try to acquire that collection? 

 Answer> Gifts and donations can be a valuable part of every college and library’s collection development strategy. Most of the artwork in our college was either an outright donation or the money was given for purchase. A gift of money or other financial instruments is always better because the college can choose the most appropriate purchase.  The donor can be acknowledged, and the object can be physically integrated into the building décor.  All material selection whether new, commissioned or donations should be consistent with the institution’s mission and policies.  That means all stakeholders must agree to a common written policy.

Our College’s policy is that each department or school drafts a gift and donation policy then the College administration makes sure the policies are consistent and approves them.  The policies are posted on our website so that anyone in or out of the College can read them.

 The College policy includes:


Gifts are accepted, with the understanding that the College may add the items to the collection at its discretion, sell or dispose of them if they do not meet the selection standards. The College is not required to discuss where or when to display the items.


For the library the following is added:


As a general rule, gift books will be added to the collection based on the same subject selection and collection development criteria as purchased materials. The library reserves the right to determine the retention, location, cataloging treatment, and other considerations related to the use or disposition of all gifts[1].

 The College library would have declined the gift you mentioned because it did not fall within the collection development criteria.

 Q>  The collection was the collection of a recognized scholar and collector and the continuation of his father’s collection. Wasn’t the collection worth a lot of money? Why would you turn down a valuable gift?

 A> The short answer is that the subject scope of the books was not appropriate for our College. The College library generally collects book based on the curriculum and needs of the students and faculty.  In addition, about half the books were in poor physical condition and we couldn’t afford the disposal fees. Gifts require processing and cataloging costs.  Rarely do donors give money to catalog and process items.

 Q>  What can you tell us about the college that did accept the gift? 

 A> The college is in Stonebrook, a suburb of Large City.  It was established in the 1925 with 10 students.  In 1950 as a result of a new mission, more students, community support, a large donation, and desire to be a great institution it bought 15 acres of land for a campus far enough away from the city to be isolated, yet close enough to go to Large City when needed.  Today the area is built up and the community is not isolated. The college began as a yeshiva, a school of higher learning for post-high school men Studies led to ordination as a rabbi.  Students had to earn a bachelor’s degree at a nearby college or university before they could earn ordination. In the mid-1950’s a women’s school was added, but classes and activities were separate. Concurrent to the move to Stonebrook, an undergraduate program was added that included courses that led to an associate degree. Students could earn a bachelor’s degree at another college. The college is accredited by the state and appropriate agencies. Later they added a high school department. The library has books for Jewish studies and liberal arts.


The picture on the left is of the library building. The picture on the right is a sample area of the stacks.  The first floor has the dining room, meeting rooms, and the beit midrash (study hall).  The men and women share the beit midrash but have separate sides. The Jewish studies classes are single sex only.  Some of the liberal arts and science classes are mixed sex; some are separate. The library on the second floor, contains the reading room, quiet study rooms, storage rooms, work areas, offices for staff, and the book stacks. The campus has other buildings connected with underground tunnels so that people can avoid the inclement weather.

Today the post-high school men students major in Talmud to earn a Bachelor of Talmudic Law.  The program requires a second liberal arts or science major at another college. If they want rabbinic ordination they need to take the additional classes to satisfy those requirements.  Women students can earn a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature that requires a major in Jewish studies and a second major from another university. If women students are interested, they can study toward a Master of Arts in Talmud or a MA in Religious Education. Graduates may go on to graduate schools and many become rabbis, teachers, other professionals, physicians, dentists, businesspeople, academics, etc.  I saw one article about a graduate who is now a dentist and in his spare time created an app for mobile phones to help people find the times and places for religious services when away from home. Most graduates have a life-long commitment to learning and self-improvement. They are very loyal to the college and annually support it through several fund raising and social events.  The college offers community classes and weekly publications.

 When the college added a graduate program, they needed a research level library collection.  They had several professors who took an interest in helping with library acquisitions.  The library built a collection of Judaica and Hebraica that includes books as early as the 16th century to the most recent materials.  However, like most colleges they were low on funds for purchases and depended on donations. In 2015 the library had 40,000 volumes.  In 2016 the administration without consulting the librarians said “yes” to a donation of 12,000 books. The donor was still alive and said that “his assistants” would start sending boxes of books.  The donor sent large collections of German-Jewish periodicals, but no monographs.  The college president never saw the collection before accepting it and didn’t understand the logistical steps required to integrate such a large collection into the existing library.

The donor passed away in 2018 and no one from the library or college inspected the books before they were packed and shipped.  One day a moving van arrived with about 400 boxes.  Immediately the college president knew something was not right.  Many of the boxes had been sitting in improper storage areas and were moldy, mildewed, or too worn out to be of use. That’s when they called me. The president realized the gift was more of a liability than a treasure. They had to hire staff to separate the books in good condition from books that needed immediate removal to prevent the spread of book worms, mold, mildew, etc.[2]

The head librarian at the time was near retirement and just never got around to examining the books. He had philosophical and management style disagreements with the college administrators. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students are not on campus. The current librarian and the administration decided to assimilate the collection, which after culling the damaged books, is now about 6,000 items.

 Q> The professor sounds like a Tanach (Hebrew Bible) teacher I had in high school.  His love of Bible was almost to the point eccentricity.  He was also a professor of Hebrew Bible at a Christian theological college on the North Shore.  He wrote many books and articles, but I don’t recall any titles.  He never referred to his own books by title. He was rumored to live on a vast estate inherited from his parents.  Supposedly, the house had three floors above ground, basements, and hidden rooms.  His parents used the third floor as a large party room, but after their deaths, there were no parties.  Is this the same person who donated the books?

 A> Sounds like the same person.  He never married and there were no heirs to take care of the collection.  The estate administrators wanted to sell the collection, but there were no buyers. In 2010 his health declined and eventually he passed away from unknown illnesses.

Q> Would you show us some of the older books from the collection?

A> Since Bible was his subject and the interest of his father the collection had some old copies of texts, commentaries, and translations.  Here are pictures of two title pages. Notice they are in Latin. The first is from 1714 and the second from 1633.  They are worth about $450 each (according to listings with dealers) and there are high quality scans available on the Internet. 

 Biblia parva has the Hebrew text with Latin translation. The second book, Paraphrasis in Danielem  has a Latin translation and commentary for the Book of Daniel.



 Q>As always you have given me much to think about. We are out of time. Thank you.


Part forty-four of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 40 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress, I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. The details, town of Stonebrook and the colleges mentioned in this article are composites from my imagination. Everything is true, but some details have not yet happened. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

Peer-review status-- This article was reviewed by two librarians, a Hebrew Bible teacher, and a businessman with no academic connections.  Edits were made based on their comments.  Last revised January 25, 2021



[1] For more detail visit the ALA website for the article: “Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries”.

[2] Just a point of management -– In well-run organizations there are different levels of expertise and knowledge. Each management level has a different view of macro and micro issues.  Presidents and other administrators know about the organization and have macro of the institutional needs. Professionals such as librarians and computer specialists know about their areas and have macro knowledge of how information and computers work in the larger world.  Librarians and computer people need to work and cooperate with experts outside of the home organization.

[3] Biblia parva Hebraeo-Latina in quibus dicta insigniora omnia ex codice Hebraeo sec. ordinem libb. biblicorum, & in his pleraeque, & in tantum non omnes voces Hebr. & Chaldaicae codicis S. cum cura exhibentur . operâ & studiô Henrici Opitii.Quinta vice edita., 1714  by Heinrich: 1642-1712) Opitii, Henrici (Opitz (Author)

[4] Paraphrasis in Danielem / By Joseph ben David Ibn Yaḩya, Constantinus L'Empereur ab Opwyck · 1633

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Summer Library Conferences July 2000

Librarian's Lobby July 2000, Daniel D. Stuhlman Summer Library Conferences CRC32

Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman

July 2000
Summer Library Conferences

Summer is the time when library associations have their annual conferences. The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL)

held their convention June 18-21 in Washington, DC and the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference was in Chicago at McCormick Place July 7-11. I attended two days of the ALA conference. It is always a great learning experience to listen to the presentations, to participate in the business meetings, and to meet informally with librarians and vendors. As a professional librarian, I enjoy meet with colleagues and learning from them.

Author Herman Wouk was one of the speakers at AJL. As you know Herman Wouk is a observant Jew, who lives in Palm Beach, California. His most recently published book is The Will to Live On: This Is Our Heritage deals with his Judaism. He spoke about writing and the importance of librarians in his life. He showed appreciation toward the staff of the Library of Congress, who have always been wonderfully helpful to his work. He also described trying to impress the librarians at his local branch of the New York Public Library in The Bronx when he was young by taking out the biggest books he could manage to carry. Mr. Wouk was honored in 1955 with an honorary degree from Yeshiva University and was also a visiting professor there in the 1950's.

At a session sponsored by the rare book and manuscript group, I heard speakers tell about the need to preserve not just information, but the actual objects. One example that demonstrated the need to save the objects concerned an author who wrote a commentary on a manuscript. The author did not understand some of the sections. To another reader who had seen the original it was obvious that the author worked from a microfilm or photocopy. In the original, marginal notes existed that would have made the difficult section clear. The photocopier was a technician who set his camera for the main text, never realizing the marginal notes were also important.

The process of removing books for library collection is called weeding. Libraries remove books to make room for new books. Books are removed because they are no longer valuable to the collection. Another story illustrates that incorrect weeding of collection is nothing new. A library discarded a copy of Shakespeare's first folio when they received the second edition in 1684. The library thought the old edition had no value. Eighty years later they realized their mistake and were able to repurchase the exact copy of the book they gave away. In the 17th century many books were sold without bindings. This library recognized the bindings of the first folio.

In another story a library sold over 100,000 books weeded from their collections by the pound over a ten year period only to later find out many were last copies of important works. Several of these discarded books were worth over $1000. Books are interesting objects because their value depends on factors of informational content and their physical being. We can store the text electronically, photograph them for use in another location, but we can not always get what we need without the original.

I also participated in sessions that dealt with sharing good ideas for publicity, programming and fund raising, a discussion on internet access in libraries, and listened to famous writers talk about their library experiences.

Improving Literacy

Sarah Ann Long, director of North Suburban Library System, ended her term as ALA president. In her reports she talked about partnerships of schools, libraries, business people, churches, synagogues [etc.] that would band together for improving literacy. She wants libraries to be the catalysts for improving community literacy.

You may ask, "Are we not the people of the book?" We are, but today literacy is much more than reading books. We need to be literate in all media -- print and electronic. Ms. Long wrote about increasing library use and reading ability as a community goal. She also talked about the need to recognize the value of librarians. Librarians are paid less than other professionals with similar training. There are school librarians with masters degrees and many years experience paid less than beginning teachers with only a BA in the same school.


At the ALA exhibit hall, books are still the most wide-spread media. Over 2,000 vendors of supplies, services, and media showed their products. Publishers gave away posters, books and catalogs to encourage librarians to buy more books from their companies. Publishers arranged for authors to sign copies of their books. Other media were also being sold including computer CD-Roms, audio CD-Roms, audio tapes, and video tapes. It is exciting to see that now we can access so much more of the information that we need from a library.

Books on Tape

A few months ago I was introduced to books on tape. Before listening to my first tape, I thought this was a way to avoid reading. Then I tried playing children's tapes in the car. My children were quiet. Listening to a tape is like listening to a performance. The HTC Library has only a few books on tape. On two tapes, Tevye, the Dairyman and The Legend of the Baal-Shem, Theodore Bikel's voice adds to the enjoyment of a story that is not present when reading the book. Some people listen to tapes while cooking or working around the house when they can't hold a book. While recorded books have long been available for the blind, books on tape are now for general public and not just for those with vision problems.

©2021 by Daniel D. Stuhlman
Last revised Jan. 21, 2021