Winter 1998/99 January 1999 / Tevet 5759)

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From the editor's desk

In this issue Charles E. Jones writes about the collection of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and Cheryl Banks writes about the library of North Suburban Beth El. In future issues I hope that each of you will send information about yourself and or your library.

The Asher Library of Spertus Institute has both remodeled their space and appointed a new library director, Glenn Ferdman. Let's all welcome him and hope that he takes an active role in JNL.

If you have news, information, ideas, or articles that you want to share please send them by e-mail or on disk : Daniel Stuhlman, 6617 N. Mozart, Chicago, IL 60645. E-mail :

Minutes of the Fall Meeting

Sunday, October 18, 1998

The meeting was called to order at 2:05 p.m. by President Margaret Burka. In attendance were eight members. Margaret thanked Eva Eisenstein and Temple Sholom of Chicago for hosting the meeting.

The minutes from the summer meeting were accepted as written.

Treasurer's Report:

Judith Simon, Treasurer, announced that there has been no activity on the account.

Future Meetings:

The date and place of the January meeting is still tentative. Robbin Katzin will check on availability of Hillel Torah. There was discussion of our ability to pay for Rabbi Matanky, and of the possibility of using our members instead to do the workshop. There was also discussion of hosting a large meeting open to non members to raise money and create visibility for the organization.

The May meeting will probably be held some time in the first two weeks of the month.

A copy of the newsletter will be sent to

Etta Gold for the AJL "Chapter Chatter" column.

New member list:

A list of members will be created when all renewals and new memberships are returned to Judith Simon.

The business meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m. The topic of the education meeting centered on different ways of celebrating Jewish Book Month.

Respectfully submitted: Eva Eisenstein, Secretary. Librarian, Temple Sholom of Chicago E-mail:

People and Places

From Jerusalem retired librarian and former Chicagoan Cecile Panzer (nee Warschaw) writes : Although I did not work in Chicago, I went to high school and the University of Illinois, when I lived in Chicago- 1946-1954). I am a retired librarian, who studied librarianship in Israel, and am now the Chairperson of the Israel Society of Special Libraries and Information Centers. From 1972-1996, I was director of the Library and Documentation Unit of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Research Archives of The Oriental Institute

by Charles E. Jones
Research Archivist - Bibliographer
The Oriental Institute - Chicago

The Research Archives of the Oriental Institute is a non-circulating collection of books and other publications relating to the ancient Near East for the reference and research of Oriental Institute faculty, staff, students and members. Its materials span the history of the ancient Near East from prehistoric times through the Late Antiquity period. The collection reflects the interests and work of its users and benefactors. Technically a separate collection from the University of Chicago Libraries, the collections complement one another, and the staff work together to assure the availability and quality of resources at the University of Chicago.

While it is not strictly speaking a Judaica collection, the Research Archives has extensive and important holdings in the archaeology of ancient Israel and surrounding lands; in the language, epigraphy and philology of ancient Northwest Semitic languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic); and the history, religion, and culture of the lands of the biblical world. These components of the collection complement even more extensive collections in Mesopotamian Studies, Cuneiform Languages, Egyptology and Near Eastern Archaeology.

The Research Archives is the primary research tool of the staff for projects at The Oriental Institute and for the students and faculty in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago. It is open to the general public by membership in the Oriental Institute or by prior arrangement with the Librarian.

The library is a member of AJL and encourages members of AJL to contact us if we can be of assistance.

The Research Archives has an Internet presence at:

The Library of North Suburban Beth El in Highland Park

By Cheryl Banks

North Suburban Beth-El in Highland Park has two libraries, the Maxwell Abbell Library and Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural and Learning Center. Beth-El has one of the largest synagogue library collections in the Chicago area. Readers range from children in the religious school to scholars. The collections includes books, periodicals, videos, audio tapes and computer software. The library subscribes to over 80 periodicals, including academic journals, newspapers and magazines.

Cheryl Banks, the librarian and director of the Gray Cultural and Learning Center, has been director since the creation of the Learning Center in 1988. She is a past president of the Judaica Library Network of Metropolitan Chicago. In 1995 she was the co-chair of the Association of Jewish Libraries National Convention that met in Chicago. Currently she is the president of the Synagogues, Schools and Centers Division of the AJL.

The library won the Solomon Schechter Award from the United Synagogue of America in 1993. The Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural and Learning Center, a computer room, an art room, a multi-purpose room, and a reading room. While the focus of the Learning Center is its book collections, the computers, video and audio tape collections offer non-print resources for the library's readers.

The Learning Center loans materials and assists, not only the congregants of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, but residents of the surrounding communities and other synagogues and Jewish institutions. They provide research support for teachers in the religious school, rabbis, and adult education classes. The librarian regularly prepares holiday bibliographies and bibliographies to support special programs.

The library features collection of over 600 Judaic videotapes. Subjects include Jewish oriented feature motion pictures, films about the Holocaust, Israel, Judaic literature, Bar Mitzvah, holidays, ethics, and anti-Semitism.

The library also owns records and audio tapes available to be checked out. The audio tape collection includes: diaspora music, Israeli music, books on tape, Hebrew tutorials, ritual chants, radio broadcasts, children's music, storytelling and history. The Hazzan of the synagogue provided tapes of the Kabbalat Shabbat service, Shabbat Shacharit service, sections of the Haggadah, and the Ma nish- ta-nah. These tapes allow congregants to learn ritual chants in private and at their leisure. Synagogue events and lectures are also on tape, and available for circulation.

The Pinsof Children's Reading Room maintains a large collection of juvenile books, and subscribes to four Jewish children's periodicals. The books are divided into "easy readers and picture books" (generally for children through second grade), and older juvenile works, both fiction and non-fiction. While the collection consists of such topics as Bible stories, holidays, Jewish symbols, morals and ethics and history, also included are juvenile books on divorce, death, living with the elderly, and other Jewish "parenting" issues.

The Learning Center offers separate program-ming for pre-school children, elementary school children, high school students, youth groups, and adults. There are story hours for religious school and pre-school children. Book and movie reviews, music and art programs and crafts workshops for families have also been developed by the Learning Center.

The Learning Center is open six days a week. The library is staffed Sunday through Thursday.

The computers may be used by everyone in the congregation, from pre-schoolers to senior citizens. Software includes Judaic games and Hebrew language instruction, and programs about Jewish holidays, history, and the State of Israel.


The library is a member of North Suburban Library System, the Judaica Library Network of Metropolitan Chicago, and the Association of Jewish Libraries. The many facets of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural and Learning Center represent the changing information needs school-age children, casual readers and the scholar of Judaica. It is certain that as technologies advance, the facilities and resources of the Learning Center will expand to meet the changing needs of the Jewish community.


by Daniel D. Stuhlman

Part 2

Cataloging is the systematic, consistent, process to organize library materials. The process is a skill that requires subject knowledge and knowledge of the rules and practices of cataloging. This is part two of a feature discussing the theory and practice of cataloging along with personal opinions.

Much of the theory in this column is based on the booklet, Classification : an introductory manual, by Margaret M. Herdman; revised by Jeanne Orborn. Third ed. Chicago : American Library Association, 1978.

What is Classification?

Classification is a methodology of organizing materials into subject areas. Subject areas are assigned class numbers. Shelf listing is the method for arranging books with a number so that materials have a precise address on the shelves. A person may choose to arrange their personal collection by size, color, subject or any other personal criteria. Personal criteria don't work for a library that needs to be used by people other than the owner. Classification schemes vary from those based on ideal schemes of knowledge (for example Dewey Decimal Classification) to simplified systems that are primarily utilitarian aimed at the ready use of library materials (for example color coding or books in a law collection). The schemes that are most popular today are a compromise between rigid applications of theory and rules compared to ad hoc utilitarian, home brewed approaches. Since the chief purpose of a classification is to facilitate access to the collection, the classification system tries to group similar materials. Libraries have many, sometimes conflicting needs. The assigned class number may be open to interpretation for a particular book. Shelving similar books together adds to the value of the collection and facilitates their use. [1]

Sometimes materials may be arranged in differing ways within the same library. For example: Dictionaries may be in the reference section and the regular stacks. Some books may be in a "popular" section to facilitate browsing. Sometimes fragile or valuable books are segregated to decrease their usage and make sure that scholars have use of them for many years.

Grouping materials into broad subject areas in on the first step in classification. While usually the classification number is taken from the first subject, this is not a rule. Sometimes to help the readers, the class number takes a different approach than the subject headings. Since there is only one classification number for an item, the choice is sometimes a matter of personal choice. Arrangements based purely on broad subjects is a natural arrangement that is more appropriate to a home collection than a library.

Shelf Arrangements

Shelf arrangements may be absolute or relative. Absolute arrangements such as using acquisition numbers do not allow a new book to be placed between existing books. Relative arrangements give each book a place in relationship to the other books already on the shelf. For either arrangement each book needs a unique call number so that it can be stored and retrieved when needed. [2]

Classification schemes divide subjects into broad areas and then into more distinct divisions. For example books on the Civil War (a period) are in a different place than books on World War II. Books on the history of the United States in general are in one place and local histories in another. Science books frequently follow the taxonomy of their discipline. Formal rules may seem logical for some areas and arbitrary for others.

Some classification schemes cluster literature by language which may lead to a translated author having works in several locations. Other schemes are language independent; books are classed by nation of origin.[3] All the works by a particular author are near each other.

In addition to grouping similar works, a satisfactory shelf arrangement requires differentiating multiple books by the same author, multi-volume works, and different editions.


The notation used for the library items must make it easy to identify, shelve and retrieve the items. A selected item must be easy to find and return to the shelves. All classification schemes adopt a notation scheme using letters and/or numbers. While the logic or practical features of the plan should have no influence on the notation, the psychology of "chunking" plays a big role in creating notation systems that can be remembered. The notation scheme should reflect a sequencing of broad topics and then narrowed to precise numbers.

In "pure" notation systems only letters and numbers are used. In some libraries "Bio" may mean biography and then the following line has the biographee's name. Symbols such as " + - @ * / : " may be used for special purposes or relationships. For example + means oversized books (over 30 cm.)

Charles Cutter devised a way of making the topical arrangement more precise. He combined letters and numbers to get notation that today is used with both Dewey and LC Classifications. Cutter numbers are used for arranging books by author within a larger topic. For example in Dewey the number is first 612.098734 followed by a Cutter number for the author G43. In LCC BM 712 is the class number; K34 is the Cutter number for the author.

Limitations to Classification

No classification scheme is perfect. Human knowledge and book publishing is constantly changing. Authors can write books on topics that were never even imagined when the system was devised. The schemes have an organic type development. The schemes develop in a social context of time and space. Each scheme has strengths and weaknesses because of the expertise of the catalogers who developed the system and materials they needed to catalog. If there are no books written on a particular topic, Library of Congress will not have a number for the topic. The classification schemes also reflect the world and culture of the time. Some topics pass in and out of political correctness. Geographic areas change names and borders. For example in 1990 a book may be classified as Soviet Union. After the breakup of the Soviet Union the book may need to be classified as Russia, Ukraine, etc.

All schemes have some of these limitations:

1) Knowledge is not static. Computers and ability to communicate at fast speeds enable authors to produce materials faster than before the use of computers. Even though knowledge increases, some part of human knowledge may be forgotten, set aside or proved erroneous. Therefore no system can ever stop development and improvement.

2) Books and other library materials are physical entities. Placing the books on linear shelves limits the ability to sample the rich variety and relationships between topics.

3) Systematic organization sooner or later produces artificial or empty subcategories.

4) In certain subjects or topics alpha- betic, chronological, or geographical arrangements are better than a scheme that follows rigid subject rules.

5) There is a tendency for catalogers or their institutions to skew the implemen-tation of the scheme to their bias, special interests or specialized knowledge.

6) No collection of books and other library materials ever reflects the total universe of knowledge. Since the universe of knowledge is always changing, no classification can always fit the collection at a given moment in time.

Every library makes choices as to what appropriate for their collections.

Part 3 will discuss principles of classification.


[1] This concept of "serendipity" was taught to me as an undergraduate by a professor and former library director. This concept means that after you look up a number for the book you thought that you wanted you look in the stacks to find the book you really need is near the one you first checked in the catalog. Active use of this approach is a way of finding materials that you never knew were in the library. This method works best in a library with a precise classification system that is based on broad and narrow subject analysis.

[2] Examples of fixed book locations: A library with the books chained to the shelves and libraries with books placed on the shelves by accession numbers. In these cases new books are not placed between two current books.

[3] This leads to conflicts when someone lives in more than one country within his lifetime. Generally a person's literature is classed in the literature of the country where s/he lived during the writing of the first published work.

Asher Library Rededication

by Kathy Bloch

The Asher Library of Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies celebrated the conclusion of a year -long expansion and renovation project, Nov. 8, as part of its 1st Annual Jewish Book Fair. In recognition of the major gift from Helen Asher, the Library was rededicated as The Norman and Helen Asher Library. Members of the Asher family, Spertus officers and board members, and friends of the Library witnessed the brief ceremony. In his remarks, Dr. Howard Sulkin, president of Spertus, noted the Library's progress and growth over the past twenty-five years, and expressed appreciation for how the generosity of the Asher family has contributed so much to the Library's development.

The renovation project involved the expansion of the Asher Library to the sixth floor of the Spertus building which now houses Library administrative offices, work areas, a fully -equipped conservation lab, a larger Katzin Rare Book Room, and a gallery where highlights of the collection are featured in exhibit cases. The Chicago Jewish Archives is now integrated into the Asher Library. The Archives' new office, stacks and exhibit areas are also located on the sixth floor, allowing the archives and rare book collections to share a common environmental control system.

The 5th and 4th floors have been refurbished and reconfigured to make the Library more pleasant, easier to use, and to allow for future growth. The fifth floor features a new security system; a display of video cassettes; increased storage for the expanding Targ Music Center; and more spacious and accessible periodicals stacks. The 4th floor houses circulating collection, and closed-stack areas for older periodicals and fragile books.

After the rededication ceremony, participants enjoyed Asher Library's first Jewish Book Fair. An overflow crowd enjoyed browsing among the newest publications of Jewish interest and selected duplicates from the Asher Library. In addition to book signings and children's storytelling, three guest speakers were featured. Yaffa Eliach spoke movingly on her experiences researching There Once Was a World; Byron Sherwin explored Jewish ethics in Why Be Good?; and W. Michael Blumenthal, author of The Invisible Wall, commented on current German attitudes as a Holocaust museum takes shape in Berlin.

The Asher Library is pleased to announce that it has a new Director, Glenn Ferdman. Mr. Ferdman, a Chicago native, most recently served as the Director of Library and Internet Services at Children's Memorial Medical Center in Chicago. Previously he served as Director of Library and Information Services at the American Health Information Management Association. Mr. Ferdman earned his BA at Beloit College and his MLS at Indiana University. He lived in Israel for three years and studied at several yeshivot.

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Last revised March 18, 2001