Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
August 2004

The Journey to a Doctorate

Thirty years and three months is how long it has been since I earned my masters in library service. For thirty years I have wanted to earn a doctorate.   In 1974 after graduation Columbia University I didn’t want to go to school full time any more.  I spent six years attending a double program and I wanted a break from the classes.   Yet a week after graduation I attended a course at Teachers College.  During the fall semester of 1974, I traveled once a week for graduate courses in Jewish studies.  In 1976 I moved to Cincinnati to be a Judaica librarian.   Since academic librarians needed a subject masters for advancement I applied for a masters program in Jewish studies. However, before I could finish the program I moved to Chicago.

For a while I couldn’t decide what kind of advanced degree to pursue. I liked history, but saw no opportunities for a career. I liked Bible, but there were no programs that matched the level of studies I had in New York and Cincinnati. For many years I took courses in business, computer science, yet never completed any degrees.  In 1992 I was looking for something intellectual to do during my summer vacation.  I found a Jewish University’s summer program as a way to study for a degree and Torah l’shema.  For two weeks I studied full-time.  During the school year I went to once-a-week classes.  Finally in 1995 I completed enough courses to earn a masters degree in Hebrew literature with a Bible major.  I still had the dream to get a doctorate in Bible and as I was accepted as a candidate.

Research is the process of evaluating data and information from many sources and making sense of it. Analysis combines the knowledge of many academic disciplines. As an undergraduate I was in a double program; my major at one college was Bible studies and at a second university was psychology. My final research paper combined these disciplines for an analysis of the personality of the Prophet Jeremiah. Getting an idea for a doctoral dissertation took more time than the final writing. I wanted a topic that combined the fields of Bible and psychology. When we discovered that our son was gifted, I spent a lot of time learning about the gifted personality. I read many books on gifted children and their challenges. In 1996 along with a committee of concerned parents I authored a study and plan for action for our son’s school. The first part of the study was a review and analysis of the academic literature on gifted children.

That first part of the study became the first 12 pages of the first dissertation idea on the gifted personality in the Bible.  I was planning to do a study of giftedness and related that information to finding the gifted characters in the Bible.  I learned that there are at least 6 kinds of giftedness among them: musical, artistic, kinesthetic (athletic ability), leadership and academic.  A person may have multiple talents.  I learned that the student in the classroom with the highest grades is not always the smartest and may not even be in the gifted range of I .Q. scores.   A person with a high I.Q. may have difficulties with kinesthetics (body awareness), or “street smarts.”   A person with leadership or athletic gifts may perform poorly in academic subjects. Since some of the behaviors of a gifted child mimic other maladies,  teachers very often can not handle these children.  Some teachers are even scared of a child with an I.Q. of 60 points higher than theirs.  Because of family and other obligations that topic sat idle for six years.  For six years I did not even open the computer file with the beginning of the paper.

In January 2003 I started teaching for San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science and liked it. I was able to help the students on their journey to become librarians. In order to be qualified for a permanent full time university position, a doctorate is required.  I revived my dream to complete my doctorate.  I tried to return to my first topic on the gifted personality.  I started to study about giftedness, personality, and assessment techniques.  I looked at the narratives of the Bible trying to decide which characters had the qualities of a gifted personality.  The research went no where.  There was no scientific or convincing way to prove my speculations.  The people I talked to could be convinced that some characters had gifted characteristics, but the proofs weren’t strong enough.  I started asking everyone I knew for ideas.  I wanted something more connected to libraries.

I always loved cataloging, I have been gathering names for genealogical purposes, and I already wrote several articles on name authority.  On January 17 we read the first chapter of the book of Exodus in the synagogue.  When I heard the first words,  ישראל בני שמות ואלא  “And these are the names of the children of Israel.” It was like a light bulb lit inside my head.  This was the idea for my topic.  I could combine knowledge of the Bible, Hebrew and library science.  Later I found that I needed to learn about linguistics, the history of writing, the development of the English language, and even something about the history of printing in 17th century Amsterdam.

Once I selected a topic, I then had to check if I even could resume my candidacy for the doctoral degree.  The school I earned my masters degree was largely dormant.  I talked to the dean and he said that I had completed enough class work for the degree.  All I had to do was to write the dissertation. He suggested an faculty member, who agreed to be my advisor even though he knew very little about library cataloging or the history of Hebrew names.  I started to work.  I had to come up with an outline and concrete ideas before I could even meet with my advisor.  My advisor approved the outline and plan for study.  My story is very different from most young scholars.  I had almost thirty years of library experience and six years of monthly columns to draw upon.  Some of the material in the dissertation was revised from my earlier writings.    As the writing progressed, some of the material was published in my monthly column and some was published in the Newsletter of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.  I was going the reverse route of many young PhD candidates.  I was publishing first.

The data I gathered  includes tables of Hebrew names.  The chapter on the reasons behind spelling Jacob, Joseph and other Biblical names starting with a “J” has wide ranging implications and interest to librarians, linguists, and anyone who knows someone with such a name.  The story involves understanding the history of the alphabet and how spelling related to phonemes.  The Hebrew for many names are spelled with an initial “yod.”  The “yod” has both a consonantal and a vowel sound.  In Latin the “I” and in Greek the “Ι” (iota) also have the consonantal and vowel sound that match the Hebrew.  Neither Greek nor Latin has a “J” or the phoneme we use to pronounce “J” in English. In English and Latin the “I” was used for both sounds.  In some medieval manuscripts the scribes added a tail to the “I” when it had a consonant sound. Eventually that letter became a “J.”  The early English Bibles used “I” for the Hebrew names starting with a “yod.”  In 1630 a Dutch printer started using “J” for the consonantal sound because in Dutch as in German the “J” had the sound /y/.   The sound we use for “J” /dzh/ comes from the French. For the whole story you will have to go to the web page: and read the whole article.

Wisdom uses knowledge from many fields to create a synthesis for action and new knowledge.  I combined the knowledge from the academic disciplines that I love, Bible, Hebrew, library cataloging, and history to produce a document that sheds light on many ideas we take for granted today. No work is complete without thanks to all those who helped me.   I am blessed with friends who acted as cheer leaders and sounding boards for my ideas. From all of them I learned that everyone is truly my teacher. I thank them all.

It is the role of teachers to show students the road to a lifetime of learning.  Teachers give students the background and tools so that they can enjoy learning through reading.  Librarians have the task to organize, store and distribute knowledge in all its manifestations, print, visual, audio, and electronic.  The words of Judah ibn Tibbon written in the 12th century are still applicable today.

My son! Make your books, your friends; let their cases and shelves be your pleasure grounds and gardens. Bask in their paradise, gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their spices and their myrrh. If your soul is satiated and weary, change from garden to garden, from furrow to furrow, and from prospect to prospect. Then your desire will renew itself and your soul will be filled with delight.

Found in Hebrew Ethical Wills, selected and edited by Israel Abrahams.   Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, c1954, 1976.   page 63

Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit our web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at:

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 ©2004 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Last revised August 19, 2004