Why doesn't this happen in my town?
Too good to be true
Space is apparently at a premium in Jerusalem, and it has gotten so bad that the National Library on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus has been caught throwing away important books with the drek. God knows, rare book rooms are more mausoleums than museum these days, and it’s true that some libraries are so uncomfortable selling old books they sometimes literally give them away. I have to say, however, that this is not kosher [traif]. Further, reports that dealers lined up over night and that at least one armored truck was called are, as of this writing, unsubstantiated.
On July 21st, the Jerusalem Post wrote a story about the National Library at Givat Ram donating excess books to the public. They described the books as “eighty percent” in English, and lord knows, every day fewer English speakers are reading books. After all, if you can read it on your iPad, why bother with the original texts?
Once the giveaway was underway, library staff were confronted by an irate scholar. A representative of the library with “beyste bay zayn ponem” [egg on his face] then defended the selection for de-accessioning as “a completely normal process used by libraries around the world.” However, no other libraries have rushed to confirm that they too toss out their old and sometimes highly collectible books. One suspects the vast majority of libraries prefer to keep their rare books, but if de-accessioning, they’ll hold their noses and sell.
In tossing the material out, the library evoked memories of the infamous gang of three, Groucho, Harpo and Chico. These “books were given to the public, and if the library had more than three copies, or if the books did not belong to the library’s three core areas of research – Judaism, Israel and Islam,” we tossed ‘em. A quick check of the AED suggests the library’s focus is very narrow or, expressed in numerical terms, 0.005% of the total [17,853 of 3,277,756] records in the AED:
Why doesn't this happen in my town?
Too generous by half
The explanation given is that the library already has 5 million books and “enough already.”
For book collectors, this is exciting news as it leaves the other 99.995% to be tested against the 3 copy and inclusion/exclusion rules. For years, I’ve been wondering where many of the early and essentially unobtainable books are. Now I have part of the answer. Some are sitting in a library half way around the world, and they, the material that is, are preparing to make their escape with other old and irrelevant books, maps, and ephemera this coming year under the banner – free to a good home. Long locked up, like the Count of Monte Cristo, they hope to make a daring escape.
Your job, if you choose to accept this assignment, in the coming year is to make a mitzvah. Make the trip to Jerusalem next July. Use your knowledge to identify valuable books and return them to the library as a donation along with an explanation of why they are important. As a gift, they will see such books in a new light and keep them for another generation at which time your children will find them on the book fair shelves again and must gift them anew. It is of course, a losing battle. Libraries are going digital, and nothing will stop it because succeeding generations increasingly see books as content rather than objects. Along the way, in the transition, they will do a multitude of silly things.
Mr. Weinberg, speaking on behalf of the library and apparently to settle the controversy said, “out of 25,000 books distributed to the public, they had received less than 40 responses about questionable books. Of course this is not surprising. Who gets a good deal and complains?
From all this I have only two questions; when is the next fair and what is the address?
Jerusalem Post – Book early! National Library to give away 24,000 volumes
Jerusalem Post Nat’l Library accused of giving away books