"People of the Books" Blog

Member Spotlight with Žilvinas Beliauskas

Zilvinas

Žilvinas Beliauskas heads the Vilnius Jewish Public Library

 

Visit the Vilnius Jewish Public Library Website here!

 

Donate here!

 

Žilvinas graduated from Kaunas J. Jablonskis secondary school, a school that specialized English language and literature. Žilvinas then entered the Psychology Department at Vilnius University and graduated in 1982.

 

Žilvinas was working as a psychology lecturer when be grew an interest in the Vilnius Jewish Public Library project. The idea came from an American from San Diego, who already had his collection of books shipped to Lithuania and was looking for ways to realize his dream. For several years he had been trying to establish a library in Vilnius, but none of his attempts with the local Jewish community and state-operated museums were successful. Žilvinas found the idea attractive, though he was neither a librarian nor a Jew. Nevertheless Žilvinas started coordinating the project, contacting the government, Ministry of Culture, libraries, and other institutions. Žilvinas described the process as an adventure. He realized how important the project was for his generation, which grew up in complete ignorance of Jewish history. His goal would be to show Jewish heritage to the whole of Lithuanian society.

 

Being a psychologist, Žilvinas saw great value in presenting a heritage that was exterminated and lost due to the Holocaust. Žilvinas notes, “culturally, now we have an opportunity to get in touch with the bottomless heritage of wisdom, art, literature, science and other spheres of life within the Judaic dimension.”

 

There were many interesting and lucky coincidences during the process of the coordination and attempts to establish the library. Žilvinas even says that it would not have been possible without “guidance from the Heavens.” Žilvinas and his colleagues received permission from the Lithuanian government to build in a good location but in a run-down building. They would need funds for renovation and equipment. In the same year, prosecutors enforced a ban on financial interactions related to the Royal Palce (Palace of Rulers) reconstruction due to suspicion around the transparency of some construction contracts. In this way, the millions which had already been allocated to the Culture Ministry for this particularly expensive project became hanged in the air. The funds were available for other purposes and the Minister quickly had to find other important cultural projects as inventment opportunities. The shabby library premises were among his priorities and that is how a rather normal financing project for library remodeling was assigned among other museums, theaters, and estates. Zilvinas calls it "a work of angels by the hands of prosecutors for the sake of the Vilnius Jewish Public Library."

Zilvinas stands with graduates from the library's Yiddish Language instruction program

Today Žilvinas and his colleagues run not only the Vilnius Jewish Public Library but also its Charity and Support Foundation and its inspired organization Vilnius Jewish Theater. The latter is currently underway in the very interesting process of producing a musical play based on the motifs of the stories in Avrom Karpinovich’s The Vilne Tango.

 

Žilvinas’s library aspires to grow locally and to network internationally. Žilvinas has received support and book donations from Lynn Waghalter and Olga Potap. Books started coming, and Galina Teverovsky managed to set up a very useful book exchange program.

 

Žilvinas writes:

“I really appreciate all of that, and the library became possible due to the existence of the AJL and its values. We look forward to cooperating with AJL in future as long as possible. There was an exchange of ideas and–for me personally–a lot of knowledge and experience in the field since, as noticed above, library science is not my profession.”

 

Going forward, Žilvinas will continue to maintain a relationship with AJL and to keep his finger on the pulse of Judaica librarianship.  Žilvinas aims to the collection of the library, to maintain it as a vibrant cultural center, and to promote the library locally and internationally in order to make its potential influence. Žilvinas has also expressed an interest in having an international event for Judaica librarianship in Vilnius.

Member Spotlight with Esther van Haaren-Hart

Our Member of the Month is Esther van Haaren-Hart of Curaçao.

Amalia Warshenbrot and Esther van Haaren-Hart

Amalia Warshenbrot and Esther van Haaren-Hart, 2017.

Esther van Haaren-Hart is the librarian and general manager of the Foundation at the Maduro Library and Museum housed in the plantation house at Rooi Catootje in Curaçao, Dutch Caribbean.

The foundation is named after Salomon Abraham (Mongui) Levy Maduro (1891-1967) who started collecting documents, books, manuscripts, archivalia and periodicals relating to Curaçao, the Dutch West Indies and his Sephardic Jewish community which goes back to the 17th century. One of the goals of the foundation is to preserve historical collections on subjects of Sephardic Jewish and Dutch Caribbean interest for future research.

The library collection consists of more than 10,000 books, 450 documentation files by subject, containing newspaper clippings and more than one thousand Antillean and Jewish periodicals, collected over a period of more than 100 years. Due to the growth of the collection, the library collection was moved to a state of the art new building, the Ena Dankmeijer-Maduro Pavilion, in 2010. Throughout the years, a wide variety of writers, historians, elementary school students and researchers have consulted the library collection. The library cooperates closely with other academic libraries, both in Curaçao and abroad.

Mrs. van Haaren-Hart is a mother of three and grandmother of one.  She attended the 2017 AJL conference, commenting:

“I enjoyed this well organized 52nd conference. There was a great variety in themes, the sessions were well planned and well prepared by the speakers. Networking with participants of so many countries and places in the USA was one of the highlights of the conference. I was very pleased to meet some old library friends and to make new ones. In general I consider the information about digitized materials, many of them online available, as another highlight of the conference.”

Esther plans to continue to communicate with AJL in the future to exchange ideas and information on a global scale and to be able to access information through application of advanced technologies

Esther welcomes AJL members and friends to visit her library’s website at www.madurolibrary.org to get acquainted with the library and the museum collection. Esther encourages all to visit the island and the facilities in person, like so many Jewish groups have done in the past and are still doing.

Spotlight with Michelle Chesner

AJL Spotlight is an on-going series that highlights the day-in-a-life of our members and libraries. We interviewed Michelle Chesner, Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University Libraries.

 

Name: Michelle Chesner
Name of Institution: Columbia University
Job Title: Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies,
Columbia University Libraries

Twitter: @hchesner
Facebook:  
https://www.facebook.com/NEAlibrary

Websites
:
Jewish Studies Blog: https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/jewishstudiesatcul/
Footprints: footprints.ccnmtl.columbia.edu

What might your typical day look like?

1) Updating my Libguides reference pages (includes research on Yiddish, Ladino, Jewish women, Talmud)
2) Fixing a problem in the Footprints Database for tracking Hebrew book provenance
3) Posting on the history of Columbia's collection, based on a recently published article
4) Setting up a meeting with a professor to discuss how I can assist during the semester
5) Working on a grant proposal
6) Phone call to patron to troubleshoot a database
7) Setting up a date to meet with a vendor visiting from Israel
8) Purchasing titles for the general and rare collections
9) During the semester, give instruction to classes conducting Jewish Studies research

What is your AJL position?

Research, Archives and Special Collections (RAS); Council Member at Large

How long have you been an AJL member?

I joined AJL in 2006 upon learning about the AJL Scholarship in library school. I didn't receive the scholarship, but I realized that this was the most important association for my field. I stayed involved because I learned the importance of mentorship and networking when I was starting out as a Judaica librarian, and wanted to share that with new librarians.


Have you been to conferences?
Yes, the informative sessions and the opportunity to meet face-to-face with colleagues has been important to my work.  A lot of collaboration can happen at the AJL conference. For example, after presenting on the Footprints project, I spoke to a few librarians who were interested in integrating provenance information from their collections into the database, and some are in process as we speak! Also, an informal discussion about collections led to the formation of a Northeast Judaica Collections Consortium. Another conference memory is sitting together in a room listening to a presentation about the digitization of Dreyfus- related materials. A group of three or four institutions realized they hold similar collections and could potentially work together on a joint project in the future.

What book do you recommend us to read?

I finished The Archive Thief by Lisa Leff, and I enjoyed every minute of it. See my review in AJL Reviews for why I loved it!

Spotlight With Stacy Brown

AJL Spotlight is an on-going series that highlights the day-in-a-life of our members and libraries. This time we interviewed Stacy Brown, 21st Century Learning Coordinator and President of the Atlanta AJL chapter. The Atlanta AJL Chapter is next meeting on April 14, 2016.

Name: Stacy Brown
Name of institution: The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy, a K- 8th grade Reform Jewish day school
Job title: The 21st Century Learning Coordinator, Edward H. Fields Middle School Library and the Sylvia Bremen Lower School Library

What is your typical day?
1) A morning meeting with our media specialists and media assistant, followed by a meeting with the school’s communications and marketing department
2) Meeting one-on-one with a teacher regarding a technology-infused project to enhance their curriculum
3) Working on an upcoming school-wide project, such as connecting teachers with other educators around the globe for the Global Read Aloud
4) Providing reaccreditation input
5) Helping a teacher set up their class blog
6) Concluding with carpool duty and/or supervising our media center during after school hours when the library gets quite busy!

What special projects and programs do you lead as 21st Century Learning Coordinator?
I teach a fourth grade robotics and programming exploratory as well as a fifth grade exploratory that examines the role of technology in entrepreneurship. Once a month on Mondays, I host #MakerMonday in our lower school Idea Lab, at which time students can come during their recess to tinker with electronics, explore robotics, arts and crafts, programming and more. I also lead a professional development strand that allows participants to partake in technology challenges, earn points accordingly, and be awarded with a digital badge.

What is your involvement in AJL and other organizations?
I have been President of our Atlanta AJL chapter for 4 years. I host the kick off meeting each year and then other members host the other two to three meetings at their own school or synagogue libraries. I'm a member of the Hasafran listserv as well. I am a member of Atlanta Area Technology Educators and the Georgia Independent School Libraries group, both of which offer rewarding professional development opportunities three to four times a year. Each year, I present at a couple local and/or national conferences. Most recently, I presented at The Martin Institute in June in Memphis, TN. My presentation focused on the value of building a relationship between the homeroom teacher and the media specialist. I'm presenting twice at the Indiana Library Association Annual Conference. I will also be sharing ways in which technology can be integrated into book clubs. I am also on the Family Reading Festival committee for the MJCCA Book Festival, which takes place in November.

How long you have been an AJL member and how did you get involved?
I believe I have been an AJL member for the past 8 years. When I started at Davis nine years ago, the media assistant told me about the organization. We just achieved our advanced accreditation in both our lower and middle school libraries.

Social media/library website:
@21stStacy
https://www.pinterest.com/davismedia/

Can you recommend a book to us?
My most recent Jewish-themed reads were All the Light We Cannot See, The Paris Architect and The Golem and the Jinni. Although I really enjoyed them, the best book that I have read lately is not Jewish-themed but rather Southern Gothic. It is My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh.

Spotlight with Jackie Benefraim

AJL Spotlight is an on-going series that highlights the day-in-a-life of our members and libraries. This week we interviewed Jackie Benefraim, active member and academic librarian.


.

Name: Jackie Benefraim
Name of institution: Ostrow Library, American Jewish University
Job title: Special Collections Librarian, Lowy Winkler Family Rare Book Center
Library website: http://library.aju.edu/ 

What is your typical day?
1) Answer emails regarding upcoming exhibits in the library and AJL business
2) Work on cataloging backlog for both Hebrew books and items in the rare book room
3) Work on upcoming exhibits by pulling books, dealing with paperwork and seeking artwork to display alongside diverse bibles
4) Make minor repairs to circulating books and create phase boxes for rare books
5) Give tours of the Lowy Winkler Rare Book Center and the current exhibit to affliates and the public
6) Answer queries about digital archives.
7) Occasionally, staff circulation desk and assist patrons

How did you get involved with AJL?
I have been a member since I first went back to work as a librarian in November 2007. On my first day at work, my colleague Rabbi Pat Fenton, suggested I post a question on HaSafran and within an hour I had my answer. I thought, here are people who don’t know me, but are taking the time to help me. I need to be a part of this community. Once I started working on conferences, I felt a personal investment in the organization that has provided me with so much guidance.

What positions do you hold in AJL?
Strategic Planning Committee Oversight Chair
Advertising and Exhibits Manager for both Reviews and for national conferences.

Have you been to conferences? What were some memorable highlights?
I have been to 4 conferences. Besides the camaraderie of being together with everyone from AJL, I especially enjoyed last year’s tours of the Library of Congress and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. I use what I have learned at conference sessions on the day-to-day at work. I would be hard pressed to single out one session, but I am grateful for the session in Pasadena “The Creative Exhibitor Inside You: Developing Exhibits in Research Libraries and Museums” that has been helpful in my current position.

Can you recommend a book to us?
Anton, Maggie.  Rashi’s Daughters : Book 1 Joheved. Glendale, Calif. : Banot Press, 2005. My Hebrew name is Yocheved!

Horn, Dara. A guide for the perplexed : a novel. New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

de Rosnay ,Tatiana. Sarah’s Key. New York : St. Martin's Press, 2007. This book was recommended to me by an acquaintance from the Netherlands who assumed by my surname that I was Jewish. This started a great friendship and we correspond mostly via postcards.

Foner, Henry and Heinz Lichtwitz. Postcards to a Little Boy : A Kindertransport Story.  Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 2013. This last book is from my large personal library of books on postcards which I’ve collected for 52 years. Many of the cards depicted in this brief work memorialize the correspondence between a young boy and his father, similarly to the types of postcards I received as a child. I am grateful that my story had a happier ending.