"People of the Books" Blog

Creating a Collection: Behind the Scenes

The 6th edition of Creating a Collection was edited by Marlene Schiffman and Leslie Monchar, and published by AJL on Amazon's CreateSpace in 2015. Marlene and Leslie share their thoughts on the experience and the final book below.

Marlene Schiffman:

Creating a Collection was a publication that aimed at a basic book list for Jewish libraries and was first published in 1983. Subsequent editions appeared in 1989, 1995, and 2000. They were compiled by various members of AJL. The fifth edition was published in 2008. It had a small format and about 20 pages of titles.

The sixth edition, which was just issued in 2015, is in a much larger format and contains 145 pages. We have added to the title index also and index by author. In addition we have expanded the offerings by entering some new categories such as Dead Sea Scrolls and Hasidism and listing books on the theme of LGBTQ as they pertain to Jewish life. We have thoroughly revised other sections. For example, in the Holocaust offerings, several thousand books are published each year on this topic and so it is impossible to cover all aspects adequately. We have opted, therefore, to favour general histories, an overview of the historiography of the Holocaust, and dictionaries of biography rather than coverage of events in one place or another, the individual camps and ghettos, and individual personal narratives. At the same time we have chosen a wide range of topics to approach the Holocaust from the point of view of the perpetrators, the victims, the survivors, the reaction of the free world, the commemorations, and the influence of the Holocaust on subsequent art, literature, and film. This is just one example of the way in which we have expanded and rethought many of the topics that we cover in Creating a Collection.

Two considerations were paramount in preparing this bibliography. We wanted to get the most up-to-date books on the topics and help people who are starting a collection, or those who already have a collection, to access the most recent books. We also wanted to give people an idea about each book; if it would fit into their collection or be useful in their type of library. To that end, we were very careful to evaluate each volume and to annotate it. Thus, every item on the list has been seen by one of the editors and provided with a new annotation, even if it had already appeared in an older edition.

I would say the greatest challenge in doing this work was selecting the titles from a very large range of possible materials. There are so many good books on many of these topics that we really had to whittle down the list to keep it in proportion. There were so many more that we would have liked to include. In fact, we still find new titles popping up every day and even now, we still have the habit of jotting down titles that we wish we could have put in. I've already found a few that I would like to add, perhaps for the next edition. So it's an ongoing project.

Leslie Monchar:

I love bibliographies.  I used quite a number of them while working as a school librarian, and I think that Creating a Collection is organized and written in such a way that it could be a very useful tool not only for librarians, but for library patrons who wish to explore certain topics and want to have a sense of what is available and current, even if it cannot be readily obtained in their local library.  Many of the selections are general introductions to topics and include extensive notes and bibliographies that can lead to further in depth study.

The book is useful for expanding and developing an established collection.  Collection development is a very time consuming activity, and I believe that Creating a Collection can provide a focus and suggest areas of collection development that may not have been considered previously.

I think the challenge of revising the book was developing our "virtual collaboration."  We consulted, wrote, and edited online, and I know I learned a tremendous amount, not only about Jewish books, but the world of computers and the cloud.  


Creating a Collection is available on Amazon for $25. 156 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0929262031

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.

AJL Reads: Join the Discussion March 13

Please join us for a discussion of The English Spy by Daniel Silva on Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific Time via call-in show. We'll discuss the book by phone, and record the discussion for those who miss it.

Call (724) 444-7444 and enter the Call ID 139461 to participate! The discussion will last approximately one hour. 

You can hear AJL READS' January 2016 book discussion of My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner, and get the schedule for other upcoming book discussions, HERE.

AJL Elections Coming Soon

This spring we will elect our new slate of AJL officers. The nominating committee has been hard at work, recruiting excellent candidates to lead AJL. We are pleased to present to you your slate of candidates for the spring election. Information about the election procedures will be sent to AJL members by e-mail within the next few weeks. Thanks to all the candidates for their eagerness to serve AJL!

VP/President-Elect: Dina Herbert

Treasurer: Pat Fenton

Secretary: Nancy Sack

VP for Membership: Shulamis Hes

VP for Development: Fred Isaac

RAS President: Rebecca Jefferson 

RAS VP: Rachel Simon

SSC President: Kathy Bloomfield

SSC VP: Susan Kusel

Day 5: Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour 2016

The "grand finale" of the 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour is a virtual panel discussion amongst the various winning authors and illustrators. As always, this roundup is hosted by Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah. 

Click here to read the virtual panel discussion

The participants made comments about the experience like "Always inspiring to be included in a group of such accomplished, thoughtful authors and illustrators!" (Leslie Kimmelman), "It's wonderful to read all the blogs!" (Kathy Kacer), and "It has been an honor and a privilege getting to know all of you. See you in Charleston!" (Heidi Smith Hyde). We hope to see you as well, dear reader, in Charleston at the 51st Annual Association of Jewish Libraries conference where the Sydney Taylor winners will receive their awards! 

The entire blog tour may be found here.