"People of the Books" Blog

AJL Elections Will Take Place in May

AJL will hold its regular biennial election May 2 to May 31, 2016. Once again, we will be voting by electronic ballot. It’s very important that we have up-to-date email addresses for all members. If your email address has changed, please contact our vice-president for membership, Sheryl Stahl at sstahl@huc.edu. Ballots will be sent to all current AJL members by email on May 2. If you do not receive one, please contact Joy Kingsolver at 630-988-4726 or joy.kingsolver@gmail.com. If you need a paper ballot, please call Joy to request one.


[Note: The current VP/President-Elect, already in place, is Amalia Warshenbrot. She will become the President during the 2016 AJL conference in June.]

Dina Herbert is the Coordinator for the Innovation Hub at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. She was previously the librarian for the Iraqi Jewish Archive project at the National Archives and has held positions at the JTS Library in New York and the SAIS Library in Washington, D.C. She's been active in AJL since 2012 and co-chaired the 2015 Silver Spring Conference. Dina has a B.A. in Ancient Studies from Columbia University and both a B.A. and an M.A. in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She received her M.L.S. from the University of Maryland. She lives with her husband and young daughter in Northern Virginia.

VP for Membership
Shulamis Hes manages print/digital resource integration and spending, including 400 databases and over 300,000 journals, for Yeshiva University’s (YU) three libraries; and guides patrons in general and Judaic research. She develops tools and programs such as YUFind discovery service and The Last Minute, a marathon evening of research and writing assistance. Shulamis leads these patron-centered initiatives collaboratively with library staff, YU administration and faculty, and affiliated medical/law librarians.

VP for Development
Fred Isaac has been a member of AJL since 1991. He has served as SSC President and on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, and co-chaired the 2005 Conference in Oakland. He is the past librarian at Temple Sinai in Oakland and now is their historian and Archivist. He currently serves on the Board of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay. When not involved in synagogue activities, he plays tennis, walks, and reads (preferably Judaica and crime fiction).

Pat Fenton is the Manager of Judaica and Public Services at the Ostrow Library of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and she teaches classes in rabbinic literature in the rabbinical school, the school of education, and the undergraduate college. A graduate of UC Berkeley and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Pat is a Conservative rabbi.

Nancy Sack has been a member of AJL for the past 25 years. She has served the association as Newsletter editor, exhibits chair, conference co-chair, and web slave. She was a cataloger at Northwestern University for nine years before moving to Hawaii 14 years ago to work at the University of Hawaii.

SSC President
Kathy Bloomfield is the founder of forwordsbooks, a national Jewish book fair business. Currently, she is the Clergy Assistant at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD where she is also assisting with the revitalization of the Adat Shalom library. Her volunteer roles have included Temple President, Mikveh Guide, URJ Outreach Fellow, and member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Kathy’s website is http://forwordsbooks.com, where she writes about children’s literature with Jewish values content.

Susan Kusel is the librarian at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia. She is also the children's book buyer and selector for Words bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey and the owner of Dream On Books, a book consulting company. She has been a librarian at Arlington Public Library, and a bookseller for Politics and Prose and Child's Play. She was a member of the 2015 Caldecott Medal selection committee and is currently a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

RAS President
Rebecca Jefferson has been a member of AJL since 2010, and since 2012 has served as a co-editor for the Adult Reviews section of the AJL newsletter. She has served also as the AJL RAS Vice President for two years between 2014-2016. As a librarian, Jefferson is responsible for the collection development and overall management of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica at the University of Florida. Since 2015, she has been the Principle Investigator on a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant to refocus the Judaica Library as a regional center of excellence for Jewish resources from Florida, Latin American and the Caribbean. Jefferson holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Hebrew from the University of Cambridge. She previously worked as a research associate in Cambridge University Library where she was the bibliographer for the Cairo Genizah collections.

Rachel Simon is a cataloger at Princeton University, and researches Jews in the modern Middle East and North Africa. She contributes regularly to AJL Reviews, has twice been a member of the RAS Cataloging Committee (chairing it once), as well as the RAS Bibliography and Reference Awards Committee, the Education Committee, and the By-Laws Committee. Rachel introduced the "Judaica/Hebraica T-shirt" activity at the AJL conference lunch. Among her recent scholarly contributions, she has been a section editor of the online edition of the Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (Brill), writing several entries including those on Jewish printing and publishing and on Jewish journals. She also compiled an annotated bibliography on the Jews of North Africa for Oxford Bibliographies Online.


For Immediate Release: April 2016

For more information, contact:
Ellen Tilman, Chair
Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee; Association of Jewish Libraries
Meyers Library, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel
8339 Old York Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027
215-887-8700 ext 122


Elkins Park, PA - The Association of Jewish Libraries is now accepting titles to be considered for the 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award. This prize, named for the author of the beloved All-of-a-Kind Family series, recognizes the best in children’s and teen literature of Jewish content.  Children’s and teen books that meet these criteria are eligible:

  1. The book has a 2016 copyright.
  2. The book has literary merit.
  3. The book has positive or authentic Jewish religious or cultural content.
  4. The book is appropriate for the intended grade level in style, vocabulary, format, and illustration.
  5. Whether fiction or nonfiction, the book is solidly rooted in authentic and accurate detail through scholarship and research by the author.
  6. Textbooks and reprints are not eligible, although revised editions and re-illustrated editions are eligible.

In order to be considered for the award, a review copy must be sent to each of the nine members of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. No application form is necessary. Review copies must be received no later than November 30, 2016. The awards will be announced in January, 2017.  

More details are available from Ellen Tilman, Chair of the committee at chair@sydneytaylorbookaward.org or at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org, a section of the Association of Jewish Libraries website.  


AJL Student Scholarship

The Association of Jewish Libraries is pleased to announce a scholarship of $1000 to a student enrolled or accepted in a graduate school of library and information science.

Prospective candidates should have knowledge of and interest in Jewish studies, and demonstrate the potential, ability, and intention of pursuing a career in Judaica librarianship.

The Association of Jewish Libraries awards an annual scholarship to a promising student with a history of participating in Judaic studies or libraries, accepted into or attending an accredited graduate school of library and information science. This scholarship is merit-based rather than needs-based. AJL welcomes and highly encourages award recipients’ involvement in the organization through volunteer and mentorship opportunities. Awardees that attend the conference will additionally benefit from special programming geared toward first-time attendees and networking with librarians at all career stages and specializations.

Free full conference registration is included and encouraged. AJL membership is not required for eligibility.


For more information and the scholarship application, please visit the AJL website at http://jewishlibraries.starchapter.com/content.php?page=Student_Scholarship

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:

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.

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