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On Wednesday, January 12, AJL librarian Daniel Stuhlman joined us for a free-flowing discussion on the subject of library marketing.

Association of Jewish Libraries Welcome to AJL's second "Facebook Friday" (on Wednesday this time). Today's guest is AJL librarian Daniel Stuhlman, who'll take your questions for the next hour on library marketing. Welcome, Daniel!

Association of Jewish Libraries Please post your questions using the "Status Update" button

In 2009 Dean Hendrix, et al. published “Use of Facebook in academic health sciences libraries” in : . Journal of the Medical Library Association. (Jan 2009. Vol. 97, Iss. 1)

Daniel Stuhlman Please post remarks in the "post" tab above. That is easier for everyone to see the latest remarks.

Daniel Stuhlman Good morning or for you in the Eastern time zone, Good afternoon
Thanks for joining us. I was told that the January issue of College and Research Libraries (January 2011 vol. &2:1) has an article on using Facebook as a library tool. Unfortunately I didn’t read this article yet.

This is not a new topic in 2007 Laurie C...harnigo and Paula Barnett-Ellis published “Checking Out The Impact of a Digital Trend on Academic Libraries” in . Information Technology and Libraries. ( Mar 2007. Vol. 26, Iss. 1; )

Sheryl Stahl Steven - your definitely right about authority control - I don't think the article was saying that FB was a good as a catalog - just that you can use the features of FB to explain the features of a catalog or subscription database.

Daniel Stuhlman Library marketing is about getting people into the library and its programs, public relations is to spread news about and concerning the library, cataloging and other tech services are the foundation of the library and its collection. Public services is between them. Without a catalog, acquisitions, and buildings, th...ere is no library. Without marketing no one knows what is happening or planned for the library. Both marketing and tech services have the goal of connecting collections, information and programs to the users via the public services of reference and circulation.

However, frequently the roles of the triad are intertwined. A librarian can be doing all three in the course of the day.

Steven Bergson Here's something slightly off-topic.

There's a new concept out there (well ... new to me, at least). It's called the "content ecosystem" and there's a blog post about it at

I am wondering if you think that libraries (& Judaica libraries) have a place in such an ecosystem. If... not, shoud they?

The Content Ecosystem « Virtual Watercooler

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the content ecosystem lately. I’ve been considering the entire end-to-end process of organizing, creating, managing, and publishing content for the global marketplace.

Sheryl Stahl Steven - I remember reading an article in Library school (way back when) that one reason that librarians sometimes don't seem to get much respect is that we disseminate content rather than create it. We don't generally "make" things. I think that we're being forced to change that and to get into the creating business.

Steven Bergson

With all due respect to the author of that article, librarians have been creating "content" for a long time. It's just that such content is often taken for granted.

Bibliographies, subject guides, "how to do research", catalogs, indexes. are usually considered dull &/or unnecessary ... until a patron desperately needs it and then they can't thank us enough for our hard work. ;)

Daniel Stuhlman Does your library offer superior services? Have you told the world about your services? Marketing is not just about your products and services it is about focusing on the needs of your readers, users and stakeholders.

Daniel Stuhlman Many librarians have a great difficulty stepping back and examining what the people really need or want. Are you determining the differences between "needs" and "wants?" Are you trying to access what your users and and potential users need and want?

Daniel Stuhlman Steven, I am not familiar with "content ecosystem" I will have to reserve a comment for later.

Daniel Stuhlman Steven and Sheryl -- I wrote about authority control several years ago. It is a concept that non-librarians don't understand.

Sheryl Stahl ain't that the truth!

Ellen Tilman We are constantly trying to let our customers know what resources are available in our synagogue library. Right now I am looking for the best vehicle to let the congregation know that they can find the just announced Sydney Taylor Books and Jewish Book Council Award winners right in the Meyers Library. Any suggestions?

Steven Bergson Do you e-mail newsletters out to your members (the ones who have e-mail, natch)?

Daniel Stuhlman I see Facebook as one tool in the marketing tool box. It is an easy way to have a public face. A good home page and web site need more work for creating and maintaining than a FB page.

Sheryl Stahl we tried that and have a page - but while a bunch of students a couple of years ago "liked" us - the new batch hasn't. We have a link from our library home page. Any other suggestions of how to draw them to the page?

Association of Jewish Libraries and as the dominant social network, many of your patrons are likely on Facebook already- so having a page and encouraging people to "like" it is an easy way to reach them.

Daniel Stuhlman Even the physical arrangement of furniture, stacks, and signs should be part of the marketing plan of a library.

Daniel Stuhlman Ellen, There is no "best way." One needs to hit the public with the message using several methods such as e-mail, signs, flyers, newsletters, personal contact, etc. Different folks respond to different kinds of messages.

Daniel Stuhlman Marketing also is matter of timing. Are you getting people the message at a time they are able to use it?

Ellen Tilman I plan to include a notice in our weekly email message as well as a posting on the congregational website and facebook page. Unfortunately, not everyone is connected. I will also post the information on our "physical bulletin board" in the main hallway. I also think I will send an email to the Religious school faculty.

Ellen Tilman I do have a library email list. I forgot about that as a marketing tool. Thanks for reminding me!

Daniel Stuhlman Sheryl-- I work in a college with more than 11,000 students. Fewer than 100 have friend-ed the library's FB page. We don't really push it since the person in charge of the library is not enthusiastic about it.

Association of Jewish Libraries Can you suggest it to the leaders in your library? By that, I mean use the "Suggest to Friends" feature to bring it to folks' attention?

Daniel Stuhlman We also tried Twitter, but few follow our tweets. I do hope that if someone uses a search engine they can find us.

Association of Jewish Libraries In my opinion Twitter works well as a networking tool- building relationships with individuals- and less well as an announcement or advertising tool.

Daniel Stuhlman In ancient times before the library had a computer, I had a constantly changing bulletin board promoting new books and periodicals.

Association of Jewish Libraries In my old library that stuff still works wonders! You can't beat person to person sharing & visual, tactile displays.

Sheryl Stahl Another challenge that we've been dealing with is that many of our patrons have/use technology that we (the library or the librarians) don't have yet. Most of our students have smart phones - I don't!

Daniel Stuhlman My college bombards faculty and students with e-mail. Everyone is automatically given and an e-mail account. The library does send e-mail very often. Occasionally we will tell the faculty about a recent article that is very appropriate or timely.

Ellen Tilman Last year our congregation received a grant for an Israel program. I was the coordinator. I placed a lifesize cutout of our Rabbi in the main lobby. Each week I would place an Israel oriented question onto a bulletin board he was holding. This unusual marketing tool attracted a lot of attention. Maybe I should try something similar for the library.

Daniel Stuhlman Please write in the "Post" tab. It is hard to find and answer when you reply to another message.

Sheryl Stahl I disagree! I get notified when you or someone else comments on my post - I can't really stay glued to FB waiting to see if anyone will answer

Stacye Mehard Any suggestions for asking for donations of material for a free library that recieves no funds?

Daniel Stuhlman I don't have a smart phone either. You may want to tell users that WorldCat is available from a smart phone.

Ellen Tilman Our problem is getting too many book donations of books that we already have or don't need in our collection. We love to receive "dollar" donations that have not limitations on them -- unrestricted gifts are ideal.

Daniel Stuhlman Ellen, a life sized cut sounds great. It adds a personal touch to the questions.

Association of Jewish Libraries Sheryl, regarding smart phones, maybe the library could create a one-pager or pathfinder on library-oriented apps, like Worldcat as Daniel suggests.

Association of Jewish Libraries Just a few more minutes- any last minute questions for Daniel?

Daniel Stuhlman Getting the word out that you offer superior service is not easy. First you really have to offer superior service and believe in yourself. Then you have tell people via personal, electronic and print media what you do. We have to weed out the negative thoughts.

Association of Jewish Libraries That about wraps it up! Thank you Daniel, for a great chat, and thanks to everyone who dropped by with questions.
Posted in: Facebook Friday
Well, here we are, up to our last link roundup of 2010. It's been quite a year online and off for AJL. Here are some great links on Jewish libraries, librarianship, books and more, to round out the calendar year.

Yet Another Russian-Immigrant Novel, from Tablet.

From Stephen's Lighthouse, 2000 vs. 2010: How the World has Changed. Includes statistics on demographics, technology, entertainment and more.

From ResourceShelf, Amazon Enables Kindle's Lending Feature and Other E-Book/Publishing Briefs.

'Unexpectedly Eighty': Judith Viorst's Poetry of Aging, from The Sisterhood.

Have a great week! Contact me at mcloutier at with feedback or suggestions.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
During the month of January 2011, AJL will be presenting three programs in a new initiative called Facebook Fridays.

The complete schedule is still under construction but we have our first program lined up on Friday, January 7, with librarian Ann Abrams of Boston's Temple Israel.

Ann will answer questions for an hour starting at noon EST on the subject of running a small synagogue library. She has been the librarian at Temple Israel for a number of years and has a lot of expertise on this important subject.

Here are the details:

What: How to run a small synagogue library.

Who: Ann Abrams, librarian at Temple Israel, Boston.

When: Friday, January 7, 2011 at 12:00 noon EST.

Where: Log on to You must "like" the Association of Jewish Libraries to participate. (This link will take you to the AJL Facebook page.)

How: Ask questions by posting a status update (click on the Status button).

We have two other programs coming up in January- watch this space for details!

Here we are back again with this week's collection of interesting links from around the web on libraries, Jewish books and more.

From ACRLog, Incorporating Failure into Library Instruction.

Tu B'Shevat books for kids, from the Jewish Literary Review.

From, Procrastinator's Guide: MidWinter '11, for those going to ALA MidWinter in a couple of weeks.

The Genesis of a Cartoon, from the Jewish Book Council.

The Future of Publishing, from Stephen's Lighthouse.

Have a great week! Email me at mcloutier at

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Save the date, Tuesday, January 18, 2011, in the AM, for the 2011 Reference Workshop of the New York Metropolitan Area Chapter of the Association of Jewish Libraries, which will be held at the New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street.


Evaluating the Usability of Digital Information – Dr. David Walczyk, Assistant Professor of Information & Library Science, Pratt Institute

Staying on the Cutting Edge: Jewish Studies Research in a Digital World – Michelle Chesner, Librarian for Jewish Studies, Columbia University

Future Developments in AJL – Jim Rosenbloom, President, Association of Jewish Libraries

The Reference Workshop will coincide with NYPL’s exhibition “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.” For information about this important exhibition, go to:

Full details about the 2011 Reference Workshop will be available soon – make sure to save the date and plan to join us.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Uncategorized
It's been another busy week for the blogosphere and we have plenty of terrific links for you on libraries, Jewish libraries, books and publishing and more.

Margo from The Fourth Musketeer offers us My Top Books for the Eight Nights of Hanukkah.

AJL's own Edith Lubetski has an article featured in Theological Librarianship, "Considerations in Preparing a Biblical Bibliography: Case Study: The Scroll of Esther"; you can find the download here.

Gartner Research Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011.

Stephen Abram of Stephen's Lighthouse lists The 10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2011. This brief laundry-list post is a great starting-point for thinking and talking about the evolution of social media in the immediate future.

Schocken Books' blog features Joseph Tellushkin's Hillel: If Not Now, When?

Yiddish Literature Making A Comeback? from the Jewish Literary Review.

From OnLion, Without Bread... Reflections on Resources and Funding.

On Twitter? On Wednesday, January 12 from 12:30pm- 1:10pm EST, the Jewish Book Council will lead a Twitter Book Club chat about Elizabeth Rosner's novel Blue Nude.

That's it for this week. See you back here next Friday for more links and news. Email feedback or suggestions to mcloutier at

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
jbcWelcome to the December edition of the Jewish Book Carnival, a monthly event where bloggers who blog about Jewish books can meet, read and comment on each others’ posts.

This month, the Carnival is hosted by My Machberet and you can find the post here.

The carnival was started by Heidi Estrin and Marie Cloutier to build community among bloggers and blogs who feature Jewish books. It will run every month on the 15th. The Carnival headquarters is here.

The Jewish Book Carnival has a GoodReads page, where we host discussions and more. Whether or not you’re participating, we hope you’ll stop by, join and take part!

If you’d like to participate, either to host or contribute a link, send me an email to and I’ll get you hooked up on the particulars. We are actively looking for hosts from June 15 forward.

In the mean time, visit My Machberet for this month’s carnival and don’t forget to check out the many great participating bloggers!
An anti-Semitic incident at Indiana University, Bloomington in November included not only rock-throwing, but defilement of Jewish texts from the shelves of the library. In support of IU's Jewish Studies program, our AJL member librarian at IU, and the university's efforts to combat prejudice, AJL President James Rosenbloom sent the following letter to IU President Dr. Michael A. McRobbie.
Dear Dr. McRobbie:

Recent anti-Semitic acts on the campus of Indiana University Bloomington are of great concern to the Association of Jewish Libraries, of which librarian Noa Wahrman is a member. Rock throwing at a Chabad House, at a church where synagogue services are held, and at a Hillel Center are shocking acts of anti-Semitic vandalism. The vandal or vandals also struck at the cultural heart of Judaism by taking eight volumes of Hebrew commentaries on the Talmud from the Library’s shelves and defiling them in bathrooms. We are not dealing with someone ignorant of Judaism. This act is a deliberate effort to insult and hurt Jews.

The Association of Jewish Libraries condemns these vicious acts. We are pleased to hear that the FBI and police are actively seeking to apprehend the individual or individuals responsible for this hate crime. We commend your administration’s and community’s quick and strong response to these acts. This is an appropriate moment to educate everyone in your community about the evils of prejudice and hatred in general, and about anti-Semitism in particular.

The members of the Association of Jewish Libraries stand in solidarity with you in your fight against anti-Semitism, and will support you in your efforts to combat this evil, which has unfortunately appeared on some campuses.

Yours truly,

James P. Rosenbloom
President, Association of Jewish Libraries

To read more about the incident itself in Jweekly, click here.

To read about Indiana University's response to the incident, click here.
Here are some great links on libraries, librarianship, Jewish books and more. Included are a book list, great posts to share, links new resources and an opportunity to add a new reference book to the shelf.

My Top Books for the Eight Nights of Hanukkah, by Marg at The Fourth Musketeer blog.

Ebooks for professional development: ALA's books available on the Google Ebookstore.

A Fresh Look at Your Home Library, from Reading Rockets. This is a great post to share with patrons, too!

On Twitter? Want to find out what Jewish organizations are there? See AJL's list here. And see all of AJL's list at AJL's Twitter homepage

The Distributed Library: Our Two-Year Experiment, this month's guest blog at ACRLog.

Great Reference Ideas Contest, from Salem Press. Any Jewish topics that need to be covered in a reference work? Suggest them here!

From ResourceShelf, Harvard Business Review's "Six Social Media Trends for 2011."

Email me at mcloutier at with feedback or suggestions and have a great week.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Ellen Tilman, Director of Library Services at Meyers Library, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel?, attended the recent Jewish Childrens' Writers & Illustrators Conferences and offers this summary of her experiences and impressions.

A Library Person’s View of The Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference

By Ellen Tilman

I attended the Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in New York City this past November out of curiosity as a Jewish Children’s book person. I knew no one at the conference. I was looking for a children’s author to do a program in my congregational library and have always considered writing a children’s book. For me, the conference was a success. I left with a stack of business cards, names of potential speakers, a list of possible books to purchase for my library and helpful advice on becoming a professional writer.

I heard about the conference from the Jewish Book Council and on Barbara Krasner’s Blog: The Whole Megillah.  I find her book reviews on Jewish children’s books to be very helpful in making library selections. She did a yeoman’s job organizing this event. Every minute was scheduled with presentations from editors, agents, and authors. There was an extended lunch hour to permit networking among participants.

Aileen Grossberg and Kathe Pinchuck represented AJL and discussed the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition and the Sydney Taylor Book Awards. The participants I met were either published authors or individuals looking for publishers. Several had books that were scheduled for publication this spring.

Stephanie Lurie, an editor at Disney-Hyperion,talked about the 3 H’s of Jewish children’s books: Holidays; History; and Holocaust. She shared titles of her favorite Jewish Children’s books. As a library person, I found her discussion of the types of books being published at mass market publishers, such as Disney-Hyperion, to be upsetting. They are interested in books with a universal appeal, that can be shared with the family, have positive role models, subtle values, leave the world a better place, etc. Fantasy and Science Fiction titles are in high demand. This would seem to severely limit books on Jewish themes.

Mark Levine, the Executive Editor at Behrman House shared the innovative new directions for this publisher. They are interested in “Digital Interactive Books.” As I understood his description, the reader will help develop the story line and will participate as a character. These books will be multi-sensory with audio and video components. The author and reader will have a shared communal experience. They are also exploring “Trans-Media Story Telling.” He described this as a multi-platform approach to publishing with books, on-line features, and the ability to be interactive with games, etc. I am not sure how this type of publishing would relate to a congregational library, but I am certainly eager to learn more.

Judye Groner, Editorial Director of Kar -Ben Publishers, said that they are publishing books featuring new Jewish traditions (such as Tashlich or Rosh Hodesh); American Jewish history, and today’s kids. An unusual feature of this conference was the opportunity for authors and illustrators to arrange individual consultations with publishers. Other speakers discussed the Agent-Author Relationship and marketing secrets. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the final speaker and Question and Answer Panel in order to catch my bus back to Philadelphia.

My “follow-up” list includes researching these titles for possible inclusion in our collection: “Jumping Jenny” by Ellen Bari (Kar-Ben); “Noah’s Swim-A-Thon” by Ann Koffsky (URJ); “The Life and Opinions of Amy Finewitz” by Laura Toffler-Corrie (Roaring Brook), and “Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword” by Barry Deutsch. I enjoyed this Conference and would encourage other AJL members to attend in the future.
Some fun Chanukah-related posts:

The Donut Diaries- First Night, from TCJewfolk.

Happy Hanukkah (in song), from Jewesses with Attitude.

From the Jewish Book Council and featuring several members of AJL, It's Christmastime for Chanukah Books.

Hanukkah Lights 2010, from National Public Radio.

Now some non-holiday related posts:

Brown University's John Carter Brown Library features an online exhibit on Jews and the Americas.

Finding 'Teachable Moments' in Animal Tales, from National Public Radio.

Just for fun from the Library History Buff Blog, a New York Society Library Charger, 1798-1792. Do you have any interesting artifacts in your library you'd like to share with the AJL community?

From the University of Toronto Libraries newsletter, Creating a Culture of Connection Among Instructors, Librarians and Students, an academic libraries perspective.

The Academic Librarian's Identity Conflict, from the ACRLog.

Got some great links to share? Feedback? Email me at mcloutier at Have a happy holiday!

Posted by Marie.

Library Snapshot Day 2010

The People of the Book really do love libraries! In November 2010, during Jewish Book Month, 30 Jewish libraries participated in Library Snapshot Day.  The event, sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries, was created to let all types of Judaic libraries record what happens in a day in the life of a library. Across North America, libraries in synagogues, day schools, community centers and universities picked one day during the first two weeks of November to hold the event. Collectively, participating libraries served 3,548 patrons on Library Snapshot Day.

The Activities

From Jewish hubs like Chicago, IL to smaller Jewish communities like Tulsa, OK, from sunny Miami, FL to chilly Montreal, Quebec, Jewish libraries held author visits, study groups, literary and computer quizzes, artist receptions, book discussions, book sales, scavenger hunts, craft projects, parenting programs, charity drives, and children’s story times. Eleven of the participating libraries shared their circulation statistics, revealing that at least 745 books were checked out during Library Snapshot Day.

The Feedback

Every participating library reported overwhelmingly positive feedback from its community. Common themes included praise for the library as a quiet, peaceful environment in which to read and work, kudos for the hard work of librarians (many of whom, apparently, “rock”), and appreciation for the many print and digital resources provided. A patron at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck, NY said “The library is a great place to study and clear your head. I always feel relaxed and very welcomed when I come to the library, and I love the librarian.” A sixth-grader at the Sheila Sporn Library at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA said “Libraries are important because they let people who don't have enough money get books to read.” A patron of the Brenner Library at Temple Emanuel in Denver, CO drives 150 miles from the mountains to make use of the facilities. Perhaps the general sentiments of library users are best summed up by a patron at the Feldman Library at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL, who said “The library helps us to continue to be the People of the Book!”

What It All Means

Library Snapshot Day captured the diversity of services offered by Jewish libraries and underscored the importance of libraries in Jewish life. “Libraries and librarians often fly under the radar in their communities,” said Association of Jewish Libraries Vice-President, Heidi Estrin. “We are thrilled that, on Library Snapshot Day, over three thousand people expressed their love of Jewish libraries. We hope that the event will encourage even more people to use these amazing resources year-round.” A slide show of selected photographs submitted by participants may be viewed on AJL's blog "People of the Books" at

The concept of Library Snapshot Day originated with the American Library Association, of which AJL is an affiliate. Click here for more information on ALA's Library Snapshot Day.

Please feel free to share this article and/or video on your site or via social networking. You can find AJL online at, at, and on Twitter @jewishlibraries.
Posted in: Announcements
Here's another collection of great links from around the web on books, libraries, Jewish books and Jewish libraries. Enjoy the weekend and the upcoming Chanukah holiday!

Eating Jewish: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, a review at Jewesses with Attitude.

Stephen Abram from Stephen's Lighthouse shares a great article on Global Changes in Online Behavior, something all librarians need to stay on top of.

ACRLog brings us Focus on Flexibility, an academic library perspective on adapting to changing times.

The Jewish Book Council blog shares their Report on the 12th Annual Jewish Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. Were there any AJL folks in attendance? It would be great to offer a home-grown perspective on the event if one is available.

Prepare Yourself for Chanukah Shopping! from the Jewish Publication Society.

The Book of Life brings us the 2010 Canadian Jewish Book Awards.

Reference Webinar Archive Now Available from Booklist Online. I'm a big fan of webinars for convenient, subject-specific, just-in-time learning. This is a great resource from a great supporter of librarians and libraries.

Have a wonderful weekend and I hope to see you back here next week. In the mean time feel free to contact me at mcloutier at with comments, feedback and suggestions.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Today I have an interview with Avner Mandelman, author of the Giller Prize-nominated novel The Debba. You can see a trailer for the book here.

1. The story you tell in THE DEBBA mixes politics, romance, myth and even magic. There are issues around Jewish identity and assimilation as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict and it all comes together at the end with the revelation of shocking secrets and betrayals. What inspired you to write this story?

The story’s beginning came to me on the third day of the Yom Kippur War (I was then living in Vancouver, Canada), as I saw  on TV Israeli jet planes exploding and Israeli tanks bursting into flames, with my friends in them. I escaped to a nearby park in great distress, and the opening pages of the book then came to me -- I still have no idea from where -- and I wrote them down in a white heat. Then the flow stopped, and over the next eighteen years, as I got married, had children, got an MBA degree, and worked in the market, I kept trying to dig out the story, but it was clear to me I did not know how to write fiction. So finally in 1991 I closed my house in Toronto, took my then-wife and two toddlers and decamped to California to the Bay Area, to learn how to write fiction. It took a while. I got an MA in CW, finished the book, got an agent, published some story collections, and returned to Canada. After many rejections, last year, thirty six years after the first words were written, the book was finally accepted by a publisher. And yes, the ending shocked me too when I wrote it…

2. The main character, David, a burnt-out Israeli military assassin, has to return to Israel from Canada after the death of his father, who asks him posthumously to stage a play called THE DEBBA. It seems like a very unusual request and puts David in the role of a creator. Why does his father make this request? What impact does it have on David?

David’s father asks him to perform the play as an oblique way of telling David his destiny, and what he must do. The story is structured as a monomyth, the classical “hero’s return,” as identified by Joseph Campbell. It usually involves a hero of mysterious origins who had left his people and who suddenly receives a message from his ancestor (or his God or gods) to perform a task. This task goes against his grain and so he at first refuses, but after a while he does it; and as he performs it, he gets deeper and deeper into trouble, passes through a vale of shadows where he must perform ever harder tasks, until at the end he must perform the one task that changes him and renders him whole, and reveals to him his destiny, thereby helping his people. This in essence is the structure of all the enduring myths— Moses, Jason, Jesus, or modern ones like Hamlet, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, etc. So David must stage the play and go through the investigation in order to find out what his father really wanted.

3. In an interview you did for Other Press you talk about the violent reactions people have to the play in the book, that "normal people kill and are killed for fictions." Do you think that art can still have that power even in a cynical age like ours?

That’s an excellent question. The “fictions” in the book for which “normal people kill and are killed” are not Art, but scriptures, religions, ideologies, and other books of “holy” fictions. All around him David sees otherwise sane people who casually accept “holy fictional fables” as perfectly good reasons to kill strangers who believe in other fictional stories, or as good reasons to be killed themselves. It is the casual acceptance of “holy fictions” as a valid reason for killing that horrifies him. As for whether art can still have this power even in a cynical age like ours, the answer is, of course, yes. Every day people still kill or are killed for the sake of “holy” poetic fictions such as the Old and New Testaments or the Koran, and for the sake of their fictive protagonists. Clearly, then, skillfully composed fictions can raise intense emotions which even in this modern age have the power to unleash death and destruction. Now, any good novel makes the readers enter into a trance that temporarily makes them forget their everyday reality. But exceptionally well-structured language in “holy” art can hypnotize many into life-long trances. They then come to believe that what the stories tell them about— 72 Virgins in paradise, or the Messiah and Resurrection, or Hell and Damnation, or Pearly Gates— is more real than what their senses tell them, and, what’s worse, are perfectly good reasons to kill and be killed. In my novel, I hope that, for a brief time, Good Art can be seen to counteract the perniciousness of “holy” Art (a.k.a. in the novel as “God’s Mein Kampf”).

4. One reviewer compared THE DEBBA to an "M.C. Escher-like structure...doubling back on [itself]." To me it was like a layer cake of secrets, symbols and hidden agendas. How do you see the book?

Another very good question. Yes, there are some symbols in the book, but it’s up to the reader to find them... As for hidden agendas, there aren’t any. I’m merely trying to tell a good story. As far as the reviewer’s reference to structure, the Western monomyth is only half of it. The other half is the Moslem End of Days myth, so that the book in essence has two overlapping myths. The father’s request (from beyond the grave) both starts the Western-type hero on his journey-of-return, and launches the Eastern-type hero on his journey to the End-of-Days. In addition, there are three time periods: The past, the present, and the play, in each of which the same characters re-appear. These three parallel stories, and the repetition of actions in different forms, are meant to give the novel reverberations beyond the straight story. 5. The Booklist review says the book "reveal[s] the paradoxes of Israeli life." What were you trying to show about Israel through the way you portray the country in THE DEBBA? I tried to convey Israel’s smells, sights, tastes, and feeling of tightly-confined communal living, in a place where everyone knows everyone else, and where soldier / citizens must take hard actions during their army service to keep life going. Indeed, if there’s any theme in the book, it is that of necessary evil. As I’ve said elsewhere, most of us conveniently prefer to forget that necessary evil is often the price of civilized life. If we want to eat cow’s meat, someone must be the butcher. But what if we see cow-killing as evil? We still want our steak. What then is to be done with the butcher? This can provide a rich vein for a novelist: how much necessary evil can be allowed by a civilized society, and what is to be done with those who perform the tasks we cannot admit are necessary? Or, worse, who defines what’s necessary for whom, and why? All these are hard questions without straight answers, just the kind novelists find useful to make a book unputdownable and unforgettable. If, that is, they can resist the twin temptations of providing answers or engaging in polemics…

Mr. Mandelman, thank you so much taking the time to answer my questions. I hope lots of people decide to read your fantastic book.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Authors, Interview
Here we go again- our weekly roundup of great links on Jewish libraries, librarianship, books and more, including a couple of great links for Hanukkah.

AJL's Greater Cleveland Chapter continues to enrich the blogosphere. This week, they offer a list of New Hanukkah Books by AJL's own Linda Silver.

Pick Your Favorite Chanukiah, from Tablet Magazine.

From PPC Blog, Learn How Google Works, in Gory Detail.

J Lit Links, a great roundup from the Jewish Book Council.

A roundup of adult Holocaust Books, from the Jewish Literary Review.

From, Feminists in Focus: David Grossman on Film.

Feedback and questions to me at mcloutier at Have a great week.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Welcome to the November edition of the Jewish Book Carnival, a monthly event where bloggers who blog about Jewish books can meet, read and comment on each others’ posts.

This month, the Carnival is hosted by and you can find the post here.

The carnival was started by Heidi Estrin and Marie Cloutier to build community among bloggers and blogs who feature Jewish books. It will run every month on the 15th. The Carnival headquarters is here.

The Jewish Book Carnival has a GoodReads page, where we host discussions and more. Whether or not you’re participating, we hope you’ll stop by, join and take part!

If you'd like to participate, either to host or contribute a link, send me an email to and I'll get you hooked up on the particulars. We are actively looking for hosts for March 2011, June 2011 and forward.

In the mean time, visit for this month's carnival and don't forget to check out the many great participating bloggers!

After a busy week on the AJL blog here's a quick roundup of some great links on Jewish books, libraries and more.

AJL's Greater Cleveland Chapter featured Heather's Picks for November, a selection of interesting links.

From NPR, a story about Gal Beckerman's book When They Come For Us, We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, How A Quest to Save Soviet Jews Changed the World.

Finding a Future for Holocaust Memory, from the

From, Throw a Book Club Party: The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer, a guide complete with recipes and more.

ACRLog talks about Building Smart Collections for Today's Users.

Hanukkah Poems, from the Jewish Literary Review.

Feedback, questions and concerns to me at mcloutier at

Posted by Marie.
Today I have for you an interview with Avi Steinberg, former prison librarian and author of the great new memoir Running the Books.

The book details his time working at Boston's Suffolk County House of Corrections, as well as his life and experiences as an Orthodox Jew as they relate to his time in the big house.

In the interview, Steinberg discusses what lead him to become a prison librarian, some of the challenges he faced, and how his yeshiva upbringing informed the approach he took in this very different library setting.

You can listen to our conversation here:

Avi Steinberg Interview Part 1 of 3

Avi Steinberg Interview Part 2 of 3

Avi Steinberg Interview Part 3 of 3

The interview run-time is about 30 minutes. Thanks to Steinberg and Random House for making this interview possible.

Posted by Marie.
Here we go again- another edition of our famous weekly link roundup. What's been going on in the world of Jewish books, libraries, librarianship and more this week?

Best Free Web Stuff for Broke Libraries, from Librarian in Black,

The Sisterhood brings us Our Rack: Yeshiva Girl YA; Bios of Bernhardt, Alcott,

How a Quest to Save Soviet Jews Changed the World, from NPR,

Research Buzz tackles new search engine Blekko in Blekko Joins the Search Engine Wars,

Jewesses with Attitude reviews The Bookseller's Sonnets: Andi L. Rosenthal's debut novel,

ALA offers a Copyright & Electronic Resource Management eCourse, and

ACRLog asks, Do We Need a Bigger Carrot?

As always feel free to email me at mcloutier at with questions or feedback. Thanks and have a great week.

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
The Association of Jewish Libraries is conducting an anonymous survey in order to study current trends in Judaica libraries and to
anticipate future developments across AJL divisions (School, Synagogue & Centers and Research, Archives & Special Libraries).

The anonymous survey was developed by a work group of SSC and RAS members. It includes questions about age, education level, salary range, and retirement plans, and questions regarding the library you are affiliated with. It is vital for us to know about our members and other readers of Hasafran ? please respond even if you are not a member of AJL. The survey will be conducted anonymously over a secured web page ? no personal data will be shared. We will share the overall results with you.

The results will be of enormous significance for AJL, to help develop our goals and services. By completing the survey, you will be helping yourself: a written report with reader-friendly statistics based on the results may help you demonstrate the value of your library, negotiate employment terms, or prove the necessity of additional resources.

The survey will take only about 10 minutes of your time. There are 25 questions, or far fewer if you are not currently employed. Please
submit it by November 26, 2010. Click here to begin the survey:

Thank you so much for participating!

Rachel Leket-Mor
RAS President

Joyce Levine
SSC President
Posted in: Announcements

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