"People of the Books" Blog

Statement on Recent Events at YIVO

The Association of Jewish Libraries is dismayed by the decision of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research to fire its librarians.

The difficulty of funding is one that we feel deeply within the world of libraries and archives, with few funders and many institutions applying for the same funding. We would caution, however, that replacing expert librarians with non-librarians also has results that could impact an institution in the long run. There are the obvious concerns of divvying up the jobs of four employees among employees that already have full-time responsibilities. More than that, though, subject librarians are trained in the nuances of a particular area of research. The YIVO librarians had an expertise in Yiddish bibliography that, like YIVO’s Yiddish book collection, is unsurpassed, and the loss of their curatorial expertise is a loss for all YIVO users and for the collection.

Librarians often have connections to colleagues in their area at other institutions, and can connect researchers with relevant resources around the world. This was made exceptionally clear through the joint partnership of the YIVO librarians with the National Library of Lithuania to integrate discovery for books in both collections. We certainly hope that the decision to terminate their librarians was a temporary move on YIVO’s part, and we look forward to hearing about how this august institution will maintain its reputation and unique library collections in the coming weeks and months. YIVO's decision to remove all Library staff is also a decision to remove themselves from the larger active Judaica library community. As the many responses from across the world have already shown in just a few days, we already see the loss to the entire Judaica library and scholarly communities.

As the leading authority on Judaic Librarianship, AJL stands with the community in encouraging YIVO to reinstate the librarians to continue their critical work.


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