"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.


AJL's 2020 Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces the 2020 Winners of the Jewish Fiction Award

Goldie Goldbloom is the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel On Division, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and support to attend the 56th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Evanston, IL, June 29-July 1, 2020. One honor book was also recognized: The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer, published by Knopf. The Committee reviewed over 75 works of fiction originally written in English with significant Jewish thematic content published in the United States in 2019. Thanks to all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published in 2019 is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

Cover of On DivisionCover of Flight Portfolio“In On Division, Goldbloom writes about Surie, a newly-pregnant fifty-seven year old mother, grandmother, and almost great-grandmother living in the Chasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Haunted by the death of her son Lipa, Surie finds herself keeping this pregnancy a secret from everyone, including her beloved husband. The author, a member of the Chasidic community, writes with accuracy, authenticity, and respect – celebrating the positive aspects of the community with beauty, warmth, and love while also exposing negative, harmful, and shameful practices. The result is a multi-layered story of how secrets can shake even the most secure and close-knit families that is accessible to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with the insular world of ultra-Orthodox Jews,” noted Rachel Kamin, member of the Award Committee.

“In The Flight Portfolio author Julie Orringer imagines the daring and conflicted existence of the little-known real-life hero Varian Fry as he sets up a rescue operation in Vichy France, helping artists, writers and intellectuals, mainly Jewish, escape from their increasingly precarious existence to safety in America. As the Nazis increase their presence and control, he and his assistants evade German and Vichy authorities, search for new escape routes, work around American governmental indifference, and wrangle eccentric personalities. The author’s gorgeous writing and well-researched historical background plunge the reader into the dangers of life in southern France in 1940 with a love story, a suspenseful escape story, and the ethical question of whom do you save when all are worth saving,” commented Merrily Hart, member of the Award Committee.

The AJL Jewish Fiction Award Committee members are Merrily Hart, Rachel Kamin, Rosalind Reisner, Laura Schutzman, and Sheryl Stahl.

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2021 AJL Fiction Award (titles published in 2020) are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is an all-volunteer professional organization that promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

Statement from the Association of Jewish Libraries Regarding Recent Antisemitic Acts

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) is horrified by the recent spate of antisemitic attacks, especially those that took place during the holiday of Hanukkah. The shooting at a kosher market in New Jersey and the stabbing at a Hanukkah party in New York made national news; at the same time, there has been a tidal wave of verbal abuse, physical violence, and widespread vandalism of Jewish spaces. We mourn the tragic loss of life, offer prayers of recovery for victims, and urge all to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in the face of intimidation.

As an international organization of librarians, archivists, researchers, writers, teachers, and lovers of literature, AJL seeks to educate the public and provide resources to fight this scourge of ignorance and hate. After the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, AJL published the Love Your Neighbor series of youth booklists. These recommended titles demystify the Jewish experience for readers, with the aim of helping them grow in understanding and empathy. We will continue to update and add to this series in the new year. We call upon educators and librarians of all backgrounds to share this resource with their communities, and to reach out to AJL for more ways to learn about and support Jewish neighbors. Please contact [email protected] to see how you can help.

We will not allow our communities to accept antisemitic terrorism or any other form of hate crime as "the new normal." We will spread knowledge to fight hate. Please join us.

The Association of Jewish Libraries - The Leading Authority on Judaic Librarianship

AJL 2020 Call for Proposals

 AJL Conference 2020 logo

Deadline November 15, 2019.

Call for Proposals


The Association of Jewish Libraries is now soliciting proposals for our upcoming conference at the Hilton Orrington Hotel in Evanston, Illinois, June 29-July 1, 2020. 

Librarians, scholars, educators, and authors are invited to submit proposals for papers and presentations on all aspects of librarianship and on topics related to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel. Presentations should be relevant to library professionals working in academic and research institutions, archives, synagogues, day schools, and Jewish community centers as well as public schools and libraries serving Jewish communities.  Past topics have included collection development and management, programming, reader advisory services, special and rare collections, cataloging and classification, Jewish literature and literacy, digital and electronic resources and emerging technologies.    

Click here to submit your proposal. All submissions must be received by November 15, 2019. If you are unable to access the Google form, contact [email protected]. Proposals will be reviewed by the Programming Committee and all applicants will be notified in January, 2020. 


Thank you, 

Marcie Eskin & Rachel Kamin 
2020 Association of Jewish Libraries Conference 

Announcement: Openings on Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee has multiple positions available for the upcoming year. 

Applicants should be members of AJL, familiar with the scope of Judaic children’s literature, experienced in writing critical reviews, willing and able to read and review over 100 books during the course of a year, and able to meet deadlines.

Committee members are expected to attend the annual conference and committee meetings, and to participate in committee-sponsored events, including speaking at the Committee’s annual presentation.  The term of membership on the Committee is two years.   

Membership on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee is both fun and intellectually challenging. It also requires a substantial commitment in terms of time and energy. 

Members must be able to submit reviews electronically and correspond with the committee members through regular e-mail.  Familiarity with Google Docs is helpful but not required. 

To apply, send a letter indicating the reasons for your interest, a resume, and several examples of your recent reviews of Jewish children’s books to Rebecca Levitan, Committee Chair, at [email protected]  

Applications will be accepted through November 15, 2019.

Rebecca Levitan, Chair
Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee
The Association of Jewish Libraries​