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Librarianship in the Time of COVID-19

AJL Statement on Collecting, Serving, our Users, and Supporting Vendors in the Time of COVID-19

This statement has been endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Association for Jewish Studies.

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) recognizes the interdependence of libraries, library users, vendors, and publishers that make up the scholarly ecosystem. Due to the COVID19 global pandemic, Jewish Studies librarians and archivists, alongside other area studies colleagues (such as SALALM, MELA etc.), are faced with unprecedented challenges to maintaining quality patron services and furthering their mission of supporting scholarship. As universities and research centers rely more and more on e-books in this environment of expanding distance programs and shelter-at-home directives, we assert that continuing to acquire physical books and other print and non-print materials is necessary to achieve and maintain robust research collections.

Relying solely on e-books presents many challenges:

  • Unavailability of material in electronic format: Jewish Studies scholarship relies on special collections and archival material that are often not published in electronic format or digitized. Furthermore, small publishers usually do not make their works available as ebooks and when they do, the books are not generally included in collection packages. Relying on e-books will prevent users from accessing material such as:
  • Various formats and genres: graphic novels, museum exhibit catalogues, art books, zines, sheet music, religious books, and broadsides
  • Self-published works: local histories, genealogy, and association publications
  • Congregational materials: newsletters, minutes
  • Special collections: ephemera, archival documents, and non-print materials
  • Privacy issues: Materials that belong to marginalized communities cannot be digitized and made accessible online to protect privacy and copyright.
  • Supporting the scholarly ecosystem: Most of the above collections come from small vendors in the U.S. and abroad, and small publishers who focus on emerging or specialized topics. AJL recognizes that these small vendors and publishers as well as their networks need to be supported, and their expertise retained.

AJL encourages our member libraries and archives, as well as all other scholarly institutions that hold Jewish Studies collections, to consider the long-term implications that budgetary constraints will have for future scholarship and the viability of the networks that sustain it. AJL stands with other area studies associations in our commitment to holistic and representative collection development policies and practices in research institutions.

The Board and Council of the Association of Jewish Libraries.