Find us on: Bookmark and Share

Entries for 'marie'

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!
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.
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

Today I have for you an interview with graphic novel artist and writer Barry Deutsch, whose book Hereville, a graphic novel about a troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox girl launches today from Amulet Books. Barry is an accomplished artist and you can visit his website, Amptoons, to learn more.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background as an artist?

I was born in New York City, and raised in New York and Connecticut. I've loved comics for as long as I remember. My parents have an original "Pogo" Sunday page -- Pogo, for your readers too young to know, was one of the all-time great newspaper comic strips, the Calvin and Hobbes of its day – and I would kneel on the back of the sofa and read that page over and over again.

[caption id="attachment_577" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Barry Deutsch"][/caption]

I remember drawing comics in junior high and in high school. I was an okay student -- sliding by on book smarts rather than hard work, a sure recipe for mediocrity -- but I took drawing classes very seriously. After attending and dropping out of Oberlin College (my poor parents!), I attended School of Visual Arts in New York City for a year, where I took Will Eisner's cartooning class. Then I moved to Massachusetts, where I wasn't a student at UMASS, but nonetheless did a daily strip in their student newspaper, which was an amazing learning experience. Next came Oregon, and finally Portland State University, the first college I actually graduated from. While there I did political cartoons in the student paper, for which I won the national Charles Schulz Award for outstanding college cartoonist. Along the way I began and abandoned any number of larger comic book projects.

2. Why did you decide to write about rebellious Mirka? What interested you about her and her family? What audience did you write the book for?

One of my abandoned ideas was a comic about a Jewish woman, in the middle ages, wanting to fight a dragon St George style, but facing (among other barriers) that Jews couldn't legally carry weapons at that time. I had also read Liz Harris' book Holy Days, which has many great stories of Hasidic family life, about a decade earlier. I think those things were percolating in my mind, because when my friend Jennifer Lee (the awesome cartoonist behind told me, a website for girl-friendly comics, was looking for submissions, the idea of an Orthodox 11 year old girl's quest for a sword popped to mind pretty easily.

Beyond that, I had no idea what I was doing. Girlamatic said "yes," so I was making up the pages as I drew them, and in my spare time I started doing more serious research. And the more I learned, the more interested I became in Mirka's family and home life. In particular, Stephanie Levine's book Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers was very inspirational to me – in particular, how girl-centered life is for girls in that culture before they reach a marriageable age, and how incredibly spirited and strong Levine found the girls she met to be.

The main audience I write for is myself. I wanted to create a comic that I'd want to read. So it has a lot of elements I love to see in comics -- lots of humor and adventure, but also a lot of cultural information, and (I hope) interesting storytelling and layouts.

3. At the end of the day, the fanciful fable you tell about a brave girl who battles a troll turns out to have a very domesticated moral. What do you hope your readers take away from the book?

I don't think of my work as having a message. If readers come away feeling attached to the characters and saying "that was a really great story," then I'm satisfied. If some readers see some deeper things then that -- if they see it as a story about ambition, and about mourning a dead parent – then I'm delighted, but it's not necessary.

I am concerned with identity politics -- I'd like to see more girl-centered pop fiction, and I'd like to see more Jewish characters in popular fictions. And if other readers, especially female readers and Jewish readers, have been feeling that same hunger and so get a bit of extra pleasure out of reading Hereville, then that's great.

4. How did you develop your visual style? Do you think the comics medium is valuable for telling Jewish stories? Why or why not?

Some of my visual style comes from consciously imitating other cartoonists -- I spend a lot of time trying (and failing) to get my figures to flow as smoothly as Will Eisner's did, for example. But some of it didn't seem to
come from anywhere. It's just there, and the more I draw the more apparent it becomes. Why the big muppet-like mouths, for instance? I don't know why.

I think the comics medium is valuable for telling any sort of story, Jewish stories included. There is no limit, either to what stories comics can tell, or to the number of Jewish stories to be told.

5. What other Jewish comics artists do you admire?

I've already mentioned Will Eisner, but I'll mention him again, because he was such a spectacularly great cartoonist. His drawing was dazzling, his layouts were innovative, and on top of all that he was the first great cartoonist to make Jewish characters the text (instead of a hidden subtext) in his work.

There are so many great Jewish cartoonists! But some whose work I like are Jules Fieffer (who began his career working for Eisner), Will Elder, Al Hirschfeld (another cartoonist my parents had on their walls), Harvey Kurtzman, and more recently Art Spiegelman, Ariel Schrag, Rutu Modan, and Daniel Clowes. Oh, and just last week I picked up one of Sarah Glidden'scomics about Israel, and it was really good -- I can't wait to read her whole book.

6. What are you working on now and when can we see you in print again?

I'm working on the second Hereville book! Abrams hasn't yet announced the publication date, though.
Barry, thank you so much for participating and telling us about your book! Best of luck and keep in touch with what you're working on next!

Posted by Marie.
Here are some great new links in the world of Jewish books, libraries and librarianship.

From Schocken Books, Random House Goes Kosher!

Gale Expands AccessMyLibrary apps for College and Android Users, from Booklist.

An Afternoon with Avi Steinberg, from Tablet. AJL has an interview coming up soon with Steinberg-stay tuned.

From Information Wants to be Free, Inspiring Stuff to Read, Take 3.

Vasily Grossman's The Road: Previously Untranslated Work from an Important Soviet Writer, from the Jewish Literary Review.

Two New Sets of Primary Sources from the Library of Congress, from ResourceShelf.

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

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Naomi Steinberger is Director of Library Services at Jewish Theological Seminary. This interview was conducted by Bob Schrier. Bob Schrier holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Earlham College and spent the last 8 years working as a teacher, manager, and high school librarian. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Syracuse University with a focus in Jewish and digital librarianship.

This is part two of a two-part interview. See Part One here.

Q: How have you helped the library to cope with changes in technology over the years?

“Today it’s very different than when I started. When I came to this library there was one computer in the library. It was 22 years ago; it was a different time. We had a card catalog in those days. But times have changed and that was evolutionary. People still wanted the cards even though we had the online system but slowly people began to believe that the online system would work.

Skip forward to 2010 and were talking about ebooks. I can tell you that over the last four or five years we’ve talked about electronic periodicals. And four or five years ago we said ‘Alright, fine, we’ll get a hard copy and electronic format.’ Slowly, as people got used to using electronic journals, this year we decided to buy only electronic copies and we get hard copies only if an electronic copy is not available. So it’s an evolution of the world and the library.

There’s such major changes in the library today. To keep up we have meetings, talk to people, and we also have to stay in touch with our users. Our undergraduates, for example, are coming from a whole different world than most of our veteran librarians. By the time they were born and could read, the internet already existed.

You have to go with the trends and the way the world is changing. I think that librarians by and large are fine with moving in that direction. I feel like there’s much less resistance to change today than there was 15 years ago because of the way the world is changing so rapidly.

Q: Do you ever encounter resistance to change?

With regard to people who are resistant: sometimes we do focus groups, sometimes we do brainstorming sessions. We discuss how we’re going to make changes, exactly what we’re going to do, how it will impact other things we’re doing, how our users will see the changes.

I think there was more discussion about it 10 years ago than there is now because change is so rapid all the time. I don’t think we ever held brainstorming sessions about shifting to ejournals but 10 years ago we talked a lot about what our website would look like. Today we’re not talking as much about it. There are smaller groups dealing with it; it’s sort of just understood.

With regard to other kinds of change: we’ve unfortunately had a lot of cuts in staff and that’s been very difficult on a personal level because we had to lay people off and also because we had to take on more responsibility. People have been extremely cooperative in those areas and also understand that there are things that can’t be done that we would like to do. Sometimes we get someone who ambitiously comes and says ‘I really wanted to do x-y-z and plus-plus-plus,’ and we have to reign them in a little. We refocus and try to put the idea in a positive light so that we work on how we actually can do it. You don’t have to tell them they can’t do it. You have to say ‘ let’s work on how-to’ rather than telling them why we can’t do something.

We have a wonderful staff who are open and are always looking for new challenges. I know a lot of larger institutions and larger academic institutions have problems with a lot of resistance. Some of their staff is unionized, they have strong unions and won’t do things a certain way because their contract says that they shouldn’t. We don’t have those problems here. We really have a group of amenable and cooperative people.

But there are always challenges because there are always changes.”

Q: What do you like best about your job?

Every day I come in and there’s something new, it’s never boring. There are interesting people to talk to and interact with. And there’s always something that you can do to make a difference, both in the library and hopefully for the community of people who use our collections, onsite and electronically. Another really exciting part for me is dreaming up new projects and seeing them come to fruition.

Q: What are your thoughts on the role of digital librarianship in libraries today?

Digital librarianship. That’s a large field. Are we talking about the actual people doing the digitization, making choices about the digitization; are we talking about the people who create metadata, how is metadata different for electronic objects different than traditional cataloging; are we talking about the web, the presence on the web; are we talking about images, are you talking about text; how are you going to present the text, different formats, the pros and cons of different kinds of formats; also the back office programming, systems work vis-à-vis presentation of the digital object. It’s a very big field to go into because clearly that’s the future.

Q: Specifically, is there a need for digital librarians in the area of Jewish librarianship and at JTS?

“I think there’s a lot of material in Jewish studies out there on the web now and nobody has pulled it all together. We did a rare book digitization project last fall and the first thing that we did was to make sure that no one else already digitized the items. There’s no union list of digital items in Jewish studies. There’s a pressing need for that so that we don’t duplicate each other’s work.”

Q: Is pulling all that material together part of JTS’s mission?

“We’re talking to other organizations to work collaboratively on it. I’m not sure it’s our job to take it on. I see it as a job for the National Library in Israel to take on. But I think that an area that’s important in Jewish studies, it’s important to bring it all together.”

Q: What you look for in the people you hire?

Aside from competency, you have to be able to interact with people. Different types of people are good for different kinds of jobs. In the public area you want people who are easy to interact with, people who want to deal with the public, who don’t want to sit buried at their desks. In other areas, you need specific skills. In cataloging you need specific skills, you need language skills. It really depends on the type of job. There also has to be good chemistry between the supervisor and the potential employee. It’s really a combination of skills and excitement about what they’re doing.

Also you have to have a feel for whether or not someone is going to stay the course. We have someone who’s completing a project for us. It was an 8-month project and we’re in the sixth or seventh month and even she found another job, she said ‘I’m not leaving now. I have to finish this job.’ So a lot of commitment also.

I can tell you that I’ve gotten better at it. Earlier on there were people that I made mistakes with but you make fewer mistakes as you get more experience. Sounding people out is essential in the interviewing process. It also helps if you bring other people into the process. While you might get very excited about someone, another person may see it differently and give good insight. That helps a lot for a better evaluation.”

Posted by Marie.
Note: On October 12, 2010, beloved novelist Belva Plain passed away. What follows is an appreciation of her life and work by writer Randy Susan Meyers, author of the novel The Murderer's Daughters (2010, Macmillan).

“In the beginning there was a warm room with a table, a black iron stove and red flowered wallpaper.”

That’s the first line of Belva Plain’s first book. In a prescient review, Library Journal wrote of Evergreen: “A magnificent story...this beautifully written book will be treasured and reread for many years to come."

I read Evergreen as I did most books in 1978—for the luxury of escape, seeking solace in a world that wasn’t mine, my world being defined by a two-year-old, a five- year-old, and a marriage chosen at 19, when I was in love and desperate for perceived safety.

Belva Plain’s books comforted me then and her life story has comforted me ever since. Each birthday

that another year passed without publishing a novel, each year that writing gave way to raising children and working, I’d think of Belva Plain publishing her first novel at 59. She’d sold short stories in her twenties, but broke from writing as she raised her family. I’d co-authored a nonfiction book in my twenties, and then became lost in family and work, until I realized my dream at 57, when I published my novel The Murderer’s Daughters.

Belva Plain was a guiding light to me from 1978 forward. As I counted down the years, in a world where youth is treated as an achievement, the presence of Belva Plain calmed me. For every time there is a season, I reminded myself. Ms. Plain was my example against the world’s devaluation of middle-aged women.

Ms. Plain was a New York Times bestselling author. Though rarely given critical acclaim, her rich reads offered millions exactly what they wanted, stories thick with family, conflict, and all the true and tough issues facing women. In her New York Times obituary, she is quoted as saying: “I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes — the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe,” she said. “I wanted to write a different novel about Jews — and a truer one.”

An amazing and accomplished woman, Belva Plain built a wonderful life. From within her happiness—a long loving marriage, beloved by and close to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—Ms. Plain was able to touch the ways women stay strong in the face of the disasters they faced in their homes, in their communities, and in the world.

Belva Plain provided succor and transport in her stories and a breath-taking role model with her life. She will be missed.

You can find out more about Randy Susan Meyers and her novel at

[caption id="attachment_556" align="alignleft" width="181" caption="Randy Susan Meyers"][/caption]

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Authors, Guest Post
Welcome to our weekly roundup of interesting links from around the internet on Jewish libraries, librarianship, books and more.

AJL's Cleveland Chapter gives us The Best of the Best.

Heidi Estrin guest-posts at From the Mixed-Up Files... of Middle Grade Authors with (Sometimes-Not-So) All-of-A-Kind-Families.

What do have planned for the Global Day of Jewish Learning, November 7, 2010? Check out the site here.

From, Noshin' Review: 'Kosher Nation' by Sue Fishkoff.

From ACRLog, Managing E-Resources for Users, 100%.

Burnt Books now on sale, from Schocken Books.

From Information Wants to be Free, Management, Upward Mobility and Sticking.

Check out Anna Levine's Free Fall blog tour schedule at The Teen {Book} Scene- then go visit the tour!

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

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Naomi Steinberger is Director of Library Services at Jewish Theological Seminary. This interview was conducted by Bob Schrier. Bob Schrier holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Earlham College and spent the last 8 years working as a teacher, manager, and high school librarian. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Syracuse University with a focus in Jewish and digital librarianship.

This is part one of a two-part interview. Come back next Wednesday, October 27, for the conclusion.

In broad strokes, Ms. Naomi Steinberger paints a picture of her personal career path as well as her outlook on JTS and the state of libraries in general, past, present and future.

Q: What led you to the library profession and how did you make your way into your position at JTS?

“ While I was living in Israel, I first earned a degree in musicology and then got a library job. While working there, I realized that I really enjoyed working in the library. So after that, I did a masters in musicology and a master’s in library services.

I’ve been at JTS for a long time, for more than 20 years. Before that, I worked as a music librarian in various capacities: in music libraries, as a music archivist, and in a music indexing and abstract journal/database.

I’ve worked in public services, as a head of systems, and have been doing this job more or less for the past 10 years or so, maybe a little longer.

My background in Jewish studies is more informal. I acquired a lot of knowledge here but before that, I had Jewish education through high school and lived in Israel for many years. I also did some Jewish studies courses in college in Israel but music was my subject specialty area. So I was able to draw on that plus the music when I came to JTS, which has large music collection.”

Q: What exactly do you do at JTS?

“I administer all activity here in the library. We’re comprised of three departments: technical services, public services, and special collections. In terms of the day to day, I supervise the department heads and the different departments. I also work on special projects as well as initiating grants and administering them. Overall, I manage the professional aspects of the library as opposed to the more academic aspects.”

Q: How does that supervising process take shape?

“Each department has a rhythm of its own and has tasks that it has to take care of in order to meet the user’s needs.

My role comes in more with charting out a course, setting strategic plans, and setting up goals and objectives. There is a formal review process. I meet with each department head once a week. I summarize generally what’s going in the library but we also plan what we would like to do, what we are going to do, how we’re going to change, and the direction we’re going. In other words, we focus on strategic planning. We look at the department strategically and see how we’re going to accomplish certain types of things that we’d like to do.”

Q: Do the strategic goals have to do with whoever’s funding the department or is it more internal in terms of the goals that are set by JTS itself?

“The library has a mission: to collect and preserve and make available the literary cultural heritage of the Jewish people. So we’re actually doing that in each department. I’d say that now it’s slightly different because of changes in funding but sometimes it’s funder directed and sometimes it’s our choice based on what we feel is important at a particular time.

The funded ones are pretty straight forward. You get funding to do a certain project and you have a certain timeline deadline; you have to make sure the work gets done.

In terms of JTS directed programs on the other hand, we’re upgrading our library catalog system, for example. That’s cyclical and it happens every two to three years. So the quantity of testing and customization is our prerogative.

We have three phases of the test for the system. The first phase is: did our data transfer properly? And that’s imperative to accept the system. Then it’s more about the functionality: is the functionality working the way we’d like it to work? What changes do we need to make and what changes would we like to make? The final step is making the system-function move forward from its current level to a level that will work better for what we need. That’s where more of the planning and prioritizing comes in. Ultimately then, we ask ourselves at what stage are we going to do these improvements? That whole process has nothing to do with our funding. It has to do with regular project work in the library.

We have a grant now from the Metropolitan New York Library Council to put up an archival collection in our digital library. There, we must finish the project by November first present them with a completed report. For that, you have to make sure that each of the pieces are in their place as we’re working.

So there are different ways of supervising and managing different kinds of projects.

Also it has a lot to do with people; getting the right people to do the right kind of work and making the right kind of matches for people.”

Q: So your position must require you to be extremely knowledgeable about your staff.

“Well first of all, we’re not such a large staff. Unfortunately we’re smaller than we were, somewhere between twenty-five and thirty now. We’ve been up to thirty-five or forty but we’ve had some cutbacks. If I don’t personally know what would be a good match, the supervisors can make that determination.”

Q: So it sounds like one of the keys to your success is a well-trusted staff of supervisors who help you get things done.

“Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely!”

Come back next Wednesday, October 27, for part two of this great interview. Please email me at mcloutier at if you would like to be interviewed or know of someone who'd make a great subject.

Posted by Marie.

Association of Jewish Libraries

Research Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections Division

Call for Papers, 2011 Annual Convention

The Research Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections Division (RAS) of the Association of Jewish Libraries is soliciting paper proposals for AJL's 46th Annual Convention, to be held at the Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal, Quebec, June 19-22, 2011. Librarians, archivists, scholars, educators, and authors will meet to share their interest in Judaica librarianship, Jewish literacy and related topics.

We solicit paper proposals on aspects of Judaica librarianship as it is practiced in research libraries, archives, museums, and special collections and as it pertains to higher education. Examples of suitable topics include, but are not limited to:

§  Technological developments and tools in higher education institutions: cloud computing, academic social networks, e-book platforms, mobile devices and virtual reference;

§  Resource sharing: database access, union catalogs, reference sources, cataloging services;

§  Cataloging in RDA (Resource Description and Access).

§  The future of print book collections in academic institutions, seminaries and Hebrew colleges, as revealed in collection development practices and policies, or other library operations;

§  Changes in Jewish Studies methodology as they are portrayed in libraries.

A special focus this year will be the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Montreal Jewish community. Appropriate topics may include archives or special collections in the area, history of the Canadian Yiddish theater, programs about Jewish Canadian notables such as Mordechai Richler or Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg, as well as Canadian women writers, history of local synagogues and other community landmarks, or unique Jewish communities in Montreal (Moroccan, Iraqi, Spanish-Portuguese).

Proposals should be emailed to, with the following: presenter's name, address, affiliation, telephone and email address; brief biography; title of proposed presentation; paper abstract (up to 250 words); and specific technology or equipment requirements, if any.

All submissions must be received by November 30, 2010. Proposals will be reviewed by the Program Planning Committee, which is composed of national and local AJL members. Notification will be made in January 2011.
Today is the day for October's Jewish Book Carnival.

Visit the Jewish Book Council to see this month's Carnival and we hope you have time to visit and comment on as many blogs as you can!

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.

Feel free to download and save the logo, and use it on your blogposts or sidebar. Please do not link directly to the picture.

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!

Here's some great links from around the blogosphere this week on Jewish books, reading, libraries and librarianship.

Congratulations to Howard Jacobson, winner of this year's Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question.With Jacobson's Booker Prize Win, A New Life for the 'Jewish Jane Austen,' from NPR.

What if Being a Librarian was the Most Dangerous Job in the World? from GalleyCat.

Turning the Research Lens on Ourselves, from ACRLog.

Skype Offering Free Trial of Virtual Classroom Environment, from OnLion/Behrman House.

The 12th Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference, from the Jewish Book Council.

RUSA Best Websites, from Booklist Online.

From Resource Shelf, Guide: How to Host an Effective Virtual Meeting.

That's it for today. Have a great week. Email comments or suggestions to me at mcloutier at

Posted by Marie.
Posted in: Link Round-Up

Page 2 of 5First   Previous   1  [2]  3  4  5  Next   Last