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Author Sharon Bially recently made the decision to publish her most recent novel, Veronica's Nap, online, as a blog; the story of a mother struggling with marriage, children and life choices has a distinctly Jewish setting in the milieu of Sephardic France and in the questions below, she addresses why she chose these topics to write about, the challenges she faced and her views on the future of publishing and of the book.

1. Why did you choose to set your novel in the Sephardic culture of
France? What do you find interesting or special about this corner of
the Jewish world? How does the setting impact your characters and by extension, the story?

France’s diverse and vibrant Jewish community is a fascinating microcosm of world Judaism, embodying nearly all of its aspects and living them out with an intensity rarely seen outside of Israel.  Its half-million-plus members – the third largest Jewish population worldwide after Israel and the U.S. – include both Ashkinazi survivors of Nazi occupation (as well as their descendants), and large numbers of Maghreban Sephardim – emigrants from France’s former colonies, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.  Discovering these two groups’ differences and similarities, their traditions, customs and direct, palpable links to the past, was far more intriguing to me than getting to the bottom of that French je-ne-sais-quoi during the twelve years I spent in Paris and Aix-en-Provence.   And learning about the Maghreban Sephardim has opened my eyes to a whole other dimension of Judaism that deserves a lot more attention than it gets!  It’s so important to be able step outside of ourselves and look back in from another angle.  As a Jewish American married to a French-Italian Cohen, I continue this discovery process every day and want to share it.

On top of its cultural and historical richness, the French Jewish community lives alongside France’s 5 – 6 million Muslims.  Tensions often flare, particularly in conjunction with developments in the Middle East.  Synagogue bombings and other such incidents spark high-voltage emotions that can make Jewish life in France feel like it’s taking place at the very core of the Middle East conflict.

I find Provence intriguingly symbolic of all this.  There’s a large population of both Maghreban Jews and Muslims, and the landscape even reminds me of parts of Israel, with its Mediterranean blue skies and cypress trees.  Its vivid contrasts – striking shades of blue and green and orange, harsh wind that rips through the peaceful scenery, architecture that simultaneously encapsulates both the past and the present – resonate with all sorts of conflicts, from world politics to one woman’s identity struggle.  And its beauty can fool you into forgetting what’s really going on beneath the sunny surface.  This is the linchpin of the emotional bond between the setting, the characters and the story of Veronica’s Nap.
2. Your protagonist, Veronica, is a privileged married woman who has the luxury of time to herself and the resources to follow her dreams of painting, yet she struggles. What kinds of value-oriented questions is Veronica challenged by? What are her moral guideposts?

Veronica Berg Benhamou, the story’s protagonist, has the good fortune of having most of her material needs provided for by her husband and parents.  Like many others with a similar background, she’s awash in choices and has never had to fight for her well-being or ideals.  When her hard-working, Moroccan-Sephardic husband loses patience with her aimlessness, triggering her quest for change, she’s forced to question the assumptions underlying her rose-tinted values about personal merit, hardship, the sources of inner strength and her role as an adult.

As guideposts, Veronica initially looks to the values touting individual fulfillment she was raised with in suburban New Jersey and the sanguine belief these fostered that if you just give it a good old college try, things will always turn out for the best.  Deeply attached to her own family, she values Jewish family life – enough to agree to the more observant lifestyle her husband leads, including keeping kosher, and to join his family in celebrating holidays Moroccan-style.  As the story unfolds, she’s forced to question what these values mean to her, too.

3. You’re publishing this novel on a blog, at www.veronicas-nap.com. How did you become interested in using social media as a vehicle for telling your story? Has it changed the way you told the story?

As a professional publicist, I’m fascinated by the power of social media, which has blurred the lines around many stalwart institutions including the press and is a fantastic community-building tool.  And as a writer who’s had two unsuccessful agency contracts over a period of ten years, I was yearning to share my work by the time I finished Veronica’s Nap.  I was also eager to connect with people about its many issues – motherhood, identity, the French and Jewish angles – and to share the “backstory” about my path as a writer and what I’ve learned from it, which I hope can be of value to others.  Blog technology just seemed like the right tool for accomplishing all these goals together.

Because I completed the book before launching the blog, blogging hasn't changed the way I've told the story -- which in fa ct may not be particularly well suited to blogging!  It'll be interesting to see this relationship evolves for others, though, as more writers begin posting work-in-progress online.
4. What are some of the challenges you faced writing this story? What did you learn?

To adequately describe the challenges of writing this book, I’d need to write another!  I began writing fiction before the internet age really took off, and even when I started scribbling the first drafts of Veronica’s Nap, online resources for writers were rare.  So I relied mainly on a couple of local writing groups for support.  Unfortunately, the quality of the input I received was often dubious at best and it was difficult to figure out where to get better advice.  At one point, I threw up my hands and stopped looking, since this search seemed to take up more time and energy than writing.

As a result, I had no guidance shaping the narrative or plot of Veronica’s Nap in a way that fits in with current publishing trends.  Veronica’s inner conflict, her denial, her relationship with her husband, how it feels to be her – these quiet, contemplative events inspired me, so that’s what I wrote about.  I’ve only recently learned that they’re too “quiet” from publishers’ perspective.  Still, it was as exhilarating as it was challenging to explore them in depth, and in addition to growing as a writer, I learned a lot from putting myself in Veronica’s shoes about the power and limitations of denial.

Now that I’m more familiar with the publishing world and its trends, I’ve also learned to question my own values as a writer.  While I used to be determined at all costs to to write a book that would attract a publisher, I now feel differently.  Simply continuing to write what’s meaningful, to improve as a writer and share my stories when I’m ready has become much more important.  And the lives of French Jews are extremely close to my heart: Veronica’s Nap is just the tip of the iceberg.  My next book will tell the story of a woman who’s the victim of a bizarre and fiery form of terrorism targeting a synagogue in Paris and the unfair fate of the Muslim man who tries to help.  Maybe a bit risqué, but I intend to write it.
5. What do you see as the future of e-publishing? It differs even from “traditional” paper-based self-publishing as being a more ephemeral medium. Do you plan to publish your book in paper form, ever? Why or why not? What do you see as the advantages of e-publishing?

Confession: I don’t have an e-reader, and always buy paper copies of books!  And since I love that there are so many different reading options out there today, I do want to produce both a paper copy and an e-book of Veronica’s Nap to supplement the blog.   I’ve been looking into it, but haven’t made as much progress by now as I would have liked.  There are only so many hours in a day!

While I hope paper books will never go extinct and don’t think they will, I do see e-publishing as the mainstream of the future.  Just look at how quickly the world switched to reading and watching the news online.  And this is not a clock we can turn back: publishers will only be able to resist the tidal wave for so long.  E-books are cheaper to produce and are better for the planet.  They make great economic sense for books whose profit margins don’t absorb the costs of printing – and even for those that do.  They’re easier to publicize and distribute.  And with four times as many self-published books as traditionally published books in 2009 alone and those numbers growing, e-books are helping make writing into what it should be: something to share.

Sharon, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your book and the future of the book business. As librarians this is a topic that has a big impact on us and the services we offer and will be offering into the future. Thank you for your insights, and best of luck with the book! Sharon is Vice President, Farrell Kramer Communications and Principal, Connaissance Media.

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On Friday, January 8, AJL librarian Ann Abrams joined us for a Q&A on running a synagogue library:

Question 1: Association of Jewish Libraries I don’t know if I can log on at noon for FB Friday, so I’m posting a question early. Ann, can you talk a bit about how a synagogue library can successfully compete for attention with all the other projects and activities going on within the synagogue? Thanks.

Association of Jewish Libraries Marie says, thanks for asking, Heidi! Ann will be here soon.

Ann Abrams When I was in library school, one comment a professor made, in particular, that stayed with me, was, to make ourselves be, as much as possible, indispensable to an institution. In those days, the example he gave was, if a professor asked for a copy of something, don’t just leave it in their box, but deliver it to thei…r office. I’ve tried to do that in different ways: by trying to anticipate requests by clergy, staff, faculty and congregants; building relationships with everyone I deal with; and trying to stay current on what’s going on in the library world, re: the programs I bring to the synagogue.

Ann Abrams Also, to more adquately respond to Heidi’s earlier question, I have an annual Jewish Book Month Program, which, very fortunately, was endowed 16 years ago. We bring in an author on a Friday evening or Sunday morning, have a nice oneg and book signing. It’s sponsored by the library committee, and I run it, so it keep…s us in the limelight, if you will. I try to be careful to not have our book group and other programs conflict with others, so folks don’t have to choose between one good thind and another.

Question 2: Amy Fellner Dominy Hi Ann. As an author, I’m wondering how you decide what books to carry in your library? I’m guessing your funds are limited…

Ann Abrams Most libraries have collection development policies, that guide us in making decisions about what to purchase. In my case, I try to purchase material that supports the school and adult learning programs of our synagogue, as well as materials for pleasure reading as well. in the last few years, my budget has shrunk quite a bit, like in most libraries, and so, unfortunately, I often am not able to get everything that would fit into those categories I just mentioned.

Daniel Stuhlman To answer Amy — All libraries purchase materials that will serve their readers. Schools try to select materials that support the curriculum. All libraries try to purchase quality materials.

Amy Fellner Dominy Thanks Daniel. I do wonder how synagogue librarians get information on upcoming books? Is it through the same catalogs as other libraries or are their special methods to find books with Jewish themes and content?

Daniel Stuhlman Acquisitions is an interesting challenge because no library has the money to purchase all they want. They are limited by budget, space and time. Gifts are a mixed blessing — the library gets materials that they did not fully selection to acquire. Ann, how do you deal with the challenges?

Ann Abrams At our library, we look at the NY Times Book Review, Library Journal, and of course, the AJL newsletter. We also look at whatever online or hard-copy Jewish journals have book reviews. I also look at blogs by folks who review Jewish books, including Boston Bibliophile, by our own AJL member Marie Cloutier.

Amy Fellner Dominy Wonderful information! Thanks. :-)

Ann Abrams Also, if there’s a publisher that I’ve purchased many materials from, I’ll look at their catalog. But, generally, I like to see at least one positive review (and not an Amazon review by a fan, but a review in a publication) before purchasing an item, unless I’ve read the book, or seen the film, myself.

Question 3: Sheryl Stahl Hi Ann! I was wondering if you run any book clubs? and if so, how they work out.

Sheryl Stahl I guess I should have added that our congregation has a monthly book club as well as a yearly “everyone read the same book” program – but they are run through the ed. committees and not the library.

Ann Abrams Re: Sheryl’s question, about book clubs. I do run a book club, along with our Women of Reform Judaism (formerly Sisterhood). It is monthly, and I learned quickly not to plan too many titles ahead of time, as the folks in my group often would come across something they really liked, and so, now at each meeting, I anno…unce the book for the following month (as opposed to what I tried in the beginning, of creating a year-long list of titles) We’ve read a lot of the same things other Jewish clubs have read (from what I see on the AJL website of bookgroup lists), and we try to pick something that has at least some Jewish content (although some folks don’t feel strongly about that), and is a good read. We get 7-10 folks a week, mostly women, 70 and up, and the discussions are always lively.

Question 4: Joyce Levine Hi Ann, Thanks for doing this exciting Q&A Facebook blog. I wonder if you could answer question recently posted on Hasafran by a JCC librarian. Do you circulate e-books at all? It was pointed out that in many institutions people are not as interested in borrowing books or even consulting the reference section as much sin…ce they do so much online nowadays.

Ann Abrams Hi, Joyce. We don’t have e-books, yet, but it’s something I’m looking into, and am following, with interest, discussions about them. If anyone else has experience with this, please chime in!

Joyce Levine Maybe someone could run at session about e-books at Convention. We would all love to learn more. If any of you out there are knowledgeable and would be willing to do this, please let me know.

Question 5: Joyce Levine I got burnt recently by accepting a rather large donation suggested by a Board member. Most of the books were unsuitable for our school library. I generally try to visit the home of the potential donor and just pick out what I want, which does not cause any “disposal” problems of unwanted materials.

Ann Abrams One of the most important documents every library should have, which was conveyed to me by a colleague a long time ago (I think at an AJL convention), is a gifts policy. Our gifts policy states that we have the right of refusal. It is stated more politely than that, but, that way, we can say, “Thank you for thinking …of us…if there’s something here we can add to our collection, we will, but, if not, we’re happy to try to find homes for the material if you’re agreeable to that.” As a result, we are able to get quite a few very good materials for our collection; and, I’m lucky to have assistants to help type up lists of the rest, so I can offer them to our clergy, staff, teachers, and other libraries.

Ann Abrams Re: book donations and Joyce’s comment, my observation is that most folks just can’t bear the thought of throwing books away, and are just happy to have someone take them. What Joyce says she does is very smart because, unfortunately, sometimes donations of old books can bring mildew, mold, bugs… other things we do…n’t want in our library. So, I agree, if it’s possible to go to the home, and take what you want – that’s a great way to avoid problems.

Ann Abrams Something I’m dealing with right now is what to do with really old books – not books that an appraiser would say are rare – but, books on Jewish topics that happen to have been written in the 1800?s and early 1900?s. I’m wondering what other folks with these types of books do with them, if, anything different than hav…ing them on the shelf? I just posted to hasafran on this, too.

Daniel Stuhlman Ann, concerning old books — it depends on your collection development policy. In my studies I need old books. I can’t expect my synagogue library to have them because they don’t have the room. Since most library users want the latest and greatest, it would be best if the collection could have a segregated stacks for older materials.

Sheryl Stahl we ended up weeding most of our old books too – we had a pretty successful book sale with them.

Ann Abrams In terms of the limits you mention, Daniel, I think I do the best I can, like everyone else. I try to prioritize, and, in the age of the Internet, I can, at least, say to folks, “We don’t have this item, but I can try to find it for you, elsewhere.”

Ann Abrams I agree a session about e-books sounds like a good idea! And thanks to Daniel and Sheryl for your comments and suggestions about what to do with old books.

Question 6: Lan Eng Ann, besides dealing with members, how do you work with the other constituent groups at your synagogue. Specifically, how do you work with your rabbis, religious school director and other staff members? Do you have regular meetings with them?

Ann Abrams Hi, Lan, thanks for your question. My position is part of the Education dept, so the Education director (same as Religious School Director) is my supervisor. The Educ dept has monthly meetings, and the other folks in this group are: the Director of Elementary Education, Family Educator, Youth Director, and the Assist…ant to the Educ. Director. We also have monthl all-staff meetings which I attend. But, I have interactions with everyone on the staff: the clergy often ask me for help finding materials, or creating resource lists for life cycle events; I send emails to all the staff re: things that I think might be of interest, for example, that they all have access to electronic resources.

Ann Abrams Many of the members of the staff use the library for their pleasure reading. The rabbis lead a weekly torah study group, and often use the library for preparation. The library is fortunately in the center of the building, so I can easily walk around to see folks, and be seen, to encourage casual conversation. I’ve be…en at the temple for over 20 years, and so I can sometimes anticipate what folks might want for annual programs, and will send it to them before they ask.

Question 7: Joyce Levine I know this is a pretty big topic and sorry to raise it at the last minute, but I was wondering if you run your own fundraising events and if so, what kinds? Or does your synagogue totally fund the library?

Ann Abrams My book, film, cd and other library material budget is completely from donations, in the form of “book shelves,” which are really book funds. I have an annual book fair, and make approx $600 a year from that. That’s all I have at the moment. I have an email list of library supporters and occasionally let them know …what’s going on so they can see where their money’s going. The temple has a development director and I sometimes chat with her about ways to raise revenue.

Joyce Levine Thank you. I hope to continue this conversation at a future time. Shabbat shalom!

Association of Jewish Libraries Ann, thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions in AJL’s inaugural Facebook Friday! And thanks to everyone who participated!
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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.
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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 JewishJournal.com.

From ButteryBooks.com, 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 jewishlibraries.org.

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.

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 Dicebox.net) told me Girlamatic.com, 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.
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.
Here's this week's collection of great links about libraries, books, and Jewish libraries and books.

Heather from AJL's Greater Cleveland chapter lists some of her website Picks.

Jewish Fiction.net, a new e-journal, makes it debut.

The Book of Life Podcast has a new post on Jewish Presses.

The Age of Big Access, second in a series of guest posts from academic librarians at ACRLog.

From the Jewish Book Council, Twitter Book Club: The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer. (Full disclosure: I loved this book!)

From the New York Review of Books, A Library Without Walls.

Ocotober is National Reading Group Month; find a lineup of events at Book Club Girl.

Got a link to share? Thoughts? Suggestions? Email me at mcloutier at jewishlibraries.org.

Posted by Marie.
It's that time again. Here's a selection of links on books, libraries and more for the week.

AJL's Lisa Silverman published a great article, What's New for Kids to Read, at JewishJournal.com.

Treasures of the Bavarian State Library, including a section on Hebrew books, available as an iPhone app.

My Jewish Learning is running a poetry contest for the High Holy Days.

The American Association for School Librarians posted is Top 25 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning

Calling Dibs on Culture, a fascinating article from the Jewish Publication Society.

From the Jewish Literary Review, Jonathan Papernick: A Modern-Day Book Peddlar.

From Points of Reference, OverDrive Customers Can Add Project Gutenberg Titles to Their Virtual Collections.

AJL's monthly Jewish Book Carnival post will be up on Sunday, August 15. Hope to see you here!

As always feel free to contact me if you have a link you think would be good for our weekly roundup. My email is mcloutier @ jewishlibraries.org.

Posted by Marie.
So you're interested in AJL and want to connect with a group of AJL librarians local to you? Here's a list of some of the websites and blogs set up for and by some of AJL's regional chapters.

Greater Cleveland AJL Chapter

Judaica Librarians’ Group (Israel) (in Hebrew)

Judaica Library Network of Metropolitan Chicago

New England AJL Chapter

AJL of Southern California

South Florida AJL

Some of these are fully-functional website and some are blog-style; all of them provide great basic information on what folks are up to elsewhere in the United States, and elsewhere in the world.

This list is also included in AJL's blogroll, which is linked to on the right hand side of this page. The list is updated regularly. If you are part of a regional chapter and you don't see your chapter's site listed, please email me at mcloutier at jewishlibraries.org and I'll be sure to include it.

Posted by Marie.
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The Jewish Publication Society has honored People of the Books with the "Beautiful Blogger" award for our efforts at building community in the Jewish book blogosphere through our Jewish Book Carnival initiative (and they're going to host in September!).

In return, the rules of the award state that we must share seven interesting facts about AJL and pass the award along to seven of our favorite blogs.

The facts:

1. AJL has held 45 annual conventions in the US, Canada and Israel, beginning in 1966 in Philadelphia. Ohio and California are tied for hosting the largest number of conventions over the years - six each, and Canada will catch up by holding its 6th AJL convention in 2011 in Montreal. While conventions are always exciting, we have persevered through many outrageous adventures such as the SARS scare (Toronto in 2003) and the transvestite beauty pageant being held at the convention hotel (Miami Beach in 1991).

2. AJL is the Association of Jewish LIBRARIES, not LIBRARIANS. We have members from all streams of Judaism and members who are not Jewish. What we all have in common is an interest in sharing Jewish culture and knowledge through libraries.

3. AJL is a volunteer-run organization with no central office. Members volunteer their time for everything from running local chapter meetings to writing publications to organizing international conventions.

4. AJL has been podcasting its convention sessions and other events since 2008. You can hear recordings of lectures, panel discussions, author talks, and workshops at jewishlibraries.org/podcast.

5. AJL has two divisions- the Research Libraries, Archives and Special Collections division (RAS) for academic libraries and the School, Synagogue, and Community Centers division (SSC) for general interest libraries.

6. AJL publishes a quarterly Newsletter and an occasional scholarly journal called Judaica Librarianship, as well as various guidebooks and bibliographies available through the Publications Department [link: http://www.jewishlibraries.org/main/Portals/0/AJL_Assets/documents/Publications/publications.htm].

7. AJL recognizes great Jewish literature through several annual awards: the Sydney Taylor Book Award [link: http://www.jewishlibraries.org/ajlweb/awards/stba/index.htm] and Manuscript Award [link: http://www.jewishlibraries.org/ajlweb/awards/st_ms.htm] for children's literature, and the Reference and Bibliography Awards for scholarly works [link: http://www.jewishlibraries.org/ajlweb/awards/ref_and_bib.htm].

The seven blogs we'd like to nominate are:

Jewish Book Council

Jewish Publication Society

Jewish Womens Archive

Kar-Ben Publishing

My Machberet

The Sisterhood, a blog of The Forward

Tablet Magazine

Thank you to JPS for this honor!

Posted by Marie

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Things have been a little slow over the summer, so I have to apologize for the lack of blog posts lately. I promise we're going to have some great content for you very soon. In the mean time here's our roundup of great finds on the web for the week.

From Stephen's Lighthouse, Another Great Library Video, from the University of Bergen in Norway.

A report from the Jewish Women's Archive on their 2010 Institute for Educators.

The Most Interesting Reaction to my NewCAJE Workshop, from OnLion/Behrman House.

Summer Nostalgia, from the Jewish Publication Society.

Summer Reading: Jewish Bestsellers on Amazon, from the Jewish Literary Review.

Got a link you'd like to share? Email me at mcloutier at jewishlibraries.org. Have a great week.

Posted by Marie.

From time to time we here at AJL are contacted for review and interview opportunities for new or soon-to-be-released books. Whenever a new stack of books comes across my desk, I'd like to share them with you.
First up is Remedies, Kate Ledger's novel published in hardcover by Amy Einhorn Books: Simon and Emily Bear look like a couple who have it all. Simon is a respected doctor, while Emily shines professionally as a partner in a premier public relations firm. They have a beautiful house in Baltimore and a healthy daughter. But their marriage is scarred by old, hidden wounds. Even as Simon tends his patients' ills, and Emily spins away her clients' mistakes, they can't seem to do the same for themselves or their relationship....In a debut novel on apar with today's top women writers, Remedies explores the extradorinarily compliecated facets of pain, in the nerves of the body and the longings of the heart.

Based upon Availability is Alix Strauss's new book, out now in paperback from HarperCollins: From the very first page of this stunning novel, readers are drawn into the lives of eight seemingly ordinary women who pass through Manhattan's swanky Four Seasons Hotel. While offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, the hotel captures their darkest moments as they grapple with family, sex, power, love, and death.

Stay tuned for an interview with Strauss, coming soon to the AJL blog.

M.L. Malcolm's new novel, Heart of Lies, is also out now in paperback from HarperCollins: Leo Hoffman was born with a gift for languages. When his dreams for the future are destroyed by World War I, the dashing young Hungarian attempts to use his rare talent to reubild his life, only to find himself inadvertently embroiled in an international counterfeiting scheme. Suddenly Leo is wanted across the European continent for a host of crimes, including murder...An epic tale of intrigue, passion, an adventure.

Finally, coming October 26 from Random House is Avi Steinberg's memoir Running the Books: Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from his yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn't cutting it. Seeking direction- and dental insurance- Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.

Please feel free to contact me with feedback or other ideas at mcloutier at jewishlibraries.org.
For all those who will be attending the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC from next Thursday June 24-Tuesday, June 29, 2010 ­

You are very cordially invited to attend any or all of the following ALA Jewish Information Committee and AJL-related events (AJL is now an affiliate of ALA):

Sunday, June 27th: 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Washington Convention Center -147A
Judith Schaefer's 59-minute film, "So Long Are You Young: Samuel Ullman's Poems and Passion," tells the remarkable story of the serendipitous international influence of one poem. This inspiring
documentary highlights Ullman's life (1840-1924), community humanitarian work, and personal courage as an immigrant Jew in Birmingham, Alabama, and how his philosophy came to influence General Douglas MacArthur, postwar Japanese society, and world leaders like Robert and Ted Kennedy.  Ullman biographer and historian Margaret Armbrester will facilitate audience discussion following the screening.

Monday, June 29th: 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Washington Convention Center -147A
Overview of two millennia-long Jewish community in Romania including the Holocaust, Communist, and post-Communist periods; immigration and history of Jews in the USA and Canada; Romanian Holocaust survivors and righteous Gentiles; biographical sketches of noted Romanian Jews; library materials on North American Romanian Jewry including Multicultural Review; and a discussion of the publication, The Romanian Jews in America and Canada (1850-2010) are the main components of this program.  Speakers: Lyn Miller-Lachman, Multicultural Review, Editor-in-Chief; Vladimir Wertsman, EMIERT Publishing and Multicultural Materials Committee, Chair.

Monday, June 29th: 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Washington Convention Center -147A
Jewish Information Committee Meeting.
Please join us to discuss Jewish-related activities in ALA; to talk about how AJL's recent affiliation with ALA will impact the JIC; and to help us plan for the future in relation to programming at ALA's
upcoming Annual Conferences in New Orleans, June 23–28, 2011; Anaheim, CA: June 21–26, 2012; Chicago, June 27- July 2, 2013; and Las Vegas, June 26-July 1, 2014.  Full listing of upcoming ALA Midwinter Meetings and Annual (summer) Conferences through June 2017 can be found at http://www.ala.org/ala/conferencesevents/upcoming/index.cfm

Monday, June 29th: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Eli's Restaurant
Kosher* dinner at popular Dupont Circle restaurant where we can continue the discussion in more relaxed surroundings and unwind from the intense activity of the world's oldest and largest professional
library association conference.  This is the same heymish/homey place we dined in 2007 as then co-ordinated by JIC immediate Past Chair Ellen Zyroff and current AJL/ALA Co-Liaison.

Directions, menus, and more information at http://www.elisdc.com/
Reviews: http://www.shamash.org/kosher/comments.php?Recno=10789

*Eli's menu and facility are strictly kosher under the supervision of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington

****PLEASE NOTE: If you are certain that you will be joining us for
dinner, please let me know as soon as possible, but no later than
next Wednesday, June 24th to insure your reservation by contacting me
directly (off list) at egertel@umich.edu ****
Whether you're registered for the entire conference, a single day's full participation, or exhibits only, please come by the ALA Affiliates Exhibit Booth # 2533 in the Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, and say hello at the following times:

Sunday, June 27 from 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Monday, June 28 from 9:00-11:00 a.m.

Or volunteer to staff the booth for AJL at another time (please contact me for details).

Exhibit Hours:
Friday, June 25 -- Exhibits ribbon cutting 5:15 pm; Exhibits will open at 5:30 pm
Saturday, June 26 9:00am-5:00pm
Sunday, June 27 9:00am-5:00pm
Monday, June 28 9:00am-4:00pm

Hope to see you in Washington, DC at ALA and in Seattle, Washington State at AJL (July 4-7)!

Elliot H. Gertel
Irving M. Hermelin Curator of Judaica
Association of Jewish Libraries/American Library Association Co-Liaison
Chair, ALA EMIERT Jewish Information Committee
The University of Michigan
Near East Division, Area Programs
111-C Hatcher Graduate Library North
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1190

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Howard Droker is a lawyer, a historian, an author, and a docent for the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. He will be leading a tour of Jewish Seattle for convention-goers on Wednesday, July 7.

Congregation Ohaveth Sholum

Howard, can you give us a little sneak peek into the kinds of things people will see on this tour?

Our tour's first stop will be in Pioneer Square, at the Gold Rush National Historic Park. We will briefly examine the role of Jewish merchants in outfitting the prospectors bound for Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. If participants are interested, we can take a 4 or 5-block walk to see the historic buildings that housed some of the Jewish merchants.

We'll then head east to Capitol Hill to visit Temple de Hirsch, the oldest Reform synagogue. The Schoenfeld Chapel houses some of the accoutrements of the 1907 building. And the Temple library is worth seeing. Then we'll drive around the neighborhood where the prosperous Central European founders and members of the Temple lived, south of Volunteer Park.

Driving south, we'll see how the other half lived, the Yesler/Cherry neighborhood where the Eastern Europeans and Sephardim mostly settled. We'll see several former synagogues and the Talmud Torah that have been converted to other uses.

Finally, we'll visit the Seward Park area where three Orthodox (two Sephardic, one Ashkenazic) synagogues relocated from the Central Area between 1954 and 1968. I hope to make arrangements to see the sanctuaries of two or three of the synagogues.

Please give us a brief overview of the history of Jews in the Pacific Northwest.

Being a historian, I can't give you a brief overview! But I'm attaching a pdf of a relatively brief article (about 3 pages) called A Sketch of Seattle's Jewish History.

What’s one Jewish thing about Seattle that most people would be surprised to learn?

I think the most surprising thing about Jewish Seattle is the prominence of the Sephardic community. Seattle has had historically, and continues to have, by far the largest percentage of Sephardim of any city in the country. As a result, Sephardic traditions and culture have survived to a surprising degree.

Can you tell us about any Jewish books set in Seattle, or books about Jews in the area?

I co-authored Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State (University of Washington Press, 2004) with Molly Cone and Jacqueline Williams. The book draws on hundreds of newspaper accounts, articles, and oral histories to provide the first comprehensive account of Washington State's Jewish residents. You may recognize the name Molly Cone, as she is also a well-known and widely published author of books for Jewish children and teenagers.

What Seattle experience should visitors be sure not to miss?

Visitors should not miss the Pike Place Market on the western edge of downtown Seattle. Jews, especially the Sephardim, were prominent fish mongers and vegetable sellers in the market from almost the beginning in 1907. I think there is only one Jewish-owned business remaining, Pure Food Fish Market. The Market today is colorful and interesting, with farmers selling produce and flowers, craftsmen offering their wares, restaurants, and buskers. Plus the views of Elliott Bay from the Market are stunning.

Howard, thanks for the preview! We'll be seeing you on the tour!


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email pr@jewishlibraries.org to tell us what you did!

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Wendy Marcus, the music director at Temple Beth Am in Seattle, has been hard at work on arrangements for the AJL Convention!

Wendy, you will be wearing several hats at the AJL convention, as a presenter and as a musician. Can you tell us a little about your various AJL activities?

Full disclosure: I am a daughter of a librarian.

I’m connected to NW AJL Chapter president Toby Harris through Temple Beth Am, in Seattle’s Jewishly happening North End, where I am music director and editor of Drash: Northwest Mosaic. Toby and Ronnie’s daughters were Bat Mitzvah students of mine!

I’ve scheduled musicians and presenters for the open-to-the-public afternoon on Sunday, July 4, and will serve as emcee. As well, on Tuesday, July 6 at 10:30am, I will gab about community building with the creation of an annual Jewish/Northwest literary journal, Drash: Northwest Mosaic – we’re releasing Volume IV! -- and about Drash readings in farflung corners of the region (fair number of ferries involved).

Your book, Polyglot, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Please tell us a little about the book!

Since 2004, I’ve been writing short stories, especially when inspired by unforgettable characters. I gathered those characters up into Polyglot: Stories of the West’s Wet Edge and won the 2009 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award from Georgia’s Snake Nation Press. Polyglot chronicles lives between Vancouver, BC, and Vancouver, Washington. The stories are linked by the advice of a gay Gypsy columnist (I am a former newspaper reporter), and there are sprinklings from ten different languages (hence the book’s title) – including the language of my heart,Yiddish. The Jewish Book Council kindly named Polyglot one of three finalists in its annual contest this spring. A sequel is in the works.

Studies have shown that Seattle is the most literate city in the nation. What makes Seattle such a great place for reading and libraries?

Between October and April, when skies are gray and sodden here, a good book and a hot cup of coffee keep serious depression at bay! While Seattleites love a good chat and at the slightest sun break leave work early to kayak, hike, bike, run, ski, or garden, we seek individual space, humbled by our dramatic natural elements. There’s a loner streak in us – we like to think, write, read, observe – alone; our external landscape mirrors our internal one.

Can you give us a recommendation for any recent Jewish books you enjoyed?

If you can overlook the typos, Borgo Press has come out with an edited version of short stories by Montague Glass (1877-1934), Potash and Perlmutter, about fictitious partners Abe Potash and Morris Perlmutter, and immigrant foibles in New York’s garment industry. While the dialog is dated and laced with wacky Yidddishisms and German-Jewishisms, the book is a valuable curio. It provides a lowbrow glimpse into the way people in the shmatte business really spoke and lived in the 1910s and 1920s. My grandfather, Louis Marcus, was in the ribbon business in NYC and the book allows me to imagine the kind of schmoozing that went on between him, competitors, buyers, salesmen, and social climbers.

The Seattle area is the home of both Amazon and Apple. What’s your preference, Kindle or iPad? What are your feelings on digital books?

Feh. I don’t even have a cell phone.

What Seattle experience should visitors be sure not to miss?

Take a round-trip ferry ride between downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island (about 40 minutes one way). Horizon to horizon mountains, glorious fresh air and all these guys baring their chests in 50-degree sunshine!


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email pr@jewishlibraries.org to tell us what you did!

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Here are some great articles, book reviews and news on Jewish books, publishing and libraries this week.

Book review: The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor at the Indiana University Press blog.

Lemon Cake Rising at EarlyWord.com.

Library Blog Awards Announced at Points of Reference. Maybe AJL next year?

Not Your Father's Fiction Guide, a review of American Jewish Fiction, by Sanford Pinsker at JBooks.com.

Happy 122nd Birthday, JPS! at JPS.com.

Israeli author scoops German literary peace prize, at Yahoo.com.

The Skala Yizkor Book at Shtetlinks.jewishgen.org.

Got a link you'd like to share? Email me at mcloutier at jewishlibraries.org and I'll take a look.
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April Halprin Wayland won the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award for her picture book New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story. She will be speaking at the 2010 AJL Convention, and will also be an honored guest at the Tuesday night gala, where she will receive her award.

April, the first AJL convention you ever attended was in 2009 in Chicago. The very next year, you’re attending as an honored guest, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award! Please talk a little about that transformation.

Honestly, I attended the AJL convention because it was the week prior to ALA in the same Chicago hotel, I finally had a Jewish book coming out…and I had frequent flyer miles. Since I live in Southern California, this was a magic one-two punch—how could I NOT attend?

I didn’t know much about AJL but I’d known Susan Dubin for years in Los Angeles—in fact, she was one of the first readers of an early version of New Year at the Pier (and thank goodness for her terrific comments on that 2003 manuscript!)—but I had NO IDEA she was a mover and shaker in AJL until much later—silly me!

I’ve always loved the excitement of ALA and didn’t know what to expect at the AJL. The intimacy of this convention and the warm and welcoming hugs won me over. I enjoyed the Authors and Illustrators luncheon, loved attending sessions and gathering informally with attendees and other authors.

There was one amazing evening of pizza and camaraderie at certified “readiologist” Esmé Raji Codell’s Planet Esme Reading Room—a private, magical library which Esmé opens to speakers, writing groups, class field trips and gatherings like ours.

I was utterly star struck by you Heidi, by Barbara Beitz and others, including Mark Blevis of Just One More Book. I am still starstruck by you, Heidi!

Another favorite memory is when I nervously introduced myself to Natalie Blitt, program director of the PJ Library. I wanted to ask her how to submit my book for consideration by her organization. She looked at me a bit surprised…and then smiled. “New Year at the Pier is on our list. It’s being sent out in August.” ALREADY on their list? Already a special edition printed to be sent in August? I was over the moon!

Are you working on any new books, especially anything with Jewish content? Please tell us about your recent writing.

I am working on several books…one is a picture book with a Jewish theme. But I’ve learned that if I talk about an idea before it’s fully hatched, energy leaks out of it… It’s an idea I’ve been playing with for years. I recently wrote a poem incorporating this topic and that has helped me structure the book. Fingers crossed!

What else am I up to? I’ve been teaching a class on writing picture books for ten years through the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. In addition to that one, I’ll be rolling out a new class this summer which I’m looking forward to.

And I took the Poem-A-Day Challenge for National Poetry Month, which was scary because it can take weeks for me to write one poem. Write a poem every single day and post it for all to read? But I did and I can actually say that it changed my life.You can read the poems at http://www.aprilwayland.com/poetry/poetry-month.

Can you give us a recommendation for any recent Jewish books you enjoyed?

I am embarrassed to say that I’ve just discovered the 2006 book, Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Putnam, 2006). Michelson wrote the wonderful As Good as Anybody, illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf, 2009), about Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel [which won the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award].

I bought both books at The AJL’s Western Regional Jewish Literature for Children Conference this year in Los Angeles.

The Seattle area is the home of both Amazon and Apple. What’s your preference, Kindle or iPad? What are your feelings on digital books, and the online world in general?

I love the size of my Kindle, which revolutionized my reading. But holding my Kindle as they introduce the iPad is like owning a black and white TV when they introduced color. Suddenly I am drooling over the newest thing. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? That, my friend, is the glory and the danger of how our appetites for new stuff are created. (See The Story of Stuff.)

As a poet and the author of a novel in poems and several picture books, I am waiting for the next generation of digital reader that allows us to increase the font size without messing with the alignment of each poem or the arrangement of text next to an illustration. It doesn’t work yet but it will…soon.

As I said, my Kindle, which my husband and son gave me as a surprise when New Year at the Pier was first published, has changed me as a reader. I can read effortlessly at night when my eyes are tired, of course.

But more than that: when my mother, a voracious reader, was in an auto accident on a Sunday and needed a book, the fact that I could download one instantly and teach this 87-year-old technophobe to use it in a few minutes was a game changer for us both.

And when we were in Kauai, Hawaii, looking for Makua Beach where the sea turtles hang out, I downloaded a copy of Hidden Kauai as we were driving! That made my husband a true believer.

What are you most looking forward to about visiting Seattle?

Seeing my cousins! Pike’s market and local thrift stores!

Okay, for a more erudite answer, I can’t wait to take in all the convention has to offer…especially after a year of presenting my first Jewish book at workshops, schools and synagogues.

Also, I’m crossing my fingers that Stéphane Jorisch, the illustrator of New Year at the Pier will be able to attend the convention. I’ve never met him but I adore the man from his kind emails and his extraordinary art.

April, as always, we love your enthusiasm! We can't wait to see you in Seattle!

Thanks, Heidi. And one final thing? Please listen to and then pass on: Circulate This: Stories from the School Library (http://www.csla.net/audio/) It’s a wonderful NPR-style audio magazine of interviews with teacher librarians, library staff, teachers, community members, parents, administrators, an author and most importantly, students…telling personal stories of the importance of school libraries and teacher librarians in their lives. (It’s about 47 min. long…I’m interviewed 20-24 minutes in.)


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email pr@jewishlibraries.org to tell us what you did!

Posted in: Uncategorized
Here are some great links from this past week on Jewish books, libraries and learning.

Podcasts: Exclusive Lectures! Three Scholars and Jewish American Women in History, from the Lilith blog.

Writerscast.com interviews Aharon Appelfeld, from the Schocken Books blog.

The Model of a Modern Major Novelist, a profile of Joseph Skibell at the Jewish Book Council blog.

When the Hurricane Came to New Orleans, the latest post on The Book of Life podcast/blog.
Rosenbloom is the incoming AJL President and will take up his duties on July 1, 2010.

I am the Judaica Librarian at Brandeis University, where I have worked since 1976.  I am responsible for all subjects taught in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Dept., as well as Classics and Religion.  I am part of the Special Collections Dept., and recently mounted an exhibit from the collection of Prof. Benjamin Ravid on his father Simon Rawidowicz.  I also serve as a "lead" for the humanities librarians.  In AJL I was vice-president, and am currently president of the RAS Division.  I have also served on the RAS awards committee for a number of years, and I chair the RAS Digitization Committee.

Over the last couple of years, many of our AJL members have proposed and then implemented ways in which we can make the wider Jewish community aware of the  importance of our organization in the training and support of Judaica librarians in all  Jewish educational, social and religious organizations, as well in academic settings.  Increased visibility on the web, an improved website and a major increase in public relations outreach are only a few of the recent areas in which we have made major strides.  I look forward to supporting all outreach efforts.

We also need to make ourselves an important part of the professional lives of all those interested in Judaica librarianship.  I recently went as AJL representative to a major technology and library conference in Tel Aviv.  I met with a number of people there, as well as with librarians at the National Library and Yad Vashem, as well as  some professors to discuss ways in which librarians from Israel, America, Europe and other areas can coordinate efforts.  We can exchange ideas, and perhaps participate in projects together, especially in the realm of digitization.  We  have already been asked to contribute metadata for  a project called Judaica Europeana.
Posted in: Uncategorized

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