Page 58 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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LIBRARIES IN ISRAEL
By
C
a r l
A
l p e r t
T
HE traditional Jewish love for books is to a large extent con­
firmed by the enormous growth and development of libraries
of all kinds in Israel, even while certain aspects of library manage­
ment and promotion may lead some observers to question how
seriously the tradition is still respected. It is unfortunately true
that Israel has as yet no basic laws governing the establishment
of libraries, their maintenance, or the responsibility of govern­
ment, national or local, to provide for libraries. The multiplica­
tion of collections which has taken place, and the rapid increase in
the size of the various collections, are therefore a tribute to the
specific sponsoring institutions or to the handful of devoted in­
dividuals who, here and there, have managed to provide library
facilities against great odds.
The collective growth of the libraries in recent years can be
quickly indicated by a comparison of the figures in 1952 and 1956.
In the former year, according to a survey conducted jointly by the
Central Bureau of Statistics and the now defunct Division of
Books and Libraries in the Ministry of Education and Culture,
there was a total of 2,813,144 books in all the public collections
of the country. Four years later an independent survey placed
the total at about 3,600,000.
Library management and organization have come in for con­
siderable criticism in recent years. Educators have not hesitated,
both in Israel’s pedagogical journals and in the public press, to
point out that the present generation of young people has not yet
been adequately taught how to use a library. Too many of the
youth still consider a library a book warehouse, and the librarian
only a watchman in the warehouse, whose duty it is to prevent
pilferage or defacing of books. Very little has been done by way
of teaching school youth how to use a library catalogue, primarily
because the system of education has not yet progressed to the
point where it demands extensive study, reading or independent
research. The most encouraging part of the picture is the general
awareness, on the part of most educators, that there is considerable
room for improvement. A t the same time, much remains to be done
by way of proper cataloguing of books and training of librarians.
In connection with the preparation of this survey, the writer spot-
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