Page 98 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
and for more photocopies. In the end, fortunately, things worked
out reasonably well: nearly all the needed materials were located,
the vast majority of the logistical problems associated with obtain­
ing them having by one means or another been overcome.
All this is by way of prologue to what I am really driving at. My
purposes here, actually, are to recommend certain simple pro­
cedural means for bringing the Judaica library’s facilities closer to
those of its patrons who cannot readily visit the library in person;
and also to explain how serious Judaica research, even in such
disparate fields as the saga of a tiny Jewish community lost in the
middle of China and the history of early Hebrew typography, can
be undertaken from regions not normally linked with such ef­
forts.
UNDERTAK ING RESEARCH
How is such research carried out from afar? With difficulty, of
course. Nevertheless, it is possible to do it. All that is required is
persistence, a willingness to familiarize one’s self with the appro­
priate bibliographic references and tools that are available locally,
the repeated exploitation of interlibrary loan facilities, securing
the help and counsel of skilled librarians in as many Judaica
libraries as one can, a good deal of luck — and the wherewithal to
cover the costs of postage, photocopying, long distance telephone
calls, and the like. It is, admittedly, a frustrating process con­
ducted at a snail’s pace, b u t
— ein breirah!
In my own case, the path
was made smoother by the fortuitous fact that my business re­
quired me to take frequent trips to various parts of the country, a
circumstance that now and then made it possible to steal a few
hours for visiting an assortment of major libraries and soliciting
the advice and assistance of the people who ran them.
Nothing, of course, can adequately take the place of doing
research in person in a top-grade library, although improvements
in computer and facsimile transmission facilities will no doubt
ease the burden in years to come. In the interim, the researcher
whose work must be undertaken at a distance from a comprehen­
sively stocked library remains at a serious disadvantage. The
cooperation of the librarians he approaches, usually by mail, is the
sine qua non of the matter, and unless he succeeds in arousing
their interest and enlisting their active support he may just as well
give up. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I therefore