The Sky’s the Limit! Association of Jewish Libraries Annual Conference

On June 19, 20, and 21, the Association of Jewish Libraries held its annual conference. The Association of Jewish Libraries has chapters all over the world, ranging from all regions of the United States to Europe, the U.K., and Israel. The annual conference is a chance for Judaica Librarians from all these chapters to assemble and exchange information about the dynamic field of Judaica Librarianship, from Hebrew day school libraries and university libraries to synagogue libraries.

When I first joined the New York Metropolitan Area chapter of the Association of Jewish Libraries, NYMA, I looked forward to attending the smaller meetings and presentations NYMA would program here in the metropolitan area. In all the years I have been a member of AJL, the annual conference has taken place out of town-past conferences have taken place in Chicago, Seattle, Montreal, and Charleston, to name a few locations.  I did not have the pleasure of attending the annual conference until this year. I was very happy to learn that in 2017, the AJL annual conference would be held right here in New York City. On Tuesday, June 20th, I made my way down to the campus of Hebrew Union College to attend my first AJL conference.

Here is a look at the Tuesday schedule:

(View full schedule)

I met with our Library Assistant for the Women’s Building, Tova Friedman, who has been an active member of AJL for over 30 years and has assisted at many past conferences. I was lucky to attend with Tova-she introduced me to many librarians from all over the world that she knew through her tenure at AJL. I was also very happy to catch up with librarians I had previously worked with from Yeshiva University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, who encouraged me to become more active in the organization.

The first presentation I attended was Music in Libraries, where three librarians from three different libraries spoke about a collection of rare Jewish sheet music, the impact of Jews on Broadway musicals, and the personal library of Jewish-Hungarian composer Emmerich Kalman, composer of Arizona Lady.

Music in Libraries: Eli Lieberman on the Offenbach Collection at HUC-JIC in New York and the Birnbaum collection in Cincinnati (via AJL Facebook)

We then attended a smaller meeting of all AJL librarians who work in academic or special collections,  followed by the larger general membership meeting, led by Amalia Warshenbrot.

Judaica Librarians assemble at the general membership meeting, led by Amalia Warshenbrot (via AJL Facebook)

After the meetings, we had lunch with keynote speaker James J. Neal, president-elect of the American Library Association, who spoke about the 21st century librarian and the challenges of leading in a time of disruption and turmoil in the world.

Here is a peak at the lunch schedule:


During lunch and breaks, I was able to take a brief look around the exhibits on the conference floor. There were many vendors of Jewish books and library software present. Here is a look at the exhibit hall:



Following lunch, I was very interested in attending the presentation from the Library of Congress’s Israel and Judaica section. I was not disappointed. Four LC librarians presented a thorough behind the scenes look at cataloging projects and issues, including the cataloging rare books and multimedia, new initiatives being taken by the Library of Congress’s IJ section, some acquisition highlights, and an update on the upcoming BibFrame 2.0.

LCW Chief Librarian David Levy (via AJL Facebook)

Our own David Levy, Chief Librarian at the Women’s Building, gave a presentation on Reference Services at LCW.

The final presentation I attended was lightning talks on New York City collections, where I heard Naomi Steinberger speak about the vision the Jewish Theological Seminary has for their brand-new 21st century library, due to be completed in 2019. Deena Schwimmer, archivist at Yeshiva University, spoke about a collection of Hungarian materials YU is curating. Arlene Ratzabi spoke about her unique synagogue library, which contains many holocaust testimonies from members of her congregation.  Finally, Chaim Steinberger spoke about his various challenges acquiring synagogue archives from synagogues around New York City.

All in all, it was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience for me as the Judaica Librarian for Touro College. I was able to take in many exhibits and presentations on developments in my field while meeting and networking with fellow Judaica Librarians from all over the world. The connections I made will help further Touro College’s access to materials in the collections of other institutions. I look forward to becoming more active in AJL-NYMA and hope to attend next year’s conference in Boston.

Contributed by: Toby Krausz, Judaica Librarian, Midtown

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