Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Success at the Shuk!

Usually when I bring home a book for my tweenagers from a conference, it's as if I put a kiss of death on it. Almost by definition, if I thought they would like a book, they were determined to hate it.

But this year ... enter Rabbi Harvey. The kids fought over the Adventures of Rabbi Harvey : a graphic novel of Jewish wisdom and wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin. And as soon as one of them put it down, I picked it up.

In this graphic novel, Harvey is the kind, wise, and crafty sheriff rabbi of a shtetle frontier town. The familiar rabbinic and Hasidic stories seemed strangely at home in the Wild West. This was a great family read - and finally a good parent pick!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

OPALS Powerpoint Now Online

If you would like to see the OPALS powerpoint that was presented at convention by Harry Chan, you can find it in the cataloguing section of the Jewish School Librarians wiki at

Monday, June 25, 2007

Jonathan Kirsch

I arrived in Scottsdale for the convention in the middle of the keynote speaker dinner Sunday night, so I was a little dazed and confused (not to mention hungry and jetlagged). So, I apologize for not posting about Jonathan Kirsch earlier and for how sketchy this report will be. I invite (really beg) someone to write a more complete summary!

Jonathan did phone in a greeting on the June 17 podcast - click on posts in the "listen in" box to the right and then select the June 17 selection to hear him.

His talk was called "Animal skins and God's bones: how the making and keeping of books has enriched the world and ensured the survival of the Jewish people"

He began his talk by explaining that the designation "people of the book" was a Muslim reference to both Jews and Christians. Jews embody the principle by not only reading books, but creating and interpreting them.

Although we received the Torah from the mouth of God, we were only able to "access" it by Moses' efforts - through his hand. In this way, human hands finish God's creative work of the Torah.

Kirsch also gave a wonderful little drash (I didn't catch the reference) that if the heaven's were parchment, the blades of grass brushes, and the oceans ink it would still not be enough the describe the wonders of the Torah.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Flickr Your Convention Photos

Safranim -

Thanks for a wonderful convention. It was a joy and a pleasure to see so many of you, the sessions were great, and I learned so much as always.

I am collecting Convention photos to post for our enjoyment. So a couple of requests.

I have created a Flickr Group called Association of Jewish Libraries. If you have a flickr account, you can join this group and post photos directly to the Group Photo Pool. Please tag all convention photos "ajl2007" and "convention".

If you do not have a flickr account, consider creating one at and doing as suggested above.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, or want me to do the work, please send photos by email to, and I will post them to the Flickr group.

Photos can be found at or just go to and search for ajl2007.


~Karen Ulric
AJL Advertising Manager

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Continuing to share...

The convention, sadly, has ended (sigh). However, we'll still be sharing our comments and impressions so don't tune out yet. I'm hoping for a few more phonecast reports from some convention attendees. Also, Karen Ulrich says she'll be setting up a photo-sharing site on Picasa or Flickr or something, so that we can all upload our convention photos.

I wanted to second Sheryl's comment that the food was excellent. Now I wish I'd thought to take a picture of dessert at the banquet: an amazing chocolate (flourless?) cake with raspberries, and giant chocolate-dipped strawberries, SO delicious! You'll just have to use your imagination. I did not have the mysterious vegetarian option, but from what I saw, my guess was risotto.

We'd love to know if this blog was entertaining/informative for you, and also what you thought of the phonecast. Please, please, please: post a comment to this blog, or email so we'll know whether we should do it again next year and if there are any ways we can improve its usefulness to you.

~Heidi Estrin

Wikis and blogs redux

The biggest disadvantage of presenting in the last session of the conference is that I had the whole conference to worry about it! I enjoyed it, but I'm really glad its over.

For those who missed my handout (that little scrap of paper) the site is here

Thanks to everyone who shared hints about how they use wikis and blogs. I realized that I steered you wrong in one thing. You can attach files to wikis!

happy blogging! and wonderful wikki-ing!

more winners

Here are more pics from the honorees at their book signing.

Award time!

For the most part, the food and service at the hotel has been excellent - with the one exception of the vegetarian entre at the banquet. I still haven't quite figured out what it was - an undercooked potato kugel maybe?

Anyway, its great to hear about wonderful books and to see how much the award winners appreciated the recognition.

The top picture is Heidi Estrin with Jo Taylor, daughter of the inspiring Sydney.

Here are a bunch of the honorees!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

scenes from the sydney taylor award author sessions

Sorry about the sideways pix- turn your head sideways to enjoy these scenes from some of the many sessions we've had with our award winning authors. left to right: Brynn Sugarman displays photos of her adopted daughter Rachel, model for Rebeca's Journey Home; Esme Raji Codell & Jennifer Roy signing autographs; Stephen Krensky showing art from Hannukah at Valley Forge; Greg Harlin was his own model for the Valley Forge soldier; Brenda Ferber shows her diary with a positive review of Julia's Kitchen pasted in; Linda Press Wulf shows the British and US covers for Night of the Burning.

Shopping Shopping Shopping!

Once again, one of the highlights of the convention was to wander among the vendors and drool over the books and gifts. I always especially enjoy the artists and craftspeople who show up.

Avima Darnov modeled one of her hand woven Tallitot. She had a variety of gorgeous soft wool and silk tallitot and crocheted kippot. Contact her at:

Bobby Harr had a variety of mezuzot, jewelery, plates and other pieces in luminous kiln fused glass. They truly glowed and sparkled. Check him out at

Randy Zucker brought in digital fine art prints that managed to look traditional, contemporary, and inspiring. See more of her work at


Ellen Kastel talked about the archival collections at JTS and the challenges of making them accessible. She has been trying to make the archives at JTS and the collections of the Ratner Center for Conservative Judaism available through the same searches.

JTS has Google search on their homepage - it searches all sections of their website. This searching also improves their standing in the Google listing.

The Solomon Schechter collection has been microfilmed. The finding aid database is available on the web and is searchable.

Joel Kushner talked about the establishment of an Initiative at HUC to train Rabbinic students and other Jewish professionals about homophobia and working with LGBT issues. HUC received a grant to set up and online resource center. They looked at other library and resource center sites and found that many were not visually appealing and that they just listed their content - not annotated it. They also wanted their site to be interactive and to have a strong educational component.

Monday, June 18, 2007

E-books in Jewish studies and their place in our libraries

Sara Spiegel began with an examination of digital books.
She found that libraries have embraced e-serials and e-reference books.

She asked "why haven’t they embraced e-books?"
  • Could not afford to buy duplicate works in different formats
  • Were afraid that patrons would only want e-version and books would be eliminated
  • Readers still wanted to read from paper.
There is no one aggregator of Jewish books
Some e-book collections include
  • Otzar ha-hochma (subscription-based)
  • Netlibrary (Suject collections)
  • JNUL - digitized books (over 500 books)
  • Google book
  • (Microsoft project)
  • Jewish Theological Seminary - digital projects
  • Online books - Univ. of Penn. list
  • DigitalBookIndex
  • Project Ben Yehuda
  • Yizkor books at New York Public Library
How to we supply access to these resources?
  • Put list of links on our homepages
  • Add links to individual records in the OPACS
  • Have some kind of federated search that searches different collectionns
  • Provide A-Z list of available e-books
Heidi Lerner reviewed free and subscription based biographical resources.

One example was the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
I somehow missed the handout, I'll try to find more links that she mentioned.

Writing a Book review

Libby White and Ellen Cole, book reviewers and editors, par excellence, guided us on how to write a good review.

Libby pointed out that writing a review is not a plea to feed the author's children. She stated the importance of knowing the subject that you are reviewing. You should be able to verify the facts, compare the work in question to similar works, and determine if the book adds to the reader's understanding of the subject.

She also emphasized the need to act as a professional: READ THE DIRECTIONS (her emphasis), and get the review in on time.

Some other hints are: avoid long strings of adjectives, "cutesy" expressions, avoid passive voice, avoiding restating the title or the opening sentence, and leave out the author's (or reviewers) biographical information unless it's directly relevant.

Ellen continued the talk with a discussion of the place of the book review. She mentioned that 95% of books published have no advertising; book reviews might be their only exposure.

Ellen shared her 4 secrets:

Know thy audience. You are providing them a service by helping them make collection choices which basically means budget choices. If you are writing for AJL, you need to be aware of all branches of Judaism. You also have to be aware that non-Jews may also be using your review.

Know thy publisher. Get guidelines from the publisher. AJL has a pamphlet "Excellence in Jewish Children's Literature" (This is also available from the AJL website) Guidelines of this type will tell you what criteria to use in judging the book. Remember to keep to the word limit.

Know thy book. Judge if it's appropriate to the age range you've been given. Decide if it's Jewish. Determine if the text and the illustrations match each other in age appropriateness, tone, and accuracy. Reviewing books for teens can be especially tricky. The book should contain the teen perspective, not what adults assume would be the teen perspective. Make sure to mention if the books contains sex, drugs, or death so that librarians and parents can decide if the themes are appropriate to a particular teen.

Know thyself. Did you like the book? Describe why or why not. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion based on your own experience and taste.

Award lunch

We all know that librarianship can be a thankless profession. Its only appropriate that AJL take a few minutes to thank and recognize a couple of the people who have made a difference in our profession.

Zachary Baker presented the AJL Life membership award to Phil Miller, my colleague on the HUC New York campus. Phil is long time AJL member and past president. Of course Zachary mentioned his numerous contributions to AJL, his scholarly endeavors especially in the area of Karaites, and his great linguistic skills, but Zachary left out his wonderful story-telling ability.

Libby White presented Ellen G. Cole with the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award. Ellen is enthusiastic about her work and especially about her family, her children and grandchildren. Ellen said that her motto is to be “MAD” to “Make A Difference.”

Sarah Barnard awarded the AJL scholarship to 2 library school students: Kimberly Guise and Russell Neiss. Russell was here to accept the scholarship. Sarah mentioned that they had a large pool of qualified students which made her committee’s task very difficult.

Yelena Luckert presented the Doris Orenstein award to 7 AJL members who had not attended the conference before.

Susan Greening presented accreditation certificates to many library who had worked hard to achieve this.

Information Literacy in the digital era

Marsha Lustigman began with Library 2.0: are you ready for the class of 2020?

We must reach outside of the library walls to the web, where our students ‘live’

What is Library 2.0?

  • It is user centered (they create and contribute)

  • Its is multi-media

  • It is socially rich

  • It is communally innovative

We need to move from content providers to content creators.

Our challenges:

Marsha asked: are we teachers, techies, or technocrats? And what about the books? and copyright (are we enablers or gatekeepers?) information literacy.

She mentioned which is a more intuitive tool for library lists and catalogs. Some libraries are beginning to use it as their OPAC.

Karen Ulric continued the discussion of Web 2.0
A chronological list of posts. One person can use it as journal, there can be group blogs, such as classroom or book club discussions.

You can manage your blogs through a blog reader such as which brings together all the blogs you want to read. The information is brought to you - you don't have to go to each page to read them.

You can also customize a homepage for yourself through Google and pull in information from lots of different resources.

community driven websites - many people can edit or add to the website. You can control who is able to edit the pages.
An example is AviChai's wiki for Jewish School Libraries.

Other tools
flickr - a photo site
Youtube - online videos
LibraryThing - do-it-yourself books lists - tagging site -links to others' tags

She recommend the TRAILS site for information literacy testing and resources.

Heidi Estrin concluded with a discussion of podcasts.
These are similar to blogs, with audio files attached. She mentioned that podcasts are like radio shows on the internet. This format is great for obscure topics, because you don't have to worry about drawing a huge audience.

Her handout is available at:

You can also add video images.

You can listen to podcasts by either streaming the file or downloading the mp3 file and listening to the program from your own computer or you can subscribe to the podcast through a feedreader (in Google, or iTunes or other)

Podcasts can be used to record live programs to make them available to people who couldn't attend; they can be used for PR; involving patrons in book reviewing, etc.

As with any of the new technological toys and tools, make sure you have the content!

There a few options for setting up a podcast. You can use gcast (see the sidebar). If you have a microphone on your computer, you can record at your computer too. You'll also need some editing software. One example of a free software is Audacity. A third option is to use a digital voice record and download the file. This can be connected to the phone. Skype (voice-over IP) can also be use to talk to anyone who has Skype or use Skype to call a regular land-line. (Make sure the other person has given permission to be recorded!)

To put in a plug for my own session - I will be also be talking about wikis and blogs tomorrow afternoon and will focus on how to set them up.

OCLC Karen Smith-Yoshimura

The first session of the morning! Here are some sketchy notes.

Karen started off by recapping the union of OCLC and RLG. She went over some of the reasons for the mergers which include: they duplicated services; it would save money for libraries who were paying both OCLC and RLG; RLG would be able to focus on research, not on providing services.

Currently, there are about 150 RLG partners. They’ve added new partners since the union: UCLA, U Washington, Oregon State U, University of Alberta, University of Miami,

Her main focus though was on library research in the age of “Amazoogle.” Most students now look at search engines first when they start research. Only 1% go to the library catalog first.

The challenge to libraries is to get the resources out to the patrons. We need to our internal processes from study, deliberate and finally maybe change to “try it out” if it doesn’t work, take it down.

She showed off one of OCLC’s exciting new programs called “WorldCat identities” which brings together all forms of a name – including different alphabets. It also gives the number of works, publications, and languages and a publication timeline.

Web 2.0/Mobile generation – make the resources viewable on mobile units.

The long tail – scholars want to more obscure things that are not widely held – we should digitize the more unique items – not the most popular.

Unfortunately, the technology wasn’t working to show the Powerpoint, but by not having it, Karen really showed when you absolutely do or don’t need it. Most of the talk went very well, with Karen’s enthusiastic delivery. Occassionaly though, she really could not show her point without the hookup.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Phonecast Now Live

We are now phonecasting live from the AJL Convention. Scroll down to the "Listen In" section in the sidebar and click the Play button. I have just discovered that only the most current phonecast displays on the player unless you hit the POSTS link along the bottom edge of the player - then you can click on past posts that you may have missed.

If you have any feedback about the phonecast, or requests of topics we should cover, please post a comment to this blog.

~ Heidi Estrin

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ruth Diskin Films: See 'Em Sunday!

Formed in 2001, Ruth Diskin Films Ltd. specializes in the distribution of films with distinctive content produced for the worldwide television. The Company facilitates the promotion, marketing, distribution and exhibition of independent films world-wide.

Ruth Diskin Films Ltd. represents the best contemporary independent Israeli filmmaking and filmmakers. As one of the highly acclaimed Israeli distributors, Ruth Diskin Films Ltd. works with organizations and institutions that utilize non-commercial, educational media in their programs. This includes colleges and universities, archives, art cinemas, libraries, museums, galleries, symposiums etc.
For more information, contact Ruth at

Sunday morning at the convention (9am-noon), the following Ruth Diskin films will be screened:

Jews of Iran -
First Lesson in Peace -
The Children's House -

Buying Books and Getting Them Autographed

Buying Books

The majority of AJL's award-winning b
ooks will be sold in the convention exhibit hall by Barnes and Noble.

Two important notes from B&N:
  • Please make sure to bring a copy of your tax free status documentation!
  • They can only accept POs from organizations with B&N accounts.
Getting Them Autographed

Rachel Kamin (STBA Committee) and Suzi Dubin (Convention Programming) have arranged to have an incredible and impressive roster of children's and YA authors presenting, being honored and signing their books.

A number of these signings will be taking place in the Exhibits Hall during breaks. Books being signed after the keynote on Sunday, after the play reading on Monday, and at the Awards Reception on Tuesday evening will be available for purchase at those events. Stay posted for the full schedule of book signings!

~ Sara Ravid
Exhibits Committee

Sydney Taylor Award Goodies for Sale

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee will be selling the following items during the annual two-part presentation on Tuesday morning, June 19 (8:30-10:00 AM/10:30 AM – 12:00 PM). Please plan to bring cash or a check with you to the session. We can not accept credit cards.



1 Quest for the Best CD-ROM with all reviews written by the committee members for submissions published during 2006. The disc also includes shelf-talkers (gold and silver medal signs that you can put on the shelf near your copies of winning titles), images of the gold and silver seals for your own use in creating displays, and other valuable resources. In addition, the disc has audio files of interviews with this year’s Sydney Taylor Book Award winners: Stephen Krensky and Greg Harlin, Brenda Ferber, and Markus Zusak.

1 full-color copy of the Association of Jewish Libraries NOTABLE BOOKS OF JEWISH CONTENT FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS, listing all titles recognized by the Award Committee in 2007.

20 BOOKMARKS featuring the 2007 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners.

3 GOLD SEALS for the 2007 Award Winners: Hanukkah at Valley Forge, Julia’s Kitchen, and The Book Thief.

10 SILVER SEALS for the 2007 Honor Award Winners: The White Ram, I am Marc Chagall, Shlemazel and the Remarkable Spoon of Pohost, Rebecca’s Journey Home, Vive La Paris, Solomon and the Ant, Yellow Star, The Night of the Burning, Incantation, and A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life.


$5.00/pack of 20

Package of 20 full-color, cardstock bookmarks featuring the 2007 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners


$5.00/pack of 20

Sydney Taylor Book Award Seals are available in the following packages: 20 Gold Seals, 20 Silver Seals, and 10 Gold + 10 Silver Seals

These items will also be available by mail after the Convention. Contact Nancy Austein at after June 25 to place your order. Hope to see you in Scottsdale!

Rachel Kamin, Chair
Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Homework for Potential Podcasters

At the upcoming convention, there will be a session called "Information Literacy in the Digital Era: Communication, Cooperation (and Copying!): Blogs/Pods/Wikis." I'll be presenting along with Marsha Lustigman and Karen Ulric on Monday June 18, 10:30am-noon, in Sonora C.

If you are considering coming to that session, and if podcasting is one of the topics that interests you, I'd like to give you a little homework assignment.

Please go to and listen to the 20-minute audio presentation you'll find there. This discussion of podcasting in libraries and education will provide some context for the topic.

See you soon in Scottsdale!
~ Heidi Estrin