Space is apparently at a premium in Jerusalem, and it has gotten so bad that the National Library on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus has been caught throwing away important books with the drek. God knows, rare book rooms are more mausoleums than museum these days, and it’s true that some libraries are so uncomfortable selling old books they sometimes literally give them away. I have to say, however, that this is not kosher [traif]. Further, reports that dealers lined up over night and that at least one armored truck was called are, as of this writing, unsubstantiated.
On July 21st, the Jerusalem Post wrote a story about the National Library at Givat Ram donating excess books to the public. They described the books as “eighty percent” in English, and lord knows, every day fewer English speakers are reading books. After all, if you can read it on your iPad, why bother with the original texts?
Once the giveaway was underway, library staff were confronted by an irate scholar. A representative of the library with “beyste bay zayn ponem” [egg on his face] then defended the selection for de-accessioning as “a completely normal process used by libraries around the world.” However, no other libraries have rushed to confirm that they too toss out their old and sometimes highly collectible books. One suspects the vast majority of libraries prefer to keep their rare books, but if de-accessioning, they’ll hold their noses and sell.
In tossing the material out, the library evoked memories of the infamous gang of three, Groucho, Harpo and Chico. These “books were given to the public, and if the library had more than three copies, or if the books did not belong to the library’s three core areas of research – Judaism, Israel and Islam,” we tossed ‘em. A quick check of the AED suggests the library’s focus is very narrow or, expressed in numerical terms, 0.005% of the total [17,853 of 3,277,756] records in the AED: