ISSUES AND QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU GET GOING (Originally prepared by the Association of Jewish Libraries, Greater Cleveland Chapter)
The idea of starting a library in a Jewish institution is an exciting one – aren’t Jews known as “the people of the book”? Advance planning is the key to success in launching a new library and keeping it dynamic. Many well-meaning schemes to start “libraries” fail because there has been no planning, just good wishes and a vague picture of a room full of books and happy readers. Libraries are much more than that! Their collections usually consist of non-print and electronic resources as well as print; they must have a clear purpose for existing and they must be organized, funded, staffed, and managed. Following are some issues and questions that must be addressed as part of the planning process. Without clear answers to them, energy will be wasted and success is unlikely.

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First, form a library committee consisting of institutional decision-makers, volunteers, and residents. Meaningful planning requires the participation of stake holders; plans should be made by consensus to ensure support. Whether you are establishing a library or a space with a collection of reading materials in it, the following must be considered:
  • What is the purpose of your endeavor? Who will it serve? Why is it being established? From these questions will come a mission statement.
  • What will it consist of in terms of the depth and breadth of the collection and the types of materials it will have in it? From this will emerge a collection development policy, which includes procedures for accepting and rejecting gifts.
  • Who will manage the library and provide services? From this will come staffing requirements and job descriptions.
  • What annual budget will be needed for start-up costs and on-going expenditures, including staff salaries?
  • What will be circulated (loaned), to whom, for how long? From this will come a circulation policy.
  • What will be the library’s operational procedures? what hours will it be open, how will it be staffed in terms of professional and clerical responsibilities?
  • How will its materials be organized?

However, before the questions listed above can be answered, the following key issue must be decided: Do you want a room(s) with a collection of reading/viewing materials in it or do you want a library? To help you decide, here are some characteristics of each
TEN ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS Whether the library committee determines that your institution can support a library, or no more than a space with a collection of reading materials, you must answer these questions:

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If the library committee decides that there is institutional support for a library, now and in the future, they should consider what this entails 1. Answering all ten essential questions listed above. 2. Retaining a salaried, professional (M.L.S.) librarian, at least part-time, to:
  • Work with architect and sales representatives in space planning
  • Work with the library committee.
  • Write needed policies and then administer them.
  • Develop procedures that emerge from these policies
  • Select materials.
  • Catalog and organize materials
  • Determine how bibliographic access and retrieval will be achieved.
  • Manage budget.
  • Supervise staff and volunteers.
  • Provide service to borrowers; publicize library and encourage its use.
  • Evaluate the library: its collection and its services.
3. A yearly budget from institutional operating funds
4. A dedicated space.

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