Leo Baeck Institute works to preserve and promote the history and culture of German-speaking Jews.
Eugen Bárkány: A Pioneer of Jewish Heritage Preservation in Slovakia
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The purpose of this policy is to define subject areas for collection development, and to determine how intensely we will collect in each area. The policy will be used to guide our decisions in purchasing, accepting donations and weeding.
The mission of the library remains to build the collection in order to provide and preserve source material and services to support research on the collective history and culture of German-speaking Jewry.
The researchers who come to the LBI can be classified as follows:
The scope of the collection reflects the mission of the Institute. The “Jewish aspect” is a primary criterion for selection. There are 8 major subject categories the Institute focuses on: historical, philosophical, religious, social, cultural, political, economic expressions of the German Jewish tradition, and biographical accounts of German Jewish scientists. While it is often difficult to separate an author from his opus, in-depth collecting of purely technical material is avoided.
The geographical dimensions of the collection reflect the history of the Jewish people, starting with the spread of small Ashkenazi Jewish settlements along the Rhine in the eighth century. There was sporadic existence from Cologne to Breslau, Prague and Vienna through the eleventh century. Later, through the Middle Ages, settlements were established in the south in Alsace, and to some extent in Switzerland. In the modern period, the German principalities, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian empire, provided a home for Jewish settlers. Finally, as a direct effect of the Holocaust, new emigrant communities were created in South America, South Africa, Australia, Israel, USA, England, and for a shorter period of time, in places such as Shanghai.
The time frame of the collection extends from the beginning of the German-Jewish settlement to the present.
Although the prominence of a person is not a criterion for selection, there are certain names that the library collected in the past and therefore this practice should continue: (i.e. Arendt, Baeck, Buber, Einstein, Kafka, Liebermann, Moses Mendelssohn, the Rothschild family, Rosenzweig.)
The main languages of the collection are German, and English, with a lesser emphasis on Hebrew. Other languages are added if they fall within the subject scope on a selective level. Translation from German into English or from other languages to either English or German are collected selectively.
The library purchases any type of material including: textbooks, and published dissertations, and local history projects (unpublished dissertations are placed in the archives).
Works are collected regardless of their format, including microfilm, microfiche, video, and electronic texts.
Relevance and balance in the collection in 8 major subject areas are the two major factors to be considered in the selection process. The library’s collection development policy therefore should define two different levels, which would indicate the scope and the strength of collection in specific subject areas.
We collect comprehensively any publications dealing with the collective history and culture of German speaking Jewry.
We collect selectively in areas where we want some, but not full coverage. For instance, topics like anti-Nazi movements are collected only if it covers German-Jewish participation.
LBI is an important part of the library community in the metropolitan area, nation-wide, and internationally. It is also a part of METRO and a special member of the Research Library Group. In today’s world of limited resources, sharing and cooperating are imperative. It is for this reason that LBI has special relationships with the international research community, and deals extensively with three major libraries: Germania Judaica in Cologne and the branches of the Deutsche Bibliothek in Leipzig and in Frankfurt. These institutions all have on-line access and interlibrary loan privileges.
A library acquisition policy that is developed in conjunction with other academic and Jewish institutions in New York City is essential for the Institute. Our Institute depends on cooperation with major academic and public libraries like New York University, Columbia University, and New York Public Research Library. Researchers working on the history of German-speaking Jewry often have to consult general sources in these libraries, or Jewish sources in the Jewish Theological Seminary, YIVO, Hebrew Union College, and Yeshiva University. In return, they can rely on the extensive and comprehensive sources of our specialized collection. With an explicit development policy in hand, the LBI library can more actively reach acquisition librarians in other institutions to work out a cooperative plan.
The inclusion of material in the rare books collection is highly selective, but may be in any subject area covered in the subject list. Rare books are priced at above $500 are paid for using the Judaica Conservancy Fund. The librarian has access to the Fund after the approval of one of the Trustees. The books purchased by the Fund are marked as special loans.
There are two different sections in the library for periodicals.
The “old section” of pre-1939 periodicals is closed. New acquisitions are made only if the librarian finds missing issues within a particular series.
The “current section” is quite small since we only subscribe to periodicals that cover German Jewish subjects, and are not available in major Jewish institutions and universities.
There are two sections in the reference area: publications sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute and general reference material. The collection of publications sponsored by the three centers of the LBI is complete. The general reference works are chosen on the selective level in the acquisition scale.
Holocaust material is to be collected selectively, mainly in a German-Jewish context. We do not collect general history of the Holocaust, or Holocaust denial material. Materials on the dispute of German historians, called “Historikerstreit” on the role of Germany between 1933 and 1945 will not be collected.
Local history material will continue to be collected comprehensively because these works represent the collective history and culture of German-speaking Jewry, and are the least likely to be available elsewhere. These are also becoming increasingly important for genealogical research, although the general scholarly value of some of these works produced by local historians and students is often limited.
There is an emerging trend of family and genealogy research that requires us to collect any material containing lists of names and all published works pertaining to German-Jewish genealogy. Our collection on antisemitismshould be limited to the German-Jewish experience. The same is true for National Socialism and the anti-Nazi movement. We cannot rightfully leave these subjects out, but they are topics represented in most university libraries.
Material on German-Jewish exile communities should be collected from the initial period of the communities comprehensively, and beyond that period selectively. The fate of individuals in exile, who were active in Germany should be followed throughout their life.
Since the world looks to us as the repository of German-Jewish history and culture, regardless of time, geography, or subject restrictions, material on contemporary Jewish life in Germany, Austria and around the world has been recently added to the acquisition list of LBI.
Consistency between the goals of the Institute and the collection is essential. As we get farther and farther away from the time of the Founders, the importance of a well defined collection development policy becomes self-evident. The changes in the fields of research and of the researchers’ expectations with regard to the Institute require some adjustments to our previous practice. By stating our priorities and adhering to our collection policy we can contribute to the elimination of duplication in parallel acquisition practices among the research libraries and Jewish libraries in the New York City area.