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Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Gershom Scholem Collection in the New Library Building

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Gershom Scholem Collection in the New Library Building

The National Library of Israel is fully committed to preserving the Gershom Scholem Collection in its entirety to the fullest extent possible. Therefore, the collection will be maintained in a single space, both in the current National Library building and in the new building currently under construction.

The Scholem Collection is a living library, an actively growing collection which contains primary sources and research materials related to the Jewish mystical tradition and which contains most of the items in this growing field of research. Since the original agreement was signed between the collection's founder and the Hebrew University, the Scholem Collection has grown in size in accordance with the development of the related fields of study and in accordance with the interests of the readers. The National Library of Israel intends to continue to preserve and expand the collection.

1. Will the Scholem Collection, with its unique classification   system, remain as a separate special collection and reading room in the new NLI building?
• Yes, the Scholem Collection will continue to exist and be developed as a separate special collection with its own reading room, unique catalogue notations  and shelving order.

• The Scholem Collection will be housed in a separate reading room adjacent to the Judaica Collection in the main reading room.

• The books will continue to be arranged based upon the system which is currently used in the Scholem Reading Room.
2. What improvements will there be in the Scholem Reading Room in the new building?

• The Scholem Reading Room will be in close proximity to the Judaica Collection, which will facilitate the use of materials from both collections.

• The Scholem Reading Room will also be adjacent to the service desk where readers will be able to pick up books ordered from the stacks, thus saving time.

• The Scholem Reading Room will have its own photocopy and scanning services.
3. Will the National Library continue to purchase books for the Scholem Collection?
• Yes, NLI will continue to develop the collection, in accordance with the Library's acquisition policy. When Prof. Scholem's library was transferred to the National Library after his death in 1982, the collection contained some 25,000 items. Today, there are over 34,000 items in the collection. The collection continues to grow by hundreds of items annually and will continue to do so in the new building.
4. What will happen to the rare books of the Scholem Collection?

• The rare books in the collection are currently being evaluated, each book individually, under the supervision of the director of the NLI Conservation Department. 

• The books designated as rare (R) in the Scholem Library, because they have extensive marginal notes from Scholem or other scholars, dedications to Scholem, etc., will remain in the Scholem Library behind locked glass cabinets as they are today, and will be available to the readers by request from the librarians who work there. Readers will be able to photocopy or scan them in the reading room. Readers will not be permitted to remove them from the reading room.

• Some volumes require special climatic conditions due to their age or physical condition, and other extremely rare books are in danger of theft. The relatively small number of books in this category, defined as very rare (RR), will be transferred to the Rare Book Depository where they will be able to be optimally preserved for the use of future generations of scholars.

• Some volumes currently classified as rare are being reclassified as not rare and in recent months some 400 books that were locked in glass cases in the Scholem Reading Room have been reclassified as regular books and put on open shelves, providing scholars easier access to them.

• If a reader submits a special request, books which have been designated very rare (RR) and which have been removed from the collection may be reevaluated to see if they may be returned to the shelves of the Scholem Collection as rare (R). A change in the status of a book will be done following the evaluation and decision of the preservation lab. If approved, the book will be brought up from the storage area to the shelves of the Scholem Library. Library management holds the ultimate authority regarding any final decisions related to the status of a book.

5. How will readers gain access to the RR books in the Rare Book Depository?

• Very rare books (RR) that have been placed in the Rare Book Depository will be digitized, enabling readers to download them in accordance with copyright laws. Physical reproductions of these books will be produced over time and placed on the shelves of the Scholem Collection in place of the original books. NLI plans to produce both digital and physical reproductions of these items even before the Library moves to the new building.

• In the new building, readers will be able to read books from the Rare Book Depository in the Rare Book Reading Room, just as they do today. In the past year the Library supplied over 3,000 rare books to researchers and will continue to serve these needs in the future.