HTC Campus Libraries
Saul Silber Memorial Library
The Saul Silber Memorial Library is the prime academic library that supports curricula and research of faculty and students at Hebrew Theological College. The Library collects the full spectrum of Jewish literature (except for materials for juvenile readers). The Library has cataloged over 70,000 items that include books in Hebrew, English, and other languages; periodicals, pamphlets, museum objects, microforms, computer CD-ROMs, video and audio tapes, music CDs, manuscripts, and art work. The Library collects the general studies materials that support the curriculum. These items are housed in three different locations: Main Library, Chadar Iyun and the Blitstein Institute. The cataloged items can be accessed through the On Line Public Access Catalog (OPAC), which is available through the HTC website.
The strongest areas of the collections are in Rabbinic literature (classical texts, their commentaries, and Rabbinic Responsa), Bible, Holocaust Studies, and Jewish history. The Library has a significant collection on the history of Jews in Chicago. The Library has approximately 10,000 volumes in its Liberal Arts and Sciences collection. These volumes cover all aspects of general education and support the College’s general studies programs.
Materials can be found by accessing the library’s online catalog. Loans between the main library and the library at the Blitstein Institute campus are facilitated by Rabbi Gaffen and Ms. Eti Berland.
Electronic resources are provided to students for their research needs on both campuses. Both the Main Library and the Blitstein Library provide multiple computers devoted to student/faculty use as well computers serving the reference desks. Available databases include local newspapers, web sites, and most importantly, through the subscriptions to EPSCO Academic Search Premier, which provides hundreds of articles from periodicals and academic journals, including full text and download service.
Beis Midrash and the Aron and Rivka Friedman z"l Chadar Iyun
The Beis Midrash (study hall) and Chadar Iyun (study/research room) collections were integrated into the Library system of Hebrew Theological College. The Beis Midrash, where students spend significant time studying independently or in small groups, houses volumes of Talmud, Jewish Law, and Bible, along with their commentaries and translations. The Aron Friedman Chadar Iyun, located in the Beis Midrash building, houses additional commentaries and responsa. The room also provides an inviting atmosphere, allowing for quiet research and study. These collections total approximately 4,500 volumes above and beyond those in the Saul Silber Library.
Library resources are used by almost all students and faculty daily. The Beis Midrash library is a non-traditional library. It is a study room with a reference collection with no formal circulation. Students and faculty often spend upwards of six hours a day in the room studying either independently, with partners or in small groups. The yeshiva style of learning puts a strong emphasis on Talmud. While students study together, they may raise questions that require further research. The Library provides the books that the readers need to be housed in either in the Beis Midrash or the nearby Friedman Chadar Iyun. Since questions are a vital part of learning, almost everyone studying needs to consult books from the Library. The room is also used for prayer services daily and on Shabbat and holidays. At these services, members of the community may come in and are likely to pick up a book from the collection to peruse or study in-depth.
Blitstein Institute for Women Library
The library division at the Blitstein Institute serves to support the curriculum and the research needs of the students and faculty. The Blitstein Institute Library contains about 7,200 items, including books, periodicals, and video tapes and DVD’s. Specialized holdings include the Dr. Esther Levy Robinson Memorial Psychology Resource Library Collection. There are extensive resources in support of the Departments of Education and English – which provide the option for a major only at the Blitstein Institute.
Students, faculty, and other HTC staff have full borrowing privileges. The standard loan period for books is three weeks. Videos may be checked out for one week. Faculty may request to borrow books for a semester. Periodicals circulate at the discretion of the library staff. Reference books are non-circulating and for room use only. Some materials are restricted because of age, value, condition, or other factors. Members of the public may check out books that are not needed for classes and not otherwise restricted, if they join the Friends of the Library. HTC Alumni Association members are granted the same borrowing privileges as Friends of the Library.
Additional Resources and Reciprocal Agreements
The services of the Saul Silber Library are augmented by a reciprocal agreement with Loyola University in Chicago. This agreement entitles students and faculty to check out books and do research at Loyola University. A similar agreement has been long-standing between Hebrew Theological College and the library of the Spertus Institute of Judaic Studies. With a current and valid photo ID from HTC faculty and students may borrow resources from the Asher Library of Spertus Institute, access Asher Library online catalog and have materials sent through interlibrary loan, either through phone or email. Hebrew Theological College was a member of the North Suburban Library System, whose members shared interlibrary loan privileges. This system has now been subsumed by Reach Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) which opens the public libraries of suburban communities, as well as various libraries of public and private colleges and universities to HTC students and faculty.
Additionally, students avail themselves of the public libraries of Skokie, Evanston and Chicago that are in close proximity to the two campuses.
The Library and the Academic Program While the pedagogical structures of the Bais Medrash division ensures continuous and intense use of library facilities, particularly in the Chadar Iyun, the self-study surveys and exit interviews over the past decade indicated the need for review and enhancement of both the Main Library and Blitstein Institute Library facilities, so that they are more accessible and useful in support of faculty and student research. With over 40% of the students and alumni surveyed indicating that they used the campus libraries rarely or never, a more in-depth analysis was indicated.
Exit interviews and discussions with current students over the past few years, indicate that undergraduate students as well as faculty at Hebrew Theological College are increasingly using electronic sources for research. Moreover, students at Blitstein Institute had expressed dissatisfaction with the limited librarian service on campus, and inadequate electronic connectivity between campuses and between online resources and the students. There was also strong indication that students and faculty lacked sufficient bibliographic skills and knowledge to fully avail themselves of the digital resources both free and subscription.
On-going institutional assessment indicated the need for review and reorganization of library services and the allocation of precious and limited resources such as budgets for acquisitions and shelve space available to ensure maximal benefit to students and faculty. Among the recommendations made by the librarians of HTC is expanded subscription to online bibliographic sources.
With growing online libraries available at little or no cost, Judaic scholars are increasingly using the computer and internet to access full-text books and journals (including rare and expensive sources previously available to a privileged few). The development of new and more sophisticated search engines has streamlined bibliographic research in foreign languages. HebrewBooks.org, for example, already provides nearly 50,000 different classics of Judaic and Hebraic writings for free download, and with hundreds more scanned and added to the collection yearly, limited resources for acquisitions should be directed to those books that are frequently used. Similar free and accessible internet sources are available in a wide variety of disciplines, and students and faculty need to be guided in the use of these resources.
Library personnel hours were expanded substantially at the Blitstein Institute Library to provide support to faculty and students. Additional computers, copy machine and improved wi-fi system will make the newly acquired digital resources more accessible. Additional recommendations included better signage, extensive weeding and reorganization of material, and continuous assessment of library computer technology.
Hebrew Theological College is now an affiliate member of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), which provided subsidized access to multiple databases which include full-text academic journals and periodicals. This opens a much broader venue for student and faculty research. A full-schedule of educational endeavors to familiarize students and faculty with the expanded resources is underway. Bibliographic instruction is now part and parcel of the curriculum in primary courses of the required core in general education, particularly in ENGL 111 and ENGL 211 (both of which are now required in residence).
Closer cooperation and collaboration between the Librarian and the faculty has already yielded significant improvements, and more are expected over the forthcoming years. The Library has already produced a guide for faculty and students to the library sources, with specific sections for each major. Such guidebooks are distributed to each faculty member and will be posted on the revamped website. Ongoing assessment will determine whether student and faculty usage and satisfaction increases.