Archive for October 23, 2011

Tales from the teche – Internet Librarian 2011

Brown pelicans at Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey

Brown pelicans at Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey

I just returned from Monterey California where once again librarians gathered from all over the country to discuss the latest in technology that affects our work and our world.

As in most years, there were a couple of hot topics that seemed to dominate the convention.  This year, the topics were e-books and Google (and other search engine issues)

E-books have been a hot topic at the HUC-JIR library too.  We’ve been exploring  the many challenges of adding e-books to our collection.  The number of options is rather mind-boggling.  I’m very curious if and how our readers read e-books.  Do you read them at the your computer? download to a reader? or a tablet? Buy from a bookstore? Checkout from your public library? Do you read fiction or non-fiction in a e-book? is it a different experience?  Enquiring librarians want to know!

But what I really learned the most about is news about Google; some fun, some scary.

Beginning with the fun stuff.  Google has a new feature called ngrams.  They taken their massive collection of digitized books and indexed many of the words over time.  You can map how word usage has changed over time.  For example, this graph shows how mentions of Jews, Hebrews, and Israelites have appeared in literature from 1800-2000.

Another interesting feature is public data You can access many different sets of data about population, retail, health, energy, economy, etc. and create charts and graphs to save and export.

Now onto the scary. Big Brother is not only watching you, he is selling data about you to many buyers.  Many different companies (including Google and Amazon) track your online activity; what you search, where you click.  One way to find out who is tracking you is by looking at  The business model for google is that you are the product that they sell to advertisers.

This not only affects the advertising that appears on the sidebars, but your actual search results.  Google remembers your search habits and delivers results based on that history.  So if you and a dozen of your friends do the exact same search, you will get very different results. And probably, the first 100 or so results will have be sophisticated spam pushed to the top by companies that specialize in SEO (search engine optimization) companies.

Some options for “cleaner” tracking free searching are: DuckDuckgo, Scroogle, or Blekko.

I’m hoping to be able to implement some of the other tips and tricks I learned into the library website.


Rare Mahzorim at your Fingertips

At this time of year, many of us are spending much time with our mahzor. While many of us are using the Gates of Repentance, Birnbaum or Koren, (I use the excellent Goldschmidt critical edition) many variations of the liturgy exist in manuscripts in the HUC collection and beyond.

Not long ago, using manuscripts for liturgy research involved traveling to rare book rooms around the world or looking at microfilm in the basement of the National Library of Israel (Department of Manuscripts and The Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts – National Library). Progressively, the digitization of Hebrew manuscripts gives librarians and scholars the opportunity to view manuscripts without leaving one’s chair. The manuscripts or Jewish prayer books are a great resource for Jewish art, liturgy, history and more.  Entering “mahzor” or “siddur” into Google gives you the Wikipedia articles ( and, which provide a good introduction to the mahzor and siddur.Once you get oriented, it is time to begin seeing the world of Jewish liturgy on the Web.

images from Worms mazhor

Worms Mazhor

You may want to start with the National Library of Israel manuscript collection website that has a few good examples of mahzorim, including the famous Worms Mahzor, copied in 1272.

image from Nuremberg mahzor

Nuremberg mahzor

There is also the beautifully illustrated Nuremberg Mahzor copied in 1331. The website includes an introduction to the manuscripts as well as scholarly articles related to them. ( and

Another website that includes many manuscripts, including mahzorim, is the Braginsky collection. This is a must-see website for anyone interested in manuscripts. This private collection includes beautifully illustrated manuscripts of Ketubot, Passover Hagadot, Megilot Esther and more. The website allows you to englarge the high-resolution images to see a very fine level of detail.

Another research tool for finding rare books is the website. Just type in Mahzor using the virtual Hebrew keyboard and find hundreds of titles which can all be viewed online or downloaded. Dozens of these mahzorim are from the 16thcentury, which are very valuable in liturgical study.

However, for those of you who prefer to see and touch the manuscripts (like me), the Klau Library in Cincinnati has a good collection of mahzorim including some from the 14thcentury.

Shana Tova!