The National Library of Israel (NLI) is presently undergoing an extensive process of renewal, the aim of which is to develop and adapt it to the twenty-first century. This process was initiated by the Law of the National Library 2007 and the Master Plan for the Renewal of the National Library, and will enable NLI to play a central role in the cultural and intellectual life of the citizens of the State of Israel and of the Jewish People worldwide.
One of the principal elements of NLI’s renewal process is the formulation of a focused definition of the core collection areas. In the past, such a definition existed, but it was somewhat looser, and was to a large degree linked to the fact that the Library served as the humanities library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As such, it was intended to meet the research needs of all branches of the humanities. The physical separation of the NLI from the Faculty of Humanities, which relocated to Mount Scopus with parts of the Library’s collections some thirty years ago, and the financial difficulties which accompanied the de facto splitting up of the Library left it in a state in which the scope of the collection was still fairly broad, but was practically impossible to fulfill. At the same time, the traditional strong points of the collections retained their force; due to historical and practical reasons, these were in the fields of Judaica and what used to be called “Oriental Studies”, including mainly Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. Several committees, convened in order to examine the functioning and aims of the NLI, especially the International Committee (1996-1998) and the Zamir Committee (2004) recommended institutionalizing these traditional strong points as the NLI’s Core Collections, and to divide the material included in the Judaica Collection into two discrete parts: Judaica and Israel.
Thus the Law of the National Library and the Master Plan defined three core areas in which NLI was to focus its collection activity, although not in equal depth and concentration: Judaica, Israel, and Islam and the Middle East. According to this new definition, material which is not clearly part of the core areas but is related to them is to be included in the General Humanities Collection. On the other hand, material which is either unconnected to the core areas or only very loosely related to them, such as the Far East Collection, is no longer part of NLI’s development policy.
The “NLI Collection Development Policy Document” is the plan of action of NLI’s Department of Collections, and it is based on the recommendations of the Planning Committee which were formulated during the preparation of the Master Plan for Renewal, with the necessary adaptations. The chapters of this document were written by the curators of NLI’s three core collections and the curator of the General Humanities Collection. We have attempted to maintain a certain consistency, and for each Collection the following three elements will be presented: a description of the Collection; the guiding principle of the Collection, and the formats of the items collected. However, each Collection has its own unique aspects, and each curator his own style.
This document has been approved by the NLI Board of Directors, and it will serve as a binding document guiding NLI collection policy. Nevertheless, to a certain extent the policy will remain open to changes and updates, based on conclusions drawn along the way and NLI’s changing needs.