A Library Leaps Across the Street

We have been nudged, with some pizzazz, into a situation of good luck: at last we have an open-access library. After various construction delays, we finally had a date set to move. We were supposed to be transferring from our secluded rooms on the third floor of the Libeskind Building to the new Academy Building across the street from the museum, also built by Daniel Libeskind.

Book shelves in the back and a Reading Room sign in the front

Reading room of the library and the archive at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Mirjam Bitter

While some of us were directing the book-packers in the warehouse, others were confronting the question of how to set up this new reading room with open access. Visitors would at last be able to come and go without signing in. Missing shelf labels needed to be replaced with makeshift printouts from our classification system. Information about our opening hours had to be hung at the entrance. In addition, the transport needed to be organized of rare materials from the warehouse across the street to the new reading room. On top of all this, we could not lose track, in the midst of the moving boxes, of a set of packages containing an extensive new donation to our collection. When we finally opened our doors, we learned that there would be a press event: the photographers were instantly taken with the RFID-Gate that lights up in red if someone tries to steal a book. We opened the doors again symbolically for the RBB evening television program and made our progress official: direct access to the books at last.

Then they actually came: our new visitors. They looked around curiously, through the shelves along the slanting walls. They browsed at our new acquisitions shelf, and, finding something, would sit down at the desks or into a comfortable red armchair next to the magazines. They asked whether they may check out books (no) and whether we have suggestions for their research (usually yes). They came and went with friendly hellos, whispering quietly to each other and then moving on into the Diaspora Garden. When we install our faster computers, new desk lamps, and a copy machine – all coming soon – then I hope they will all come again and share our delight in this leap we’ve made across the street.

Bernhard Jensen, Library

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