A Library for the 21st Century
The Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) has approved a renovation and expansion plan for the Klau Library in Cincinnati, which is internationally recognized as the largest and most comprehensive collection of books, periodicals, and manuscripts of all the Jewish libraries in the Western Hemisphere and is second only in size to the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. The Klau Library in Cincinnati, and its branches on the Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York campuses, provide the foundation that supports HUC-JIR's academic programs and faculty scholarship.
Shortly after the library began at the time of the inception of the College in 1875, HUC President Rabbi Issac Mayer Wise provided a list of the library's contents to the Board of Governors in 1876: 103 volumes of usable books. By 1900, it possessed 14,000 volumes, making it the largest Jewish library in North America of its time.
Today, the Klau Library in Cincinnati houses more than 700,000 volumes, including rare treasures of Hebraica and Judaica from the 10th century to the present day. Its treasures include thousands of rare volumes salvaged from Europe after the Holocaust, illuminated manuscripts, Biblical codices, communal records, legal documents, scientific tracts, and the complete set of negatives of the Dead Sea Scrolls (of which HUC-JIR is one of the three conservators in the world).
International scholars conduct research in the Klau Library's Eduard Birnbaum Collection of Musical Manuscripts, the world's most extensive collection of Jewish musical manuscripts predating 1850, and the Jewish Periodical Center's collection of the nation's most complete collection of Jewish newspapers and magazines on microfilm. These collections are disseminated through the Klau Libraries in Cincinnati and New York, the Frances-Henry Library in Los Angeles, and the Abramov Library in Jerusalem.
Yet the Klau Library building - a state-of-the-art facility when it was built in 1960 - is now in need of renovation and expansion. Accordingly, shortly after Rabbi Ellenson became President, he focused on the design of a facility that would house the Klau Library's existing collection and accommodate projected growth of the collection over the next twenty-five years. The design had to further teaching, learning, and research by creating a renovated building that is worthy of the Klau Library's mission.
"The Klau Library was created by the generations that preceded ours, and is a treasure entrusted to our care," stated Rabbi Ellenson. "But, in truth, it is a treasure that belongs to the entire Jewish people. We have the distinct privilege to be its stewards and the clear responsibility to ensure its continued excellence."
The architectural team entrusted with this task - the architectural firm of 2enCompass of Cincinnati and library experts Shipley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott of Boston - has presented a concept plan, which describes a facility that is both effective and efficient: