The Board of Governors of HUC-JIR Approves Renovation and Expansion Plan for Klau Library in Cincinnati

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

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:

  • The Klau Library building houses approximately 230,000 volumes accessible to faculty and students, and provides space for faculty offices, reference materials, computer services, Library offices, study areas, and Cincinnati campus administrative offices. The building will undergo extensive renovation, with the installation of new and efficient HVAC systems, new lighting in the stacks, seminar rooms, carrels, and study areas, and more room for computer and other technical services.
  • The Administration building, built in 1930, holds 200,000 volumes, most of them in an area called the "East Wing." The "East Wing" and the enclosed corridor that connects it to the Klau Library building will be replaced with a three-story "Library Pavilion" abutting the Klau Library building and providing access to it on four levels. The "Library Pavilion" will become the main entrance to the Klau Library, provide direct but controlled access to the Administration building, and house administrative offices, some Library offices, and faculty offices.
  • Standard open shelving and compact shelving, which accommodates approximately four times as many books as standard library shelving, will be added to sections of the Klau Library building and the "Library Pavilion." These areas of standard and compact shelving will provide sufficient space to house the entire existing collection, accommodate projected growth of the collection over the next two decades or more, and be protected by temperature and humidity controls and fire suppression systems consistent with industry standards.
  • The College-Institute's collection of rare books and manuscripts, currently preserved in the Dalsheimer Rare Book Building built in 1960, will be incorporated into a high-security "closed" section of the new compact shelving area of the Klau Library Building, and the Dalsheimer Building will be razed. Treasures from the rare book collection will be displayed in a high-security exhibition area in the renovated Klau Library building or the new "Library Pavilion."
  • Other site improvements and new landscaping will ensure handicapped access to the Library, improve pedestrian traffic flow, and provide new outdoor study and meeting areas for faculty, students and other Library users.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu