The basis of the present Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP) Library is the collection of the former library of the Jewish Community of Prague (JCP), which dates back to 1857. The library maintained the tradition of the city of Prague as an important centre of Jewish culture, scholarship and education. Its core collection consisted of gifts and bequests of prominent Jewish personalities, such as the Chief Rabbi of Prague Salomon Judah Rapoport, the Prague printer and publisher Moses Israel Landau and the Secretary of the Prague Burial Society Koppelmann Lieben. The library of the JCP was run by professionals, such as the first librarian Dr. Nathan Grün, Dr. Isidor Pollak and the last librarian Dr. Tobias Jakobovits. It was Dr. Jakobovits who in 1938 compiled the catalogue of the collection, amounting to 15,000 volumes, including 4 incunabulae, old and rare printed books and manuscripts. This catalogue, which is divided into two parts - Hebraica and Judaica- has remained a very useful bibliographical tool for orientation in this historical collection to the present day.
During World War II the library shared a similar fate to that of the majority of Jewish sites in Bohemia and Moravia: it came under the administration of the Central Jewish Museum.
After World War II, in 1945, the former JCP library was transferred to the renewed Jewish Museum, which in 1950 became the State Jewish Museum. During the 1970s and 1980s library staff focused on a description of the collection of manuscripts and the collection of old Prague printed books. The results of this research were published in the journal Judaica Bohemiae.
The current JMP library contains as many as 100,000 volumes, including Hebrew books stemming mainly from the territory of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as other areas of Europe. The library contains literature dealing with Jewish history in Bohemia and Moravia and, last but not least, a large collection of Judaica on various topics (history, history of art, philosophy, bibliography, linguistics, fiction). The JMP library also has a large and valuable collection of periodicals comprising historical items (newspapers, revues and year-books from the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries) as well as recent and contemporary titles which the library purchases or exchanges with other Czech and foreign institutions. The library has begun to use the ALEPH library system for cataloguing, which, we hope will streamline operations, make the library accessible to a greater number of researchers and improve communication between the library and its users
The Museum library is housed in the Museum headquarters in U Staré školy street and has two depositories (1.740 sq. m.) containing approximately 75,000 volumes. The books are stored in specially designed compact shelves which allow for sufficient air circulation. The library depositories have been designed to create an optimum clime-controlled environment; this has been achieved by installing special units in the wall cavities which cool or heat the space as required. In conjunction with the building’s energy accumulation, this helps maintain a stable environment with regards temperature and humidity.
Solid ‘sandwich’ panels have been installed
in window openings to reinforce heat resistance and eliminate daylight
and UV rays. The library features safety doors, a central electronic
security system, anti-fire facilities and special channels
with outer wall flood sensors which, in the event of a flood or excessive
water heating/cooling, will direct the water out and simultaneously
sound the alarm. Unlike the Multimedia Centre, the library is divided
into two sections, a reading room and a specially air-conditioned research
room. The temperature and humidity of the research room is strictly
controlled to provide ideal conditions for the protection of old and
rare printed books and archive materials. Most of the library’s publications
are available for Multimedia in the reading room.
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