Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just When I thought Israeli's had totally given up on reading....

Book Week
Yes, I know that the first week in June was "Book Week" (שבוע הספר) but, really, in Israel, all that means is crazy discounts on books in one of their two bookstore chains: Stiematsky and Tzomet Sfarim (Translation: book juction). There were no events in libraries, nothing too special on TV. In short, it was more commercial than anything else. Just because people buy lots of books, it doesn't mean they read them.

Why am I telling you this? Because I was already certain that Israel had completely lost interest in investing in books, libraries and education.

Tel Aviv University Library
I mean, the best library in Tel Aviv is the Tel Aviv University library,which I have to say is pretty crappy. but compared to the other libraries, which, I'd say most people haven't even heard of, it's the best.

If it is the best library in Tel Aviv, what could be so bad about it, you might ask?

First of all, in order to even use the library, you have to be a student with a student card. Secondly, even if you are a student, you aren't allowed in with a bag. Now this shouldn't be all that problematic, considering there are a number of locker-stalls down stairs. However, the locker stalls can only be operated with the insertion of a ten shekel coin. And no one ever seems to have a ten shekel coin on them. Of course, there are no change machines in the library lobby. You either have to buy a snack or beverage with a large bill (neither of which you are allowed to bring INTO the library to eat or drink) or you have to exit the library and find someone nice to change your bills.

When you finally get all of this done with, you have to figure out how to use their ridiculously complicated catalogue which makes it very clear how disorganized their books are. Their numbers make no sense. Books in the 140s are near 900.3. Books that are 800-830 are on one floor, but 830-850 are on another floor. And finally 850-900 are across the hall. You can't seem to be able to find anything.

The worst part about it is that most books are out. Those that aren't out are scattered around the library somewhere other than where they are supposed to be.

Also, the selection isn't THAT amazing. There are many books that you would expect a library to have that thy simply don't have. Plus, there are hardly any children's books. Movies and DVDs are out of the question as are interesting magazines.

And Yet!

Literary Corner in Tel Aviv Slum
Haaretz just posted an article about a group of artists and activists called ARTEAM that have put together an outdoor artinstallation/library in one of the dirtiest parks in Tel Aviv. Levinsky park is right next to the new bus station, so you can just imagine how serene the surroundings are with buses and service taxis rushing by every few seconds. Plus, the area is completely neglected by the municipality. Most of the time, the park is filled with benign migrant workers intermingled with drunkards, homeless, drug addicts, drug dealers and your neighborhood pimps.

According to Haaretz, the team catered to the multicultural community, looking for books in all different languages, including Turkish, Arabic and Nepali.

Are They Serious!?
My question is, do they really think this is going to do ANYTHING? I mean, how long do they think the books will be there before everyone comes and steals them and then goes and sells them in the Yafo flea market? There needs to be infrastructure to programs like this. The whole art-installation library thing is a nice idea and I'm sure it made the ARTEAM volunteers feel good, like they did a good deed and made an effort to raise awareness about an impoverished community, but it is clear to me that this will not last.

What do you think? Comments?

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