Korea-related materials and their Management at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Korea-related materials and their Management at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hanoch Roniger
Asian Studies Subject Specialist Librarian & Technical Services Librarian
Bloomfield Library for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


The Bloomfield Library for the Humanities and Social Sciences is located at the center of the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and operates as part of the Library Authority of the Hebrew University. It was established in 1981 as a result of the consolidation of 24 separate departmental libraries. It serves the community of the Hebrew University as well as residents of the surrounding area, among them a large community of several hundred Korean nationals residing in Jerusalem. Korean Studies at the Hebrew University were established in 1992 when the Department of Asian Studies started offering courses on Korea, and it has since become a fully-fledged section of the department.1 As the section grew, the library has also evolved in order to support and promote Korean Studies as it did to support other disciplines for which interest has grown over the years.

The library collection is cataloged according to the MARC21 & RDA standards, and is managed via the Alma integrated library system. Our authority control is based on the Israeli National Name Authority File, to which we are active contributors. Materials are cataloged in one of four languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English, or Russian based on the language of the material. For materials in other languages, the vernacular title, authority-controlled access points, table of contents, and other details are added to the bibliographic records alongside transliteration in accordance with the ALA-LC romanization tables.

The Korean collection of the Bloomfield Library is an important basis in the development and support of Korean Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since its earliest steps toward developing its Korean collections, the Bloomfield Library has provided meaningful resources assisting faculty and students in research and learning. Moreover, it has become an important anchor for the promotion of Korean culture, society, language, and history at Hebrew University and in Israel at large.

Development trends

The Library aspires to continue developing its materials and information resources on Korean society, history, and culture across all the subjects in which the library specializes, providing access to materials in various formats while following copyright laws. As in other areas of study and research, we aim to create an efficient working environment and provide wide access through the creation of sufficient technological infrastructure spanning computer equipment, communications, and online access to information. We also strive to strengthen our connections with other libraries in Israel via reciprocal assistance, cooperative projects, and support via interlibrary loans.

For some years now, the Library has been gradually shifting its acquisitions from physical materials to electronic materials whenever possible. This trend toward transition to electronic items has gained further momentum since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 due to the sudden increase in demand for remotely accessible materials while the physical collection was inaccessible to the public. In order to meet the evolving needs of our patrons who could not arrive at the library during the pandemic, we started offering innovative services that were not previously available, such as scanning portions of books (within copyright limitations), providing take-away loans that allow us to loan materials without direct contact between librarians and patrons, offering online reference services, and more. We continue to support these services even after the lock-down has been lifted.

Despite this shift towards electronic materials, the demand for which has increased significantly, the Library still has not abandoned the printed book; it maintains and acquires additional materials that are not available in electronic format. Moreover, having these in-print materials is of great importance as the use of e-readers has not yet become ubiquitous in Israel. Many patrons still prefer printed books, especially when reading fiction, even though we recognize that a shift in this preference has started in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Korea Collections

Currently, our collection on topics pertaining to Korea has over 10,100 titles. Fifty-five percent of these titles are electronic. That is, we have 5,561 electronic titles, along with 4,554 physical titles about Korea in our collection.

Item Provenance

Our collection has grown over the years through acquisitions and the generous donations and support of institutions and individuals. About one-fourth of our physical materials about Korea were purchased by the library. In 1993, the Korea Foundation started helping us in building our collection, enabling the addition of several hundred items. In 2007, a Window on Korea (WoK) was installed at the Library, and it has tremendously increased the variety and diversity of physical materials about Korea. With over 2,550 items, it constitutes almost half of the physical items in our Korea collection. Additional Korea related materials have been donated by the National Library of Korea through the International Exchange program, as well as by other individuals and bodies.

Subject Fields

The collection covers multiple areas of interest and disciplines, albeit not all to the same extent. In the following graphs, the materials have been classified according to their main topic or subject. As can be seen in the graphs, Korean history is the largest section of our collection; it comprises 22.5% of the items in the collection, and 45.6% of the loans.

Historically, most of the courses offered by the Korean section were about history, but in recent years the Korean section has also started offering more courses on Korean culture. The next sizable areas are Korean language and literature, which together represent about a third of the collection. Other disciplinary areas – such as anthropology, economics, or education – are less prominent in our collection.

The majority of the physical Korean collection is in Korean with 55.6% of the items. A further 39.6% are in English, and the remaining 4.8% are in other languages.

Window on Korea

Over 60% of the materials received through the Window on Korea initiative are in Korean. We prefer to choose Korean language materials from the WoK booklists because acquiring such materials from Israel is more challenging than materials in the western languages that are more readily available for purchase by the library.

The following table shows the total number of items received through WoK and the total number of loans of WoK items since its installation in 2017. We can see that along with the WoK contributions to the collection’s growth, shown in the cumulative number of items, there has been an increasing interest in these materials as reflected in the number of loans. The greatest spike was in 2020 with 684 unique loans of WoK items from January 1 to December 31, 2020. Unfortunately, since our collections are in open stacks, we do not have statistics on in-house use.

The significance of donations

We have also received small but meaningful donations from other sources. One example is a parcel we received in January 2021. Ms. Lee Yoon-kyung, the President of the Kyunggi Girls’ High School Class of 1963 (51st Graduating Class), sent us a book of memoirs of her classmates about the Korean War, a book containing English translations of selected passages from the first book, and an electronic version combining both the memoirs and the translations into English.2 We gladly added the title to our collection, and with their gracious permission, we have opened the electronic version of the book to the world. Although this may be a small donation, we think it is an important addition to our collection since the subject is very important and the material is unique.

Our library patrons are not only researchers and students from Hebrew University. It is not uncommon to spot, as I have on multiple occasions, a Korean boy about 10 years old who sits reading a book of Korean Historical Manhwa donated to the library via Window on Korea. Thus, the Korean collection also supports the education of Korean youth living in Israel on their own history and culture while living abroad.

Concluding note

The Bloomfield Library for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Hebrew University intends to keep adding new titles and materials on Korean culture, society, language, and history, supporting the enrichment of Korean Studies and growing interest in Korea. We strive to be a center for the study and promotion of Korean Studies and culture in Israel. Overall, our goal is to provide reliable, professional, and satisfying service to patrons. We welcome partnerships with other libraries, academic institutions, and foundations in Israel and abroad. In the future, we hope to further promote our Korean collection among the Korean community in Israel, as we believe that this could benefit both us and the community.

1For an in-depth description of the history of the Bloomfield Library, and the development of Korean Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, see: Roniger, Hanoch. The Korean collection at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Trends in Overseas Korean Studies Libraries (20) 2019-06.

2Kyunggi Girls’ High School Class of 1963. 6. 25 칠십 주년과 희수를 기념하며 = Celebrating 77 with Childhood Memories of Korean War on Its 70th Anniversary. 부크크, 2020 https://huji-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/att40d/972HUJI_ALMA11288989440003701