Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

ALEPH: Israel's Research Library Network: Background, Evolution, and Implications for Networking in a Small Country

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

ALEPH: Israel's Research Library Network: Background, Evolution, and Implications for Networking in a Small Country

Article excerpt

ALEPH, Israel's research library network, is described and analyzed with regard to the strengths and weaknesses of its highly decentralized structure. Part one discusses the history, structure, and format of ALEPH. The centralized versus the decentralized network is defined and discussed, and comparisons are made between RLIN and ALEPH. The evolution of the ALEPH network structure, along with the economic, technological, and administrative considerations that determined it, is discussed. Part two describes the format of ALEPH and its handling of non-Roman scripts, again with comparisons to the American approach, as exemplified by RLIN. Finally, implications with regard to the general applicability of ALEPH's decentralized, pragmatic approach to networking for small, resource-limited countries are presented.



There are eight accredited universities in Israel. One of them is the Open University, which relies primarily on the collections of the other universities. Among the seven remaining universities the Hebrew University has a special historical role. It has, and always has had, the largest share of the budget for higher education in Israel and, consequently, the most political influence. In addition, until the summer of 1981, when the Socials Sciences and Humanities split off from the central library of the University on the Givat Ram campus to a new location across town on the Mount Scopus campus, the central library of Hebrew University was also the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL). The JNUL no longer houses either the Sciences and Humanities collections or the Natural Sciences collections, which also moved in the early 1980s to a separate library on the Givat Ram campus. However, the JNUL is still owned by Hebrew University, is still the largest library in the country, and still fulfills certain national roles such as serving as the legal depository for all books published in Israel and collecting Judaica and Hebraica as well as rare books and manuscripts. While the JNUL receives national endowments for archival and manuscript collections, it is run by Hebrew University alone, with no national or public body to state its policy or define its national functions. Other university libraries, such as the Technion in Haifa - which has the major science and engineering collection in Israel - have collections of national important, but no official national role.

In order to put the pattern of networking development in Israel into perspective, there are several circumstances peculiar to its situation that are worth noting. First, it bears mentioning that the entire acquisition budget of all Israel's university libraries is roughly equal to that of one major American university, a situation that came into being about 1968 and has not changed since.(1) Another peculiar Israeli circumstance is that, because of historical and cultural attitudes, university libraries have always had public library roles, along with roles in scientific research and industry. Thus they are, in general, the major information reservoir of the country. Although Israelis have always expected access to any library in Israel for any scholarly pursuit. historically the initiative for cooperation among the libraries has usually come from outside the library community. An early example of this phenomenon was the initiation during the 1950s of a union list of serials by the Israeli committee for UNESCO. Another was the cooperative project initiated by the Ministry of Finance in 1969 from which emerged a relatively active interlibrary loan service. In spite of the fact that Israel's university libraries are now linked in an automated bibliographic network, this ILL system is still intact and still handled manually, more are less as it was in 1969, although searches are conducted in the automated files whenever possible.

The first attempt at cooperative library automation in Israel came in the early 1970s when the JNUL received a grant from the government for the development of an automated cataloging system. …

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