Readers Pounce on National Library Giveaway

Library called on book lovers to help it clear out its vaults of unneeded material; 14,000 books were snatched up without a single shekel changing hands.

An academic text on economic growth in Colombia, a handful of obscure reference books in Russian and French, and a German newspaper from 1978 were all that remained yesterday after book lovers answered the national library's call to help it clear out its vaults of unneeded material.

Once the dust settled, it turned out that 14,000 copies had been snatched up, without a single shekel changing hands.

Library in Jerusalem
Emil Salman

Yesterday the National Library of Israel, on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Givat Ram campus, wrapped up the three-day event, which drew about 2,000 visitors despite meager publicity. Other than a Facebook notice and a smattering of flyers distributed in the capital, the event was not advertised at all.

"Most of the books reach the library through donations from libraries or from private individuals," said the national library's Yaniv Levy. "We examine every book that arrives to see whether we have it or not. We decided to donate our superfluous books, and since we originally received them through donations, we thought it would be right to return them to the public."

In past years the library has parted with surplus stock by holding book sales at rock-bottom prices, but this year library staff decided that expected profits would be too low to justify the effort involved in the sale.

This week's event is just the beginning. The library's vaults hold another 250,000 volumes it has decided it doesn't need (by law, every book published in Israel must provide the library with several copies ), and the institution intends to hold more giveaway events over the next few months.

The national library is scheduled to become an autonomous institution unaffiliated with Hebrew University in January. After that, the library will be moving to a new building between the Israel Museum and the Knesset, not far from its present location.