Book early! National Library to give away 24,000 volumes

Most works in second annual book donation on Sunday are in English, and non-fiction; giveaway to last at least four days.

National Library 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
National Library 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The National Library in Jerusalem’s Givat Ram is launching a massive drive on Sunday to donate its excess books to the public.
For the second year in a row, the library plans to give away approximately 24,000 books, free of charge.
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More than 80 percent of the books are in English.
The books are almost exclusively non-fiction, including history, biography, art and some poetry. They come from a collection of nearly half a million books donated to the library over the years by individuals and institutions that the library hasn’t had the resources to process until now.
The public is invited to peruse books at the plaza outside the National Library starting on Sunday at 10 a.m.
The book giveaway is expected to last for at least four days, or until all the books have gone.
The library, located on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus, has more than five million items.
As the library processes the books, any work of which it has more than three copies or that does not belong to the library’s three core areas of research – Judaism, Israel and Islam – is put aside.
The books are first offered to schools and libraries; if they are not chosen, they are put in a collection to be given to the public.
Most of the giveaways are in English because the library began processing books donated in English first. But there are books available inFrench, Russian and German as well. Only 3,000 of the 24,000 works being given away are in Hebrew.
“There’s no justification in continuing to store books that aren’t useful to the library,” National Library Director Oren Weinberg said. “We’d rather return them to the public, for free.”
Last year, the library gave away 14,000 books during a similar weeklong giveaway and hundreds of people came, said Yaniv Levy, head of technical services at the library who is overseeing this year’s book drive.
“We were very surprised by the strong interest, by the fact that people took books last year,” Levy said.
There is no limit on the number of books a person can take away, though Levy noted that book lovers are usually courteous and don’t come with removal trucks.
The giveaway comes as libraries across the country are coming to the aid of the recently closed Kiryat Shmona public library.
Levy said he hoped the large giveaway would raise public consciousness about books.
“Libraries are an important part of the culture and should be promoted more and used more,” he said. “Anything that’s being done to promote public libraries in general is good thing.”