Israel’s main library remains underfunded and short on staff, even as neighboring cultural institutions thrive
|Shaar Zion Public Library Beit Ariela in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of the author)|
The main hall of Shaar Zion Beit Ariela, Tel Aviv’s main public library, has only one computer for searching the catalog. The help desk is often unstaffed. Books are sloppily strewn in precarious stacks atop other books. Six stone-age copy machines in the basement accept exact change only, and the library’s two auditoriums are old-fashioned and dilapidated. On Tuesdays, the library closes its lending services so that overworked staff can reshelve books.
Housed since 1977 in a boxy gray building spanning 10,000 square meters, the library holds nearly half a million books, photographs, archive videos, newspaper clippings, and audio music files catering to old and young residents who use it for research and leisure. It is located on prime Tel Aviv real estate, in the same plaza as the recently revamped Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Tel Aviv opera house, and the renovated Cameri Theater, all bastions of Israel’s performing arts, partly funded by the municipality. Unlike its neighbors, which have been awarded fresh modern makeovers in recent years, the library is currently not slated for any renovation. It maintains its 1970s Brutalist architectural design of concrete slabs and a paucity of windows, which may protect books from direct Mediterranean sunlight but does nothing to elevate the culture contained within. [Read the whole article.]