The synagogue, school, and center division of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) has set out “standards of excellence” for Jewish libraries, embracing areas from a facility’s library committee to its mission statement, record-keeping, staffing, collection, and catalogue. [http://www.jewishlibraries.org/ajlweb/accreditation/accreditation_guidelines.pdf]

According to these guidelines:

“The library should have the support and guidance of a library committee, which serves as “the liaison to the Board of the parent institution and provides advice, support, and guidance to the professional staff of the library.”

“A written statement of purpose should be formulated, outlining the goals and activities, the vision and values of the library. This ensures that everyone – staff, patrons, sponsors – all know exactly what the intentions and aspirations of the library are.”

“Collection development, library services, library programming, administrative and personnel structure, and decision-making procedures are all activities that should be clearly defined.”

“Adequate staffing is required to maintain the collection, plan programs, provide guidance in book selection for patrons, and locate information. Every library should (ideally) be run by a paid professional librarian, with a background in Jewish studies being especially useful. It is essential that the library have regularly scheduled hours, with staff available for assistance, publicized in the local Jewish newspaper, synagogue bulletin or the website and posted in a clearly visible place.”

“For an established library to maintain its collection, facility, and staffing, it is essential to have a continuous, reliable, steady source of income. The funds may come from the general budget of the parent institution, from an endowment, or from steady contributions to the library.”

“The collection is the heart and soul of the library and should be developed and maintained through a carefully considered written selection policy that covers gifts and other donations. This, along with regularly scheduled evaluations and inventories, serves to document the current collection, pursue lost books, fill gaps in the collection, discard out-of-date books, and establish a framework for future acquisitions.”

“The collection is only useful if it is accessible to all patrons – children, adults, educators, clergy, students, and researchers. Every established library therefore must have a comprehensive catalog that affords ready access to a listing of all the library materials.”

“The current standard for cataloging and circulating items is through the use of an online or computer-based library automation system.”

“Library programming should raise institutional or community awareness of the library, create positive [publicity] for the library and provide cultural experiences for patrons. The dynamic library has activities scheduled involving the patron community during Jewish Book Month and throughout the year. The activities may be author visits or other speakers, contests for children or adults, special displays, book talks, etc.”

“The library should be located in a part of the building where it is accessible to its patrons. It should be well-designed and well-lit with attractive, sturdy furniture and standard size library shelves. The library should be used mainly for library activities, with limitations on other uses (meetings, storage, etc.)”