Friday, November 29th, 2019

TinyCat’s November Library of the Month: the Library at Temple Shir Tikvah

To read more about TinyCat’s Library of the Month feature, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

TinyCat’s November Library of the Month goes to the library at Temple Shir Tikvah, where the entire Library Committee was kind enough to answer my questions:

First, what is your library, and what is your mission—your “raison d’être”?

We are the library for Temple Shir Tikvah, a Reform Jewish congregation in Winchester, MA. Our congregation consists of about 350 families and individual members, and we try to provide materials of interest to all of them. Our collection houses about 2500 books (plus a few DVDs and CDs), which range from storybooks for children to cookbooks, fiction, history, Torah study, “how-to,” spiritual journeys, poetry, and so on.

Tell us some interesting ways you support your community.

Our temple building is quite small, so on Sundays, we hold education for adults and children in a nearby public school. Because we want people to be able to check out applicable books, we bring a portion of the library to the school we use on Sundays, for a monthly “bookmobile” (picture left). The third graders and their parents help pick out the books, which helps them know what’s in our collection. When they pick out the books, they also choose a book for us to read to the class that day.

We’ve also moved some of our books up to the sanctuary—books on poetry, mental health, and aging—so that people can easily find them when attending services.

What are some of your favorite items in your collection?

We have so much fun with our collection! Some of our most popular books are practical things, like tips for bar/bat mitzvahs, or Passover haggadahs. But we’ve also recently expanded our Young Adult/Teen collection with some really great reads (The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).

We’ve started carrying some interesting graphic novels, as well (A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, The Property, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, The Arrival). And our women’s studies area has grown dramatically in the past few years (Sisters At Sinai: New Tales Of Biblical Women, Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story, The Women Who Danced by the Sea: Finding Ourselves in the Stories of our Biblical Foremothers, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, After Abel and Other Stories).

What’s a particular challenge you experience as a small library?

We are a small library not just in collection size, but also in physical space. The room where we house our collection is quite small, so we have to be fairly ruthless in culling our collection. As hard as it is, we feel it’s important to do so, so that we can keep materials current. If people cannot wander in and see something of interest, either because the collection feels too dated or because the shelves are so packed that they can’t actually find things of interest, then we are not doing our job.

In addition, our library is used as a classroom at least once a week, and as a meeting room several times each week. When it is being used for these other purposes, people cannot come in and browse the collections. It’s hard to get people to see what we have (which is a good part of why we run the bookmobile).

What’s your favorite thing about TinyCat? Anything you’d love to add?

The best thing about LibraryThing is being able to find other libraries with similar collections. Often, before we purchase books in a category, we’ll look around to see if those books are popular in other libraries like ours, so we have some assurance that they might be a good fit for our collection as well.

As far as TinyCat goes, before we had TinyCat, people signed out books on a sheet of paper — it was nearly impossible to keep track of what was in or out, plus we had no easy way to track which books were actually being used. TinyCat has totally solved this for us, and we love seeing community members, especially the children, be able to check out books on an iPad, without any help from grown-ups.

The biggest new TinyCat feature that would help us would be for our community members to be able to create their own accounts. It’s a barrier to usage that, unless we create an account for someone, they have no way to check out books (so we have to keep that sheet of paper around). A smaller feature that would help is if TinyCat returned to the home page after people check out a book, rather than remaining on the page containing the book just checked out.

Thanks for your feedback! We’ll be sure to announce if anything gets added for this in the future.

Want to learn more about the Library at Temple Shir Tikvah? You can explore their library on TinyCat.

To read up on TinyCat’s previous Libraries of the Month, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

Calling all TinyCat libraries: become TinyCat’s next Library of the Month—just send us a Tweet @TinyCat_lib or email Kristi at

Labels: libraries, Library of the Month, TinyCat


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