Yiddish Book Center
February 2023 Collections


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Dear Friend, 


Each month, the Yiddish Book Center asks a member of our staff or a special friend to select favorite stories, books, interviews, or articles from our online collections. This month, we’re excited to share with you picks by Amber Kanner Clooney. After delving into her selections, scroll down to read a short interview with Amber about her choices. 


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Amber Kanner Clooney manages web development and the Center’s many digital collections and resources, including the Center’s full-text OCR (optical character recognition) search website, which is the largest collection of Yiddish ever processed with OCR. Amber holds an MLIS from Simmons College and a BA in English from George Mason University. Before coming to the Yiddish Book Center, she worked in various academic and public libraries with a primary focus on digital resources, collections, and providing access to digital content.


Assaf Urieli: Computational Yiddish Linguist


This article was originally published in Pakn Treger, our print magazine, in 2012 and tells the story of Assaf Urieli, a computer scientist and linguist who is working on using machine learning to process scanned images of Yiddish books into searchable text (optical character recognition). Seven years after this article was published, we launched our full-text search site, which uses Assaf’s software to process nearly our entire collection of scanned books with OCR and make them available in full text. This has revolutionized the world of Yiddish scholarship, as OCR users may now type in any Yiddish word to the search engine to find each instance of its usage across almost all our digitized Yiddish books.


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Yidishe kinder, by Kadia Molodowsky


Molodowsky’s Yidishe kinder is a great book for beginners in Yiddish, with its simple verses and lively sketches by Mane Katz. It’s one of my favorite books in our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, and it’s something I use as an example to illustrate the challenges and intricacies of processing OCR, as the machine attempts to process the pictures into Yiddish text with nonsensical results. OCR is still a work in progress, but we are improving its accuracy every day.


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Yiddish Card Catalog from a Personal Library


Some of my favorite features on our site are stories about how we acquire things and what it’s like to work here. This “From the Vault” piece written by former Center fellow Sarah Biskowitz is about a card catalog from a personal library that was donated to the Center and how we got some of the very same books from that library in a separate donation! The card catalog is a thing of beauty, and it’s amazing that we were able to reunite some of the cards with their books.


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Every Sunday Was a Holiday: Discovering Comic Strips in Newspapers


As a librarian, my work is in organizing and making collections accessible. This short excerpt isn’t about a library collection, but it shows the importance of making art and literature accessible to everyone and how they can pull us through difficult times.


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Adventures of a Bad Researcher: The Mystery of the Last Yiddish Linotype


On the themes of print and literature, this article is an investigation of one of our most popular museum pieces, the Yiddish Linotype, and its journey to the Center and the stories we tell about it.


Read (in English)

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Amber Kanner Clooney talks to the Yiddish Book Center about her Handpicked choices:


Tell us about your selections and what they say about your relationship with Yiddish language and culture.

Amber: In my line of work, I’m always interested in providing access to materials and sharing them as widely as we can. OCR for Yiddish is transformational to the collection because it provides so much more access to the contents of our books, many of which would be a mystery without the ability to search their contents. Saving and preserving archival objects and rare books has its own value, but providing access to the intellectual work contained within these collections is another element of preservation.


What are you working on next?

Amber: We’re in the midst of a big web development project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to add advanced search features to the website so you can search on things like locations, and we will have a lot more topic keywords. It’s a little bit technical on the back end, but it will open up a lot of possibilities for users searching the site. We’ll be able to show our collection items on a map or create curated lists by various topics. This project has been a long time in the making, so I’m excited that we’ll be able to launch it soon!

We also just started work on the Universal Yiddish Library, which has also been years in the making. It will combine the Yiddish book collections of four institutions—New York Public Library, National Library of Israel, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and the Yiddish Book Center—to create a site where you can search up to 40,000 digitized Yiddish books, all in one place, in full text. The Universal Yiddish Library will include almost every Yiddish book ever published.


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Yiddish Book Center
1021 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
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