Safed English Library

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Tzfat English Library
Tzfat English Library
ספריה האמרקית בצפת
Privately-run library which offers English-speaking residents of Safed a volunteer-operated, professional library.

The Safed English Library is a central fixture in the Tzfat landscape for the city's growing English-speaking population. The library serves the entire population of Tzfat, providing English language reading material to native English speakers as well as to Israeli students who want to improve their English skills.


[edit] English Library Mission

The English Library of Safed believes that its mission is to serve the people of Tzfat who want to access English-language reading material. People of all ages, backgrounds and religious sensibilities use the library which creates an atmosphere of open acceptance of all beliefs and practices among Tzfat’s diverse resident population. The English library does not charge any membership fees or library payments (though it welcomes donations), making it a user-friendly institution which everyone can use, irregardless of ability to pay.

[edit] Beginnings

When Edyth Geiger “made aliyah” (came to live in Israel) in the early ‘70s she asked her friends in the States to send her books so that she would have plenty of reading material. At that time there were few English-speaking residents of Tzfat but many of these residents craved the opportunity to read old favorites and new releases in their native language.

[edit] Library Development

As time went on and Edyth’s collection of reading material increased, a need arose to keep track of who was borrowing books. Together with volunteers Edyth Geiger card-catalogued all of her books and added more and more shelves to her tiny Safed apartment.

[edit] Early Organization

By the early ‘80s Edyth Geiger had organized her apartment. Library Days and hours were posted for the Tzfat English-speakers -- Sundays and Friday mornings and Tuesday afternoons. Her living room shelves were three rows deep in science fiction, drama and mysteries. Romance books were on her bedroom bookshelves and the humor books were kept in boxes under her bed which she would pull out on library days. Magazines were stashed in boxes under her couches and they too would be put out when the library was open. Patrons could find Readers Digests in the bathroom and cookbooks in the kitchen.

[edit] Expansion

By the late ‘90s Edyth Geiger decided to reclaim her apartment and the library moved to a nearby apartment. The books were still three rows deep in many sections but the patrons no longer spilled Edyth’s coffee while she was having her breakfast.

[edit] Today’s Library

The library is located at 37 Jerusalem Street, near the municipality. The days and hours remain the same as when the library was housed in Edyth’s house with an additional Monday evening option. The library’s books are all donations, sent by well-wishes from around the world. Visitors will find all the sections that patrons have in libraries anywhere in the world, including large mystery and chick-lit sections which are the most popular. The library also has a significant Jewish section and an attractive children’s area.

[edit] Volunteer-Based Service

The library functions completely through donations of books and funds. Volunteers come three mornings every week to catalog books, cull shelves for doubles, check in returns and call delinquent borrowers. A paid staff librarian (under Edyth’s watchful eye) manages the volunteers and the work while volunteer librarians staff the library during “off” hours.

[edit] Users

English-speakers come from miles around to use the English Library in Tzfat. Many people come to volunteer or simply to borrow books from nearby kibbutzim and settlements. The library boxes up book doubles and sends them to English libraries in small communities throughout Israel, ensuring that the concept of free access to reading is enjoyed by as many people as possible.

[edit] Range of Materials

In addition to the large selection of books, the English library has a section of large print books, audio books and DVDs. Donors provide the library with subscriptions to popular magazines and the library offers a selection of dozens of magazines ranging from Time and Newsweek to Ladies Home Journal and Women’s Weekly to Racing Cars, Sports Illustrated and People.

[edit] Edyth Geiger

As of 2011 Edyth was 92 years old. She rarely comes to the library any more because of difficulty walking but from her bedroom, a few yards from the library, she continues to organize all aspects of the functioning of the library. She arranges the volunteers’ schedules and work, reviews new entries, sets policy, calls delinquents and takes care of the library fundraising. She also plans for the future as the library continues to expand and develop.


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