By: Hadassah Reich  | 

Getting to Know the Stern Librarians Part II

Previously The Commentator sat down with three Hedi Steinberg Librarians. The following is a continuation of our feature project on the librarians of Stern. 

Editor’s Note: This article was edited for clarity and length with the approval of Emily Apterbach, Hallie Cantor and Hindishe Lee. 

Emily Apterbach — Research and Instruction Librarian

Q: What is your role in the library?
A: I feel like I have a dynamic role, meaning I never do just one thing. I can help students with research questions, access materials that they may have difficulty getting to immediately, finding sources, even answering simple directional questions like “where is study room 2?” We encounter students all throughout the semester, so there are times when they are very stressed and times when they are more calm, so I’m happy to help in any way. I help with printing a lot, which is a running joke here [amongst the librarians].

Q: Why did you want to be a librarian? Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?
A: I think everybody was very shocked when I said I wanted to be a librarian. I think one friend said “all you’ll do is scan books. You just check out books to people. That seems so boring.” I think it’s one of the most interesting and dynamic jobs you can have, because I don't just do one thing all day. We can work on cataloging, updating the collection, ensuring materials are in the right place, book recommendations, and helping patrons utilize library resources. We interact with faculty, students and staff. It’s really enjoyable and fulfilling. 

Q: What draws you to the library?
A: I think libraries in general are about communities, and I love helping this community. When I first decided to be a librarian, I didn’t know which type of library I’d want to work in, whether I’d want to work in a public library, a college library, an elementary school library. There are different types of libraries and librarians. I happened to see this ad online and I was really attracted to the prospect of working in a college library that has a strong Jewish community, and I happened to apply because I thought it would be interesting.

Q: What was your relationship with reading growing up?
A: Ironically, I really hated reading. In Barnes and Noble, they have a gift that comes with a book, like little toys or necklaces. That was the way I started reading. I really wanted the necklace that came with the book. I thought of it as I’ll buy this necklace and the book just happens to come with it. And then I thought if I’m enjoying the necklace, maybe I can try the book. And then, I read the book, and I thought wow this is really great. And then, I continued reading, and I stopped buying books that came with little gifts like those necklaces. And then, I just started buying books and taking books out from the library for the sake of reading, so that is how I stepped into the world of recreational reading. 

Q: Do you have any favorite genres, books or authors?
A: Right now, I really enjoy reading autobiographies and stepping into other people’s lives, because there are so many things that I wouldn't know about or experience that other authors do. It really opens my eyes up to what other people go through and a world that I would never think of entering.  

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for students?

A: We’re very friendly. We really enjoy meeting students in any way and helping, even if it’s seemingly unimportant to them. We are always excited to see students use the library. If the library is empty it’s less exciting than when there are students here. They bring life to the library. We really enjoy seeing students use the library, so if you ever walk by, feel free to say hi. We love getting to know the students and what they want to research. I know it’s a stressful time, and we are here to help in any way we can. 

Chaya Sarah (Hallie) Cantor — Acquisitions Associate

Q: What is your role in the library?
A: I’m officially the acquisitions’s associate, which means I buy the books for the library, keep stock of what we have in the catalog and what we need. I’ve become familiar with a number of books we have in the library, having purchased them. I also help out at the circulation desk and the reserve desk. I wear several hats. I’m a library assistant, not an actual librarian — no MLS degree. I refer students with research questions to the reference librarians. My main job is buying the books for the library and getting them ready to be cataloged. I have my one main job and from there spring out and help others.

Q: Is this something that you always knew you wanted to do?
A: Well, I love books… I love the written word and I love languages. I was a language major in college. I also work as an editor. Some of my books are in the library. I worked as a ghost writer. I used to work for the Jewish Reader, a children’s magazine, and my articles and stories have actually now been digitized. They are in the Yeshiva University repository. I was working for a publisher, and I started this job initially part time to supplement myself in writing and eventually a position opened for acquisitions and I took the job. 

Q: What was your relationship with books and reading growing up? What is it like now?
A: My parents were readers. I grew up with books. We loved to read, our family. In college, I spent a lot of time in the library. My parents never had to push me to read, just watching them certainly encouraged me to read… I love books. It’s a cherished institution, a valuable one. I feel blessed that I work in both aspects. I’ve done content creation and production in my editing and publishing work, and helping in the dissemination of knowledge and information. 

Q: What do you wish students knew about the library?
A: Just how wonderful it is. I really think this library is unique, that we have both Judaica and secular together. It’s like a synergy. Here, it’s so nice that you have access to both quite easily. We have a wonderful staff. All of us love to read, and we love to help. This library has a lot to offer.

Q: What is your favorite part about working at Stern? What is your favorite part about working in the library?
A: My favorite part about working at Stern is the environment. The girls are really sweet…It’s a very stimulating environment here. What I like about working in the library, like I said, I like the books, but I feel lucky to work with such a nice crew. It’s pleasant. It’s not like I dread coming to work or anything. I’m kind of in awe of everybody’s achievements. It makes me want to continue my own learning. 

Hindishe Lee — Reference and Instruction Librarian

Q: What is your role in the Hedi Steinberg Library? 

A: Emily, Rina and I, we basically all share the same role. We’re all reference librarians. We can research any subject. My background is science and math. 

Q: Is this something that you always knew you wanted to do?

A: It's very funny…My mom aleha ha’shalom always took me to the public library, and I used to play librarian, but this is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a scientist. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a paleontologist and then I wanted to be a physicist, but things didn’t work out. When I went to Stern, I majored in math and I was a work study in the library. I was pretty good at it. My mom, aleha ha’shalom, said to me you’re very good at library work, so maybe you should try to get a library degree because then you will be able to advance. So, that is how I got into it. 

Q: What is your day to day like in the library?

A: Lately I've been “hiding” in the office and doing most of my reference questions on the computer. But, this place is full of excitement, so sometimes I'll be at the reserve desk. Sometimes I'll be upstairs at the circulation desk. I should mention that besides reference work, I also repair books and look for missing books. 

Q: What was your relationship with books and reading growing up?
A: To go back to my mom aleha ha’shalom, she always took me to the public library and I used to take out books from the school library. We used to have discussions. She treated me like an adult. If I didn't know a word she said “look it up”. It inculcated in me that you look up things. Also, when I went to Hebrew Day School in the Catskills, where I grew up, they had a one room library; I used to fix it up, shelve books…  

Q: What do you wish students knew about the library?
I wish they wouldn’t be shy. Sometimes students see us behind the desk and think we’re so busy. They don't want to disturb us, as if we’re designing the next mission to the moon, but that’s why we’re here! Come to us. And we have a policy here: There are no stupid questions.  


Photo Caption: Hedi Steinberg Library Staff (from left right): Emily Apterbach, Chaya Sarah (Hallie) Cantor, and Hindishe Lee

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University