I'm finally home from my Great Lakes book tour, which was great by the way. One nice bonus of my trip was having lots of time, mostly in airports and on airplanes, to read some of the many books and articles I've accumulated for my research on Jewish life in 4th-century Babylonia. An even better bonus was spending Shabbat in Cincinnati after my Thursday evening speaking event, which enabled me to spend most of Friday at the <a href="http://www.huc.edu/libraries/CN/"> Hebrew Union College library.</a>
This was my first foray into a university library since starting my new project, and what a difference from researching Rashi's Daughters. People in the Jewish world know who I am now, and many are eager to assist me with Rav Hisda's Daughter. Professor Jason Kalman, whom I met at the AJS conference last December, made me excellent coffee and offered excellent advice on how to proceed. He then spent several hours helping me find the books I wanted, including some in another professor's office, as well as photocopying pages from both their books.
HUC is a rabbinic school, so of course its Judaic content is huge. My goal was to determine every call number that could possibly pertain to my subject and then search the stacks to see what books I'd find with those numbers. I suppose it would have been more efficient to search the online catalog earlier at home, but nobody's perfect. When I had a full page of numbers, I went upstairs to begin my treasure hunt. BM 509 W7 for women in the Talmud, BM 729 A4 for ancient Jewish magic, BM 177 for Jews in Babylonia, and lots more. But when I got to those shelves, many of the books I wanted were missing. Obviously someone else was researching the same topics that I was. How disappointing.
But I still had plenty to start with, so I headed to the carrel at the end of the BM 177 aisle. Some student named Ben had obviously appropriated it for his personal study area, but signs indicated that all carrels were for public use. So I sat down and out of curiosity, perused the books on his shelf. And there they were - exactly the books I'd been looking for! And more, since he had his own books there as well. When Jason came back from lunch [I gobbled mine down in the library's stairwell], he told me that Ben was a rabbinic student whose thesis topic was "Rabbis vs demons in Jewish History." I will certainly be emailing this guy.
I had thought I'd have plenty of time to photocopy what I needed and still get to the rare books collection, but suddenly I learned that the library was closing early due to heavy snow. That's when Laurel Wolfson, head librarian, stepped in to help. I never did get to the rare books, but as I worked the copy machine, Laurel scanned what I couldn't get to and emailed me the pdf files. Now I have even more things to read, plus a list of books to available at the HUC library in Los Angeles.