The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Zalman Aranne Library was founded in 1965 in the library of the Beit Hias (Hias House) hostel, which had been turned into a home for the Institute for Higher Education in the Negev. The first library director was Dr. Nurit (Roitberg) Bar-Gad. In her initial interview with David Tuviyahu, one of the university's founders and mayor of Be'er Sheva in its first decade, she was told: “There is no library. You will need to create it." In Summer 1966, the first job announcements for the library staff were published; and the new employees were sent for professional library training. From the beginning the library was intended to be a multi-purpose scientific facility that would serve the researchers, teachers and students of all the faculties, the university staff and the general public, including staff and researchers of the area's industries.
The original collection included 1,500 books on the history and geography of Israel, with an emphasis on the Southern Region. To this collection were added books from the National Library as well as gifts to the library by individuals; simultaneously the library began to purchase new books in the fields of study offered by the Institute. In the next four years, the library grew and developed, and was one of the criteria considered in granting the university academic independence.
In 1968, with the building of the university's new campus, planning of the new library building was placed in the hands of the architects Shulamit and Michael Nadler. The library was located in the center of the campus, by the main entrance to the university; other university buildings would be built around the library, with the intent that the library would become central to student life. The library was planned with a central lobby which would connect the floors, and be surrounded by reading rooms and work areas. The building is constructed of exposed concrete, with many windows providing natural light. The concept of one central library building on a university campus was new in the Israeli academic library landscape. In the many years since the library was built, this concept has proven itself to be very efficient. (For further information on the library building.)
The cornerstone laying for the new library, on February 23, 1971, was the first ceremony to take place on the new site. The library was named for Minister of Education Zalman Aranne, who had passed away a year previously and who was influential in the decision to found the university.
With the passage of time the library collection grew and expanded to include journal and database subscriptions. In 1971, the collection stood at 70,000 books and 1,300 journal titles. In 1981, there were 300,000 volumes in the collection and 3,700 journal titles. By the Summer 2004, the library had a collection of 900,000 volumes, including print and electronic journals and computerized databases.
Computerization of the library catalog using ALEPH software began in 1983 and was completed in 1989. In August 2004 the catalog was upgraded to ALEPH 500, freely accessible via Internet.
Today the library collection includes over 1 million volumes, subscriptions to thousands of journals and databases, audio-visual materials, recorded lectures, maps, theses in print and electronic formats, and more. The sources of the collection were and still are the purchase of books and journals, the acquisition of estates, receipt of gifts and donation of book collections by private individuals and public bodies. The library's open shelf policy provides readers with free access to most of the library's books and journals; however, due to lack of space, duplicate copies or books not heavily used and older issues of journals are located in storage and must be requested.
The Aranne Library sees its function as a cultural and scientific center for all the residents of the Negev. Residents of the entire area take advantage of the library's welcome to guests and come to read the books and journals the library offers, to hear lectures given by university researchers as part of the Library Podium forum and to enjoy the pictures and displays in the library gallery.
The library houses four special collections:
The David Tuviyahu Archives of the Negev
The Audio-Visual Room
The Rare Book Room
The Isaiah Berlin Room
Hadari, Zeev, Perakim be-Toldot ha-Universitah. Be'er Sheva, 1984.
Nadler, Shulamit, et.al.,"Ha-Sifriyah ha-Merkazit be-Universitat ha-Negev, Be'er Sheva", Arkhitekturah be-Yisrael: Shenaton Yisrael le-Arkhitekturah u-Vinuy 'Arim. 1979, 42-47.
Selected original documents from the office of the Library Director.