Why should a busy pastor or student collect books? The question would have astonished the fourteenth-century Richard de Bury. “All the glories of the world,” he once declaimed, “would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books.”

The response of others would be more pragmatic: those who work with ideas or problems need to have access to information that can be used. All right, but how do you embark on a library building program? Here are some suggestions for the aspiring bibliophile.

1. Have an overall plan. In deciding on the purpose of the library, we obviously cannot have everything, but this should be no discouragement. A coherent plan of action will direct the building of a significant and usable collection within the limits set by the owner. What, then, is the purpose of the library?

Will it be a specialized working library? Here the pastor should choose some area, Old Testament archaeology, for example, and ask, How can I answer my questions about this subject? He will seek scholarly books and articles (or interesting Sunday school lessons). He will not need first editions or tooled leather bindings. Good sound copies (which are also far cheaper) will do. Scarcer works could even be ratty copies that could later be rebound.

Will it be a basic reference library? Here one is looking for standard works from many categories. Dictionaries, lexicons, standard commentaries, and surveys will supply the need. From these the pastor can answer most questions asked of him, even if he cannot answer all of his own questions in an area of special interest.

Will it be for private use only or for others as well? This is something to be faced early. If one is going to lend books freely, then multiple ...

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