What’s My Library Worth?


Just caught this library on Ebay for a grand sum of $274,500.
I looked at all the pictures and scanned through the descriptions of the books available. There’s just no way to get all the information you might want out of the limited space of an Ebay page. There’s no doubt it’s a massive library.

It did get me to wondering though about the current worth of my library in terms of filthy mammon. A number of years ago my wife banned me from perusing the book catalogs that kept coming to the house. So my physical book purchases slowed down, but I’ve still purchased multitudes of volumes through Libronix. Even though I now have a larger digital library than I do on paper, my physical library still takes up a large amount of space. A few years ago for tax purposes I did tabulate the cost of my extant library of the time and I was in fact surprised. But something bothers me about placing a value on my library.

On the one hand there’s a definite application for something like that Ebay bid – but for whom? Even if I could afford the library on the page I have to wonder if I’d buy it. My definite answer is no.

Because the other hand of that equation ignores the way truly useful libraries are built: with love, purpose and the thirst for knowledge.

Building a library involves more than merely acquiring a large number of books for the sole purpose of displaying them. A Library is only as useful as it’s function to it’s owner.

I look around at my shelves (yes and my floor and my overflowing desk) in my office and I note that even though I have given away or donated a large number of volumes I still have more books than my voluminous shelf space can sustain. Yet the paper volumes that remain are valuable to me beyond their dollar amount. These are the books that have withstood the test not only of time, but of usage.

With few exceptions the books lining my walls are used. When I’m getting ready to council I have a shelf that I run to. When I’m studying Romans I have another shelf. When I’m working on Greek or Hebrew I have another shelf. Each shelf is lined in a moderately disorderly array of books of many shapes, sizes and colors. Nobody is going to be impressed with my cataloging method. (Take that Dewey Decimal system!)

Yet somehow, I know where nearly every volume is.
TDNT: Top shelf, left side of desk case.
ICC on Romans: Middle Shelf, Right side, desk case.
Spiritual Warfare: Whole shelf, second up, right side, wall case.
Systematic Theologies: Middle, wall case, top two shelves.
Berkhof’s theology: right hand side of that second shelf.

I know where they are, I know what they hold. I know what’s in my library.

The value of my library goes far beyond the sum total of it’s volumes. The value of my library is it’s ability to teach me what I need to know, when I need it.