The Value of a Library

To define the value of a library.

A most harmless proposition to consider, or… is it? In a fascinating turn of events, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to assemble a personal library of more than 5,000 volumes of literature.

This discovery was made in May of 2016 in a shipping container beside a thrift store in South Carolina. When inquiring about the prices of books the owner of the store said the pricing was simple. “Books are $1.00 apiece. Old books; are $2.00 apiece and coffee table books, you know the ones with pretty pictures in them; they are $5.00 apiece. That entire summer I spent all available time in the shipping container sauna and hand-picked or better stated, cherry picked the choice volumes.

The loft over the garage that has previously served well as square footage for household storage but has now become the Library. The genres include reference, US history, world history, theology, sociology, literature, literary criticism, music, art, poetry, drama, major authors and legal reference. Try to imagine well over 5,000 hardcover volumes of hand-picked literature from university professors in one collection. That is correct, many lifetimes of the finest literature ever printed at the tip of your fingertips. The intent for amassing the sheer number of volumes has very little to with accumulation, collection or monetary value. Today I would classify it as a working library where there is a wealth of knowledge available and the idea that even a single volume that is a first edition is irrelevant. To me, the intrinsic value is the value that lies within the available resource to attain knowledge and not the monetary value to buy or sell an item.

For the past year I have struggled not only with the painstakingly difficult task of shelving, organizing and cataloging this large volume but have become increasingly frustrated with the very premise and position of the question itself.

“What is the value of a library?” Is it a fair question? If we are to accept the premise that there is the intrinsic value of the intangible is the question possibly better poised to expand on the question of “what is the power of a library?”

One marking concept states “Knowledge is power” the next counterclaims that it is nothing of the sort; “The application of knowledge is power.” The list continues with many self-serving philosophical positions to solidify an individual’s position on an endless number of self-serving platforms.

Where then is the value? Better still, where is the greatest value of a library? What genre and why? If we are to set aside our prejudices and individual biases then where exactly is the greatest value?

I have given this issue a great deal of thought and would very much like to gain additional opinions especially of those that are highly educated in the field.

This is a very hot topic on the debate floor, and I look forward to your response.

Thank you in advance professors for your input.

Adam C. Wolf (owner)

Wolf & Associates LLC.


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