Many Seminary students like books. Some of us, I being one, are book geeks. This means that we drive our spouses or housemates crazy with the amount of books that we seem to go through. So why is it important for the seminarian (and minister) to maintain a good library?
1. It allows you to have access to your thought process.
Hopefully, you are reading things you agree and disagree with. When you decide to keep certain titles it means that something important went on when you read that book. The level of importance may vary, but you want to keep the book as a resource for future needs. After a while, you can almost trace the history of your theological development by what titles are in your library. I love finding a book that I went through a couple of years ago. I end up being transported back to that time in my life.
2. You gain the ability to have better citations in papers.
What this means is that you know your library. To really do this, you need to have some sort of collection system for your notes. I use a searchable document that is updated every time I finish a book. This way I am able to quickly find sections that jumped out at me (more on this method at a later date). I have learned that I have a rotating stable of around 20 books that I use most of the time in my specific area of research. Many of these titles were books that I caught myself checking out 2-3 times from the library and decided to buy them. Some are out of print and having constant access to them allows me to not worry about them being checked out (or archived out of the stacks). I know these resources really well, and having them at my house (or wherever you keep your library) just makes it easier to write papers.
3. You can work on something at a moments notice.
While I am in an academic track in seminary, I also serve at a local church as youth pastor. It is a smaller congregation with a retired pastor. From time to time, I find out on short notice that I am needed to preach the next service (sometimes with a four hour notice on Sunday afternoon). Since I have been conscious about buying commentaries and other books, I usually don’t have to worry about not having access to the library at school to work on my sermon. I am slowly buying several commentary series, and when I am devotionally studying a certain section of the Bible I try to buy one or two commentaries on the book, because most of my short notice sermons come from what I have been going through in my own personal study time.
I also am a night owl. So when I am working on a project, or just a blog post at three in the morning, I can go over to my library and find what information about whatever I need.
Part of keeping a good home library is knowing how and when to buy books. Every Seminary student is short on cash, so we can’t just having shopping spree’s at the bookstore. How to build a library on a budget will be talked about in my next post.