5 Tips – Library Maintenance

“When you come, bring… the books, and above all the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13 ESV

library bookshelfBrother John Bjorlie of Grand Rapids, MI has graciously given Digital Sojourner permission to publish the following article. The helpful and practical advice that he shares with us was originally given by him to his children on Christmas Day. Thank you brother John! ~~ Scott

As you build your libraries there are some predictable difficulties you can overcome. Dusty, inefficient, clogged libraries are common, but not necessary. Here are some rules to library enjoyment.

  1. Keep reading. John Wesley said, “When you stop reading you stop growing.” It is easy to get into a rut in your mental habits. Reading thoughtful, challenging books will get you out of that ditch.
  2. Write in your books. I put my notes on the blank pages at the back of the book. Inexplicably, some books have no index. This is strange, because it is really not that much work to create an index. Study books should always have an index. When you take good notes it may end up looking like an index. I now will copy my notes into my machine along with the book description. In this way, if I lose the book or give it away I still have the results of my read.
  3. Keep some books. There are books that you will always want. They are reference works. Books you have written in, classics that you do not have digitally, and Bible translations are keepers.
  4. Give away books. Most books are not keepers, but many are worth passing on. When you loan a book mentally treat it like a donation. Our Lord said, “lend, not asking again.” I take the sense of this passage that when people borrow from you they may not return the loan. If you therefore treated the loan all along as if it were a gift you will not be hurt and offended. In this way your generous impulses will not narrow. If you can not afford to lose that book, then don’t lend it. Personally I will sooner give a book away then lend it. There are many books in my library that are profitable, but they are not the sort of book that I will read a second time. Keep those give-away books in a separate place, and before a visitor leaves, send him along with a gift. I have friends who are expert book givers. When they are blessed by a particular book they buy it in quantities and give them out to house-guests, saying, “This book has been a special help to me spiritually. I would love for you to have a copy.”
  5. Throw away books. Most books are worthless, and worse than worthless. Usually the Christians have discernment. Their libraries do not contain trash. But occasionally I notice rubbish that has crawled in between the bookends. Books by heretics, silly novels, pointless books should be used for kindling. The book burning at Ephesus was a triumph. Paul gave us a guide to our reading habits in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if any praise, think on these things.”

—advice given to my children, 25/12/2012, John Bjorlie


[photo credit]



  1. Advise or Advice? I think that is a typo on the last line. I think it should read “Advice given to my children”

  2. That was definitely worth reading: well done! I was particularly struck with the advice on lending, not expecting books to be returned.

    When I was young(er) and (more) foolish, I was greatly helped by older brothers and sisters who would buy books in bulk to pass onto younger folks. I remember once in particular, an older brother told me I should read “Now and Then, Or Time and Eternity” by CHM. Then he gave me a copy of The Mackintosh Treasury so I could.

    Now that I’m not so young nor (I hope) quite so foolish, I’ve been trying to follow in their steps and buy books worth keeping to give to others. Among others, I like to keep extra copies of Law and Grace by Alva McLain, and Romans, Verse by Verse by Newell.

    One way I’ve found to share good books is to leave them in the meeting hall. I’ve pointed out a recommended book during a talk, I’ve also found it helpful when recommending a book during a Bible reading, or in casual conversation to be able to say, “there’s a copy in the bookshelf over there, if you want to take it home and read it now.”

    Again, it’s important to view those books as donations. I don’t put my copies of anything I care about in the meeting hall: those are copies I expect never to see again.

  3. Yes, I can’t wait til we’re in a spot to be able to buy large quantities of the books we enjoy to pass on to others.
    As it is, our thrift stores are pretty good and I have a few books I collect if I see them in order to pass on.

  4. Books also make excellent gifts for almost any occasion (Christmas, birthday, graduation, house warming, etc.) and can be easily personalized by writing a note on the first page.

    Missionary biographies make great gifts for teenagers. When I was in high school my aunt gave Jim Elliot’s biography, Shadow of the Almighty. The book had a profound impact on my life.

    Another suggestion is to give the Bible as a gift to those who are not saved. Virtually no one will refuse the gift. I would further suggest avoid giving a cheap paperback or low cost ‘gift’ Bible. Rather, give an attractive, higher quality Bible that is nicely bound and it will most likely find a prominent place in the recipient’s home.