Man reading book

Building a Personal Library by the Book

To create a private library, think first, then collect.

January 2017

Building a personal library starts with inspiration—and quickly becomes a passion. There are some readers for whom a Kindle is all they’ll ever need, but others who desire the romance and beauty of shelf after shelf of beloved, bound books. Starting your collection requires a combination of careful investment, conscientious care and true devotion.

Find your focus

Curating a personal library doesn’t mean stockpiling and storing every book that comes your way. The best collections begin with purpose and intention. Make an honest assessment of how much space you have to hold your collection—whether it’s one humble shelf or an entire spacious room—and consider your literary passions. Perhaps you’ll collect historical American cookbooks, or maybe your interest is in Eastern art. Are you envisioning a stocked library of canonical literature, or is your dream to have a first-edition copy of every book from a single author? Whatever your pursuit, let it be one that brings you joy in both the search and the acquisition.

Build your classic book collection

There are a wealth of resources available to collectors. Sites like AbeBooks and Biblio are invaluable for dedicated collectors, while personal connections with librarians, book dealers, auctioneers and professors can lead to rare finds and insider tips.

When it comes to making an actual purchase, the condition of the books is paramount. Bindings should be clean and tight. Cloth covers should have no tears. Pages should be free of marks and folds. Expect first editions and autographed copies to fetch a higher price.

Store your book collection with pride

To best preserve your collection, books should be stored vertically in rooms with controlled humidity. Dust the books and shelving regularly, but avoid using cleaning products on shelves unless you are entirely removing the books and waiting until the surface is fully dried to return them.

Finally, treat your collection like a treasured space, whether your goal is to curate a small shelf of rare gems or amass a roomful of titles that rivals a small bookstore. Add favorite art to the walls or shelves, provide soft but ample lighting, and place a comfortable chair nearby. Let your collection become a source of pride, peace and inspiration.