(from an article written in 1919 !)
The home ought no more to be without a library than without a dining-room and kitchen. If you have but one room, and it is lighted by the great wood fire in the flaming fireplace, as Abraham Lincoln’s was, do as Abraham Lincoln did; pick out one corner of your fireplace for a library, and use it. Every man ought to provide for the brain as well as for the stomach. This does not require capital; there are cheap editions of the best books; it only requires time and forecast. We write in a private library, and a fairly good one for working purposes, of three thousand-and-odd volumes; we began it many years ago, on a salary of $1,000 a year, with five books -- a commentary in four volumes and a dictionary. The best libraries are not made; they grow.
At first buy only books that you want immediately to read. Do not be deluded into buying books because they are classics, or cheap, or that you may get rid of an agent. One book read is worth a dozen books looked at. No book is possessed till it is read. Reference books constitute an exception, and an important exception, to this rule. These are the foundations of a good library. The essential reference books are a dictionary, a good atlas, and an encyclopedia. Any school atlas will do, though if you are able to purchase it a good atlas is much better; and best of all is a wise selection of atlases. There is no best encyclopedia; your choice must depend upon your resources, pecuniary and mental.
In purchasing books exercise a choice in editions. The lowest-priced books are not always the cheapest. Buy books of transient interest or minor importance -- all novels, for example, and current books of travel -- in cheap form. On the other hand, histories, classics of all sorts, and generally all permanent books, should be bought in good binding and good type. It takes well-seasoned lumber to make a good family library.
Have a place for your library. A dollar spent in pine lumber, and a little mechanical skill, will make a larger and better one. Varnished pine is handsome enough for any parlor. A place for books will cry to be filled till it gets it prayer answered. Book shelves preserve books. One shelf of books gathered together is a better library than twice the number scattered from attic to cellar.
Finally, a taste for reading is an essential prerequisite to a useful library. A well is of no use if you never draw water from it. At the same time a good library in the household, accessible to all, from baby to grandmother, is one of the best influences with which to develop a taste for reading. Have no books so fine that they cannot be used.