Some time ago I spent a few days in the library of a large theological seminary, and had the privilege of going back into the stacks and browsing at leisure over the wide collection. The librarians were pardonably proud of it, and they explained that it was the largest theological library in the United States, and added that it contained authoritative works on every phase of religion, and on every religious sect. Out of curiosity I sought out their books on Seventh-day Adventists. To my surprise and chagrin, these consisted almost exclusively of certain works that had been written against us, with a small smattering of publications that had come from our presses, few of which were representative of our main teachings.
The shock that I received that day has never quite worn off, and it has been in nowise eased by the presence of a guilty feeling in connection with the situation. That guilty feeling has lingered till the present hour, and why? Because when I called the librarian's attention to the nature of the Seventh-day Adventist collection in his library, he assured me that if I wished to provide him with copies of our representative books, he would be delighted to place them in the collection—but I have never accepted his invitation. Perhaps I should not feel personally obligated to do so, for the expense would be substantial. Yet there is that library which is used by thousands of theological students and by numerous research workers, but which has only a distorted, inadequate collection of works dealing with Seventh-day Adventists!
Every time I have thought about that particular library, my mind has turned to the thousands of public libraries in the United States that are patronized, not by a select fraction of the population, but by the great masses of people, the very people whom we are seeking to save with this message we believe God has given to us. On the few occasions when I have had opportunity to go to a public library and check on the matter, I have found scarcely anything at all by our denominational writers. The conviction has come upon me that we are missing one of the greatest of opportunities for presenting our truth to the world.
According to the latest figures obtainable from the Library of Congress, there are 6,235 public libraries in the United States. To these libraries came over seventy-seven million people during the year 1935, or the equivalent of 63 percent of the total population. This is a mighty host of people, and it is surely reasonable to believe that at least a small fraction of them were interested in religious books and desirous of knowing the meaning of these troubled times.
Now if only one person in a hundred of those who came to these libraries during the year belonged to this seriously interested group, that would mean a company of more than three quarters of a million people who were potential readers of Seventh-day Adventist books. This is a sizable number, but how many of this large company found Adventist books in their local library? No answer, of course, can be given to this question, but we venture to say that if you go down to your public library and look through the card index for our standard works, the chances are very much against your finding them listed there.
All this leads me to an expression of enthusiasm for the action taken at the recent Spring Council. This action would stir up our publishing houses and our churches to the definite project of placing the whole group of our representative books in every public library. [See text of action on page 47.—Editor.] We go from door to door in our missionary work and find people who are interested in reading serious things. On the law of averages, many of these people are going to make visits to the public library. Why not attempt to reach them there as well as in their homes ? Furthermore, we believe that in the last hour of crisis many will take down books from dusty shelves and find in our Adventist writings the true explanation of conditions, with the result that they will make their decision for God. In anticipation of that day, should we not have the Adventist explanation placed in every public library where anyone and everyone can lay hands upon it quickly ?