Living with and sharing 35,000 books June 13, 2013 – Posted in: Bookselling / Collecting, Private Libraries, Special Collections

 The Johnson family has been collecting and accumulating books since the late 19th century.  In 1899 the first family library was built by Thomas Moore Johnson (1851-1919) to house his 8,000 books. It is little wonder that with a library of that size he was known as the “sage of the Osage” (the house and library were built on the Osage River).


Now there are two family libraries and 35,000 books.

The three generations of Johnsons did it the right way. Collecting “rare books” was never the intention. Collecting books that fell within their diverse areas of interest was the mantra and it is still the first piece of advice offered when a beginning collector asks the question – “what should I collect?

Answer – What you love. 

Now welcome David Richards, an associate professor at Missouri State University (MSU) who oversees the school’s special collections and archives and who met Johnson at a book function in 2009. 

With Richards leading the way MSU has recently signed a memorandum of cooperation with the library and, as a result, the entire collection will be cataloged and students and faculty will have access to the collection.

A perfect win win situation. One potential issue is that the house the books live in is not optimized for their preservation. Hopefully, they’ll stay safe until we can find out what’s in there.


Piece in The News-Leader: Living with 35,000 Books. Photos by Dan Holtmeyer/News-Leader.

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