In this speech given by Osler as President of the Medical Library Association Osler spoke first about the essential value for practicing physicians of institutional medical libraries run by professional librarians, and then discussed the value gained for each physician in collecting a personal library, depending on their personal and professional interests. He spoke of forming divisions within the Medical Library Association for professional librarians and another for "amateurs, like myself." Regarding his own approach to book collecting, Osler wrote,
"Personally, I collect on two principles--first, interest in an author, which is a good guide, as the book illustrates the biography, a principle which has the advantage of helping at least to keep you within the limits of purse and shelves, more the latter than the former. Take, for example, the two small groups of books I have placed in our exhibition, the one illustrating Servetus, the other Ulrich von Hutten. Valuable as they are from the standpoint of the professional bibliographer, this is nothing to the interest awakened in the men themselves, in their aspirations, their labour, and their tragic fates. For the amateur this personal note clothes the dry bones of bibliography and makes them live. And my other principle is this: a student of the history of medicine, I look out for books which have left their impress on it in some special way. If one is particular to examine carefully into the claims of a book before admitting it to the select company on your shelves, you here again cultivate a due regard for purse and space. For example, five or six books illustrate the whole subject of auscultation and percussion, only the masterpieces are chosen. I confess there may be a certain satisfaction in tracing out the biography of a book, but it is cold work unless you love the author.
"Judiciously cultivated, bibliography has many advantages as a pastime for the doctor; a little patient care, a very small expenditure of money, and a constant look-out for the books wanted are the essential requisites. Nor is there ever any difficulty in the choice of a subject--anything he may be interested in has its bibliographical side."
Digital facsimile from PubMedCentral at this link.