Bibliophile Mark Lanier builds a theological library

Even as many pronounce the death of the book industry in the digital age, Mark Lanier, Houston attorney, and founder of The Lanier Law Firm, is pronouncing something else entirely.

"I love books," he says. "I've always loved books as long as I've been alive. I love the way they smell, I love the way they look, I love the way they sit on the shelf and cry for you to come read them."

MarkLanierlibrary.jpgHe hopes his books won't have to cry for long. Last October he opened the Lanier Theological Library, a 16,000 sq. foot research library that he designed himself and had built in less than six months. It's open to the public from 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday.

It was more than just a love of books that prompted Lanier to construct an entire library on his property. The class action attorney studied biblical languages in college and for years has taught Sunday school classes on biblical literacy at Champion Forest Baptist Church. In his lessons, which include footnoted handouts, he makes it a point to ensure accuracy by referencing only primary sources.

"To do that required an even better library than I had," Lanier explains. "So I started saying to my wife, 'You know we've got this great place on the property where we can really put in a top-notch library that would be a resource, not just for me, but for others similarly situated.' And she caught the vision, said, 'Great, let's do it.'"

Besides books, guests can browse periodicals, historical documents, and artifacts such as coins, daggers, and a replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Topics range from Egyptology to linguistics. The library has already hosted a number of speakers, including the librarian from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt and English theologian Alister McGrath. Each event has drawn about 600 people, Lanier says.

"One of the main purposes of the library is to educate," Lanier says. "But it's not simply to educate the individual. You can really make a difference by helping educate the educators. ... It's by no means only for those in positions of clergy, but we target that way, too. My goal is that this will be a tool to help a lot of people come to a better understanding of who they are and why they are."

--Betsy Graca