The library has its beginnings in 1915, when Scholem purchased a copy of the Zohar and a monograph on Hasidism by Aharon Marcus. It seems probable that even at this early stage Scholem hoped to develop a comprehensive library on this subject, as part of the overall Zionist endeavor to promote the spiritual renewal of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
During the years following the First World War, after Scholem left his parents’ home, he became acquainted with leading Jewish bibliophiles such as Zalman Shocken, Martin Buber and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, all of whom had renowned personal libraries. These encounters may have provided Scholem with role models for developing his own library, although his enthusiasm for the science of bibliography and his love of books must also have played a crucial role. By the time Scholem arrived in the Land of Israel in 1923, he had already collected 1,767 books, including 503 on the subject of the Kabbalah. While he was still in Europe, Scholem gained extensive bibliographical knowledge through his frequent visits to leading libraries, and he continued to gain experience through his work in the Jewish National and University Library.
Scholem purchased bibliographical works and catalogues published by Hebrew booksellers in order to find various Kabbalistic works he was interested in adding to his collection. He was also able to expand his library thanks to the reputation he and his collection enjoyed. The unique content and scope of the library was enhanced with the assistance of the Jewish National and University Library, after Scholem agreed that the Library would inherit the collection after his death. Scholem passed away on February 21, 1982, and the collection was duly transferred to the Library.