You definitely do not want to have a ton of links, so forget the encyclopedia idea. You only get "Google credit" for incoming links, meaning that only when other sites link to yours does it benefit you. The links on your page that are outgoing links actually have a negative effect on your rankings. This is why you should only link to sites that are linking back to you as well... don't go putting up a bunch of links just to have a lot. Also, never have more than 40 links on your links page at any given time... any more than 40 and Google will classify the page as a "link farm" and your site's status will be dramatically reduced (because Google will think you are deliberately getting a massive amount of link partners just to raise your rankings... it's how they stop crappy sites with zero content from getting high rankings just by exploiting the system). Check out my links page on BAP... I have 7 links at the moment, and 4 of those are sites I own.
Also, you mentioned removing the links once you get traffic... don't. If you get a good link partner and they honor their end of the deal and keep your link on their site... you should in turn do the same. Good link partners are hard to come by and whenever you find them you should keep them as long as possible. One good link partner is better than 50 bad ones... that's why I've got good rankings with so little amount of links, my link partners kick ass. You'll probably have to go through 100 or so link swaps just to find 4-5 good ones... like an elimination process.