The Library of Mistakes

Down a small lane, at 4a Wemyss Place Mews, in the Scottish Investment Trust building, you will find the Library of Mistakes. A strange name, you may think, but this is a library dedicated to avoiding mistakes. The Keeper, Russell Napier, was inspired by the banking sector’s spectacular crash in 2008, and set up the library in response. It has the aim of illuminating financial and banking history and learning from past mistakes – hence the name. I joined a visit there organised by  ELISA (Edinburgh Library & Information Services Agency) and found it to be a very calm space, conducive to study, with around 3,000 books related to the financial sector.  They also hold archival material, including the fascinating working papers of the late Stewart Hamilton,  a forensic accountant based in Switzerland, who worked on some of the big financial scandals such as those at Enron and Barings Bank.

The library is free to subscribers and there are talks and small events. Helen Williams, the librarian, and I are in discussions about potential collaborations, matching their expertise with our huge collections. Watch this space!

Library of mistakes

Jan Usher

Social Sciences curator, General Collections at the National Library of Scotland.