Setting up a Special Library – An interview with Russel Napier

Setting up a Special Library

An interview with Russel Napier

Who are you?

My name is Russell Napier and I am The Keeper of The Library of Mistakes. My day job is to advise institutional investors on their asset allocation and I also run a course in finance at the Edinburgh Business School. I am author of the book Anatomy of The Bear: Lessons From Wall Street’s Four Great Bottoms.

What is the Library of Mistakes?

The Library is a public library in Edinburgh and we have a branch in Pune India and will soon open in Lausanne. 

Who is it for?

The Library is open to all members of the public. As the collection is currently focused on business and financial history it is particularly for those with an interest in those areas. The Library attracts students, the retired and business professionals. There is an increasing burden upon all of us to make provision for our retirement and this entails important investment decisions so this is a subject which is of increasing public interest.

What are you trying to achieve and why is it so important?

Currently finance is taught as primarily a subject that lends itself to mathematical solutions. In pursuing such mathematical solutions to human problems we have chosen to ignore many important lessons of financial history. Financial history includes important lessons from psychology, sociology, politics and much more that have profoundly impacted savers and citizens. The  Library exists as a resource where readers can further their understanding of how things have actually worked as a guide to how they will work. The increased burden upon the individual to build retirement savings comes at a time when few people have had any training in managing their own money. For these people there is the Library of Mistakes to learn about finance and crucially to learn to ask the correct questions of their financial advisers.

What do you have in place already?

The Edinburgh branch consists of three traditionally furnished rooms full of books and periodicals. The entire catalogue is available through our website – and the library is equipped with a PC and free Wi-Fi. Every two months or so we also hold lectures at the Library and shorter versions of these are available on video at the lectures tab at our website. We tweet regularly on the subject of business and financial history @EdinburghLom. 

What next?

We are very keen to open a branch of the Library in London. We have commitments to fund the collection but the problem with London is the cost of the real estate. Funding ongoing commitments such as rental are always more problematical. Ideally we would partner with an individual or institution that has excess real estate in London. The Library would only be open from 0900-1700 on work days and it is possible to see how hosting a library would not interfere with use of rooms that are primarily used for evening events. The Library brings more footfall to any premises during the day and of course we would seek to replicate our very successful lecture programme which would bring more visitors.

What do you need and who do you want to hear from?

What we need is real estate and it would probably be best if this was in or near The City. We are open to partnering with any institution, charitable or commercial, that can bring this new public library to London. 

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