Welcome to the Library of Mistakes

Tucked away in a charming mews building in central Edinburgh lies an antidote to the cyclical hubris that causes banks to collapse, businesses to fail and empires to crumble. Professor Russell Napier established the not-for-profit Library of Mistakes in 2014 because he was all too aware that the mistakes that had been made in the build-up to the global banking crisis of 2008 were being made all over again.

The two rooms of this delightfully bijou library contain more than 3,000 books documenting many of the cock-ups that have been made time and time again in finance, business, society, politics and, more generally, by us as human beings. Quirky, and with deft touches of humour (the WC is wallpapered with bank notes), the Library nonetheless has a serious mission statement: ‘Mundum mutatu errore singillatim’ (changing the world one mistake at a time).

I first encountered the Library last year and was fascinated by both the building itself and its irresistible raison d’etre. My curiosity grew further when I had the pleasure of interviewing Russell in the Library for this feature in our journal Poppy. Here was a man with a wealth of knowledge and persuasive opinions, liberally illustrated with a vast repertoire of colourful quotations.

I decided that I wanted to do something to help and spotted an opportunity to provide pro bono support with social media, which neither Russell or the Librarian Helen Matthews had been able to invest much time in. So, each day I’m now putting up a post on Twitter and Linkedin for the Library. The posts are mostly drawn from my own research in the Library (a thoroughly enjoyable task) with help from Russell and a small committee of well-read Errorists he has assembled.

It’s early days but, in the first five weeks alone, the Library’s Twitter following has increased by more than 740% from 27 to 200. It just goes to show what good content can do (we’re not doing any paid promotion).

Above: Fraser working hard at the library

If you’re interested in discovering more about the Library, I recently interviewed Russell for the podcast series I’ve launched for the Scottish Business Network. And if you go to the Library of Mistakes website, you can sign up for free and arrange a visit.

Finally, for a daily dose of mistake-related wisdom, please do follow us on Twitter or on our new LinkedIn page. We’re always keen to welcome new Errorists in celebrating the well-worn foibles of humanity.