Thursday, 19 September 2019

Open Cambridge: celebrating Keynes at the Marshall Library by Sue Woods

It is 100 years since the publication of Keynes’ Economic consequences of the peace, and in conjunction with the Faculty of Economics’ centenary conference held earlier in the week at King’s College, the Marshall Library organised displays and a series of blog posts to illustrate the significance of Keynes’ work.
The Marshall Library welcomed a record number of Open Cambridge visitors, including artists, historians, architects, and economists, and it was a delight to see visitors’ first impressions when entering the library.   Hidden behind the stark façade of a brutalist building designed in the early 60’s by Sir Hugh Casson, the Marshall Library is open plan, flooded with natural light, and features a spiral staircase leading to the gallery.
View of the Marshall Library Reading Room showing the spiral staircase, designed by Sir Hugh Casson

The Keynes displays featured first editions of “The economic consequences of the peace”, and Tardieu’s “The truth about the treaty” which sought to justify the Treaty and counter the criticisms levelled at it by Keynes. A letter from Charles Waldstein to Keynes was found within the pages of the Marshall Library's copy of this book in which he declared Tardieu to be '... such a swine' and encouraged Keynes to respond to him. 
In addition, there was a display of Keynes’s correspondence from 1919, including the exchanges between Maynard and his mother when he was on the point of resigning his position as H.M. Treasury adviser at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles.  His mother shows her concern both for his welfare and his reputation. 
Florence Ada Keynes, Maynard's mother
In the Mary Paley Room, which houses the Marshall Library’s collection of rare books, we showed the original copies of The Economist from December 1919, when both Marshall and Keynes were publishing within a week of each other.  At the age of 77, Marshall published the two-volume “Industry and Trade”, and the following week, there was the announcement of Keynes’s “Economic Consequences of the Peace”, with the first review appearing on 27 December.
It was Alfred Marshall who encouraged Maynard to become an economist, as he was impressed by Maynard’s work.  After graduating with a first class degree, Maynard stayed at King’s for a fourth year and started weekly supervisions with Marshall, although he had not yet decided to become an economist.  Maynard enjoyed the intellectual challenge of studying economics with Marshall, and in turn Marshall considered Keynes’ essay on comparative railway systems ‘a brilliant answer’.  This praise then prompted Keynes to write to Lytton Strachey, “I find economics increasingly satisfactory, and I think I am rather good at it.”
Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

We had anticipated interest in the Keynes exhibition, but it is always intriguing to find out why visitors have specially selected your library to visit as part of Open Cambridge.  It was while visiting the Mary Paley Room that one visitor started enquiring about the basement which had been mentioned earlier in the tour.  He was an artist who specialised in photographing behind the scenes in libraries and museums and he wondered out loud if it would be possible to visit the Marshall Library basement.  No matter how carefully you plan an exhibition, there will always be something else that visitors want to explore. 

Monday, 19 August 2019

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, 1919 Part V: Standing Room Only! by Sue Woods

“Intolerable anguish and fury” [1] had compelled Keynes to leave Paris and resign his position as financial representative of the Treasury at the Paris Peace Conference.  Jan Christian Smuts had already suggested to Keynes that he should “set about writing a clear connected account of what the financial and economic clauses of the Treaty actually are and mean and what their probable results will be.  It should not be too long, as we may want to appeal to the plain man more than to the well informed or the specialist.” [1] Keynes replied that “ he could do at any time, and speedily, what Smuts proposed, for he had it clear in his mind and it only needed putting on paper.” [1]. This account of the origin of the book is identified by Austin Robinson in his obituary to Keynes which appeared in the Economic Journal, March 1947. 
Duncan Grant with John Maynard Keynes in 1914 © Public Domain

On his return to Cambridge in July, Keynes did indeed start to write The Economic Consequences of the Peace”.  He wrote to Duncan Grant from King’s on 17 July,
“Most of the day, I think about my book, and write it for about two hours, so that I get on fairly well and am now nearly half way through the third chapter of eight. … But writing is very difficult, and I feel more and more admiration for those who can bring it off successfully.  I’ve finished to-day a sketch of the appearance and character of Clemenceau, and am starting to-morrow on Wilson.  I think it’s worthwhile to try, but it’s really beyond my powers.”[2]
Keynes left Cambridge for London on 24 July, and at the beginning of August resumed writing the book from Charleston. He wrote every morning from breakfast until lunch and by mid-August was making fast progress.
In a letter to his mother on 3 September, he wrote that he had ‘managed to keep up my average of 1,000 words fit for the printer every day, seven days a week; but there are still some very difficult bits to do.  I hope to finish by the first week of October and have it actually published before the last day of the month.’ [2]
During the Michaelmas term of 1919, Keynes delivered a course of lectures in Cambridge entitled “Economic Aspects of the Peace Treaty”.  Austin Robinson writes in his obituary to Keynes: “My principal memory of them is of the dense throng and the fight to find even standing room, for everyone was prepared to cut anything to hear Keynes; I was then a classic, and was duly reprimanded by my tutor for surprising lacunae in my knowledge of Cicero’s Letters.  But almost equally vivid is my memory of the burning sense of the world’s stupidities which animated the lecturer.  Those lectures appeared in a variant form at the end of December 1919 as The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and the world shared our excitement.”
 [1]         Millin, Sarah Gertrude.  General Smuts.  London: Faber and Faber, 1936
[2]          Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, 1919 Part IV: "The Peace Congress, where men played shamelessly..." (Virginia Woolf) by Catherine Piner and Clare Trowell

Virginia Woolf and Keynes at Monks House

While the quantifiable and qualitative responses to this work tell a story of rising economic and social eminence for Keynes, the question of the books purpose needs to be raised. This blog post focuses on Keynes motivations and therein the purpose of The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

Keynes resigned from his Government post and returned to England after his failure to drive the Treaty in the direction he thought best. Writing to Prime Minster Lloyd George on June 5th 1919, he explained:

I am slipping away from the scene of the nightmare. I can do no more good here. Ive gone on hoping even through these last dreadful weeks that youd find some way to make of the Treaty a just and expedient document. But now its apparently too late. The battle is lost. I leave the twins to gloat over the devastation of Europe, and to assess to taste what remains for the British taxpayer [] (Skidelsky, 1983, p. 375)

In his letters, Keynes makes clear that he believed the public deserved an explanation for the Treaty. In a letter to Jan Smuts on the 8th of June 1919, he wrote that he hoped immensely that you may come to the conclusion that some public explanation of what is really happening and a protest against it is now the right course (Skidelsky, 1983 p. 376). Although Smuts was initially in favor, he eventually concluded that it were better to be constructive rather than tear the Treaty to shreds (Skidelsky, 1983 p.377). Keynes obviously thought it would be better to give the public his opinion on the matter, and he went ahead with the book.

While some, like Lord Robert Cecil, hoped for an analysis from a strictly economic point on the dangers of the treaty, the book itself is not strictly economic by any means. In addition to an economic analysis, Keynes also takes time to write a few devastating descriptions of political personalities. Sue Woods third blog post in this series expands upon some of the personal attacks that his mother, Florence, tried to get Keynes to tone down. The deviation from economics is where the question of the books purpose becomes more complicated. 

In Hazens review (discussed in the second blog post), he describes how the pictures of Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Wilson are unforgettably painted; It is Mr. Keyness vivid and confident portraits of these three that are giving great pleasure to all those who dislike any one or all of the individuals concerned. In this revolting melodrama of our days Clemenceau is the heavy villain, Lloyd George the mountebank and weathercock, and Wilson the Simple Simon.

The emphasis on these personalities is perhaps best explained in light of Virginia Woolfs comments upon Keynes return. In a letter from the 8th of July 1919, Woolf explains to a friend that Keynes is:

 disillusioned he says. No more does he believe, that is, in the stability of the things he likes. Eton is doomed; the governing classes, perhaps Cambridge too. These conclusions were forced on him by the dismal & degrading spectacle of the Peace Congress, where men played shamelessly, not for Europe, or even England, but for their own return to Parliament at the next election. They were not wholly vicious; they had spasm of well meaning; but a fate seemed to possess the business from the first, driving it all in the most fatal direction & soon no one had the strength to resist. (Woolf, 1977 p.288)

Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

It is likely that there was some tension between the Bloomsbury group and Keynes. The Bloomsbury group included conscientious objectors and was largely resident at Charleston in Sussex during World War I. Whereas Keynes was working for the Government in the Treasury during the war. This may have motivated him to express his opinions in a literary way that would appeal to his friends. He was staying at Charleston with Vanessa Bell when he started to write the book. Moggeridge states in his 1992 biography of Keynes:

'During composition and later revision, Keynes was encouraged by comments and suggestions from his friends, many of whom heard him read sections, particularly his portrait of the Conference, aloud at Charleston.' (Moggeridge, 1992, p.321)

In Moggeridges Penguin Modern Masters (1976) book on John Maynard Keynes he also asserts:

The influence of Bloomsbury, its rationalism, its general optimism, and its emphasis on the importance of individuals left other marks on Keynesand his understanding of the good society. (Moggeridge, 1976 p.13)

If the purpose of this book was purely an economic attack on the Treaty, why also attack the personalities of those involved? Evidently, Keynes didnt feel that these political personalities could or should be divorced from the decisions that they made. Woolfs comments shed some light on the impact of these individuals on Keynes. 

It seems that Keynes was just as interested in the individuals and motivations behind decisions as the decisions themselves. Hession (1984) asserts that Keynes was not reluctant to engage in psychological analysis, and he showed familiarity with Freudian terminology, as one would expect given his Bloomsbury background and his friendships with the Stracheys. (p.156) The Strachey brothers, having been analysed themselves in Vienna by Freud, became translators and editors of Freuds collected works in English. Strachey used a form of psychohistory [i]when writing his famous work Eminent Victorians, which was published in May 1918. Some critics did not like Strachey s mocking style of biography, but the pen sketches of Wilson, Clemenceau and Lloyd-George in Economic Consequences of the Peace also have a mocking tone and, perhaps, Keynes was influenced by Lytton Strachey in using this approach. Keynes interest in individuals and their motivations also includes those that impressed him. He wrote an emotional account of his dealings with Dr. Melchior, a member of the German delegation that left a strong, positive impression on Keynes. This memoir was first read by Bloomsburys Memoir Club in February of 1920. Virginia Woolf praised the work for its method of character drawing (Skidelsky, 1983, p.359). This emphasis on individuals is likely why Keynes Consequences of the Peace became as popular as it did. While still economic, it was also personal and political; the latter two being far more understandable for the average reader.

Hazen's review is perhaps a prime example of the focus of the average reader. He spends significant time discussing Keynes' assessment of the political personalities, but little time looking over the actual tables and estimates that surely should be the focus of an economic explanation. Unable to really assess fully Keynes' economic conclusions, or at least unable to contradict them with strong evidence, readers could get a taste of the decisions and their implications from personalities of those involved. While perhaps seen through an economic window, the scene unfolding is a political and personal one, and that is what Keynes wrote. The purpose of the book was to educate the public on the economics of the Treaty, but it was also meant to enlighten readers about the politics and political figures behind these decisions. Just as he attacked the Treaty, so too did he attack those behind it.


Hazen, C. (1920) Faults and Weaknesses of Mr. Keynes New York Times, 29th February.
Hession, C.H. (1984) John Maynard Keynes: A Personal Biography of the Man who Revolutionised Capitalism and the Way We Live. New York: Macmillan.
Moggeridge, D.E. (1976) John Maynard Keynes (Penguin Modern Masters) Frank Kermode. Middlesex: Penguin
Moggeridge, D.E. (1992) Maynard Keynes: An Economists Biography. London: Routledge
Skidelsky, R. (1983) John Maynard Keynes: Volume 1 Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920. London: Macmillan
Woolf, V. (1977) Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 1 Ed. By Anne Olivier Bell. London: Hogarth

[i] Psychohistory is a term coined by Lord Edel according to Hession’s biography of Keynes.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, 1919 Part III: Maynard and his mother: Florence Ada Keynes by Sue Woods

Florence was devoted to her son, Maynard, and took enormous pride in his achievements. In her collection of family scrapbooks, she carefully stored all the press cuttings and reviews tracing the successful careers of her three children, Maynard, Geoffrey, and Margaret. Bound in these scrapbooks were hundreds of articles featuring Maynard’s publication of the Economic Consequences of the Peace, including his letters to newspapers as well as the reactions of his readers.  Florence and Neville, Maynard's father, set up their home at 6 Harvey Road, Cambridge, where they enjoyed the relatively affluent lifestyle of the Victorian academic family. With three young children, Florence shared her children's interests and ambitions, so that she was always there for them, ready to help. 
Portrait of Florence Ada Keynes, by courtesy of Cambridgeshire Collection

Maynard's friends referred to her as "the good mother Keynes" [1] and although she was committed to so many good causes, her family always came first and she would drop everything to help them.

Florence was immensely proud of Maynard, and in a letter to him in August 1917, when he was serving in the Treasury, Florence wrote:
“How exciting it must be for you to attend the Cabinet meetings.  Indeed, it seems to me that you are having such experiences as will make the whole of life pale afterwards.” [2]

Just 2 years later, when attending the Peace Conference in Paris, Maynard relied on his mother for support.  They corresponded regularly, with Maynard relating his many meetings with the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, as well as his frustrations at the lack of progress.  Despairing of the failure of the Peace Conference, Maynard was on the point of resigning his post at the Treasury, and wrote to his mother regretting that he had been “an accomplice in all this wickedness and folly.[3]  Florence reassured Maynard and tried to console him, writing on 19 May, “… perhaps things are not quite so desperate”[4].  Maynard felt unable to continue and wrote to the Prime Minister on 5 June to resign his position.

Even when working all hours on writing “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, Maynard took the time to write to his mother, “… managed to keep up my average of 1,000 words fit for the printer every day, seven days a week; but there are still some very difficult bits to do.  I hope to finish by the first week of October and have it actually published before the last day of the month.” [5] By 23 September 1919, Maynard had sent the first five chapters to the printers, but had not yet started the two remaining chapters and reckoned that he was ten days behind schedule.  He wrote again to Florence from Charleston, “They weigh rather heavily as I am stale and should like to take a month off…. But I suppose I must persevere.”[6]

Florence tried to persuade Maynard to tone down the personal passages in "The Economic Consequences of the Peace", as she was concerned about the offence they might cause to Wilson and Lloyd George. She considered his references to Lord Sumner as possibly libellous and hoped that he would remove the "nasty hits at Lloyd owe some loyalty to your Chief, even if you don't agree with him... Also spare the President where you can...Don't call him 'poor'. Broadly speaking it is really important to be careful about international susceptibilities, so don't call the French demands perposterous, or call any 'great' man wicked or wanton. The work will gain, not lose, by restraint."[7]. Maynard heeded some but not all of his mother's advice and removed some of the references. 

[1] Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983
[2] Letter: FAK to JMK 1 Aug 1917
[3] Letter: JMK to FAK 14 May 1919
[4] Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983
[5] Letter: JMK to FAK 3 Sep 1919
[6] Letter: JMK to FAK 23 Sep 1919
[7] Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. Volume 1. London: Macmillan, 1983

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, 1919 Part II: "...Written by an economist, it must be dry and dull" by Catherine Piner

The previous blog post addressed the early publication history of Keynes’ Economic Consequences of the Peace. While much can, and should, be said about the quantifiable spread of this work, there is equally as much to say about the qualitative response to it. In his letters to his American publisher, Keynes regularly requested clippings from American reviews of the work.

Alfred Harcourt in 1904, Columbia University Archives, CC-BY-SA 4.0

On February 28, 1920 Alfred Harcourt sent Keynes the following letter: 

The reviews continue uniformly favorable and impressively so, I enclose a fulmination which will appear in to-morrow’s New York Times. You doubtless know that the Times has been very reactionary, but I thought I had it so arranged that Frank Vanderlip was to review the book for them, as a matter of fact, a mutual friend tells me that Vanderlip did write a remarkable article about the book, but so favorable in tone that they refused to print it, and that accounts for their finding Hazen to do the notice enclosed. I have ordered the insertion of an advertisement to occupy about ten inches, three columns wide in the new section of the Times to-morrow and Monday, which shall contain extracts from other reviews. I don’t think they will refuse to print these advertisements and the upshot should be a large increase in demand. You may be sure that the book has had a remarkable effect on public opinion and the course of the treaty in the Senate

That Keynes and his publishers were interested in public response to this work is obvious. Given its sizable print run, it should come as no surprise that the publishers wished to keep the success going, and that Keynes sought information on what in the work so spoke to people. 

In letters to Keynes there are frequent references to clippings from newspaper reviews that have, unfortuanately, been lost. Luckily however, enough information about some reviews remains that they can be found in newspaper archives, like Hazens' article. Unlike other reviews which Keynes and Harcourt both describe as positive, Hazen's work is a true 'fulmination' as Harcourt warned. Headlined as 'FAULTS AND WEAKNESSES OF MR KEYNES'S ATTACK ON TREATY: Expert Analysis of His Criticism of What the Allied Leaders Did at the Paris Peace Conference Shows the Strong and Significant Bias of His Book on 'The Economic Consequences of the Peace' - one can make no mistake on Hazen's viewpoint.

This review, more so than ones lauding Keynes' work, is important to consider. While negative, the vehemence of Hazen's review would have certainly enticed readers. In an attempt to discredit Keynes, Hazen argues that 'Let no one think that, because written by an economist, it must be dry and dull. It is anything but that. It is a very angry book.'Such a review is an advertisement in itself. As Harcourt noted, the book has a 'remarkable' effect, and hearing that it is anything but 'dry and dull' would work wonders at getting Keynes a readership not usually interested in political matters. If nothing else, the spread of an economic and political work through so many levels of society is vital to note. Keynes' ideas have come to define the 'causes' of WWII. Therefore the spread of his work throughout society gives us an insight into how the Treaty of Versailles came to be villainized.

Hazen argues that Keynes' anger precludes him from being able to write a calm and balanced book. Hazen points to Keynes' comparison of the treaty to a Carthaginian Peace as ridiculous, insulting his American audience for assuming that 'the great, classically educated American democracy would be able to detect some quite important differences between that and the Peace of Versailles.' Hazen's arguments cover most of Keynes' book, but can ultimately be summed up in this particular critique, 'Mr. Keynes not only paints his portraits "moles and all" but he makes the moles unusually protruberant and ugly.' Hazen crticises Keynes for being an economist not particularly interested in the politics of the matter and hyperbolising the issues. As Hazen says, 'Mr. Keynes's perspective is not all that a perspective should be. He looks at everything from the economic point of view and economic considerations and values are exclusive and decisive for him.' 

The Big Four: Lloyd-George, Orlando, Clemenceau, Woodrow-Wilson taken by Edward N. Jackson, May 1919, © Public Domain

While overtly and unforgivingly negative, the review could not be more salacious. It paints Keynes' work as a political roman-a-clef,which would undoubtedly interest many. Although adverse, Hazen cannot help but comment, at the end, that 'Mr. Keynes has a great deal to say in his book about justice in this world and the peremptory need of more of it right now. We agree with him on this point.' This statement is perhaps the most poignant from the entire review. the public were emotionally primed to look for a better world after The Treaty of Versailles and the end of WWI. This may explain the reception and interest in Keynes' book, which seems to have come out at the 'right' time.   

Friday, 17 May 2019

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, 1919 Part I: Early Publication History by Catherine Piner

In anticipation of the Economic Consequences of the Peace Centenary Conference on September 9th and 10th, 2019, the Marshall Library is releasing a series of blog posts on the publication of Keynes’ book. The first in this series focuses on the early publication history of The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

The first print run of The Economic Consequences of the Peace hit London at the end of 1919.

Within six weeks Keynes was working with American publisher Alfred Harcourt of Harcourt, Brace and Howe Inc. on an American edition. In a letter from Keynes to Harcourt on the 29th of January 1920, Keynes explains the unanticipated enormity of the response to his work. By this point, 8,000 copies had been sold in England and 15,000 had been printed in all. Internationally, there was a ‘strong demand’ for the translation rights in ‘French, Italian, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, and Russian.’[1] Given the response to his work, Keynes was writing to express his regret at not making the first American print run larger than the planned 4,000 copies.

Keynes was certainly right about the American market. His royalty statements for the first six months of American publication reveal incredible success. By the 30th of June, 38,403 copies had been sold in America. In terms of royalties, Keynes earned $16,401.31.[2] His publisher, Alfred Harcourt, clearly anticipated the continuation of this success; in a letter on May 5th, 1920 Harcourt informs Keynes that they just had another 50,000 printed with 4,000 bound initially.[3]

While not as robust in terms of total copies as the publication’s American success, the work continued to do exceedingly well in England. Within weeks of the book’s publication, friends, organizations, and strangers were writing to Keynes asking him to publish a cheaper edition of the work. On January 16, 1920 the secretary of the Women’s International League, K.E. Royds, wrote to Keynes asking him to ‘arrange to have a cheap edition […] brought out at the earliest possible moment.’[4] Thomas F. Tweed of the Manchester Liberal Federation wrote asking for a cheaper and shortened edition. On January 27, 1920 he wrote:

‘It is fair to assume that you wrote the book with a more or less propaganda purpose. Its price, however, makes the matter of popular circulation almost prohibitive, and I am instructed in this first instance, in quite an informal way, to suggest to you the writing of an abridged version of the “Economic Consequences” which might be about half its length and published at a popular price.’[5]

Others, such as Archibald Rowntree, wrote offering to help finance a cheaper edition, saying that if ‘any help is needed by way of guarantee in order to get it at a really low price, I think two or three of us here would be only too glad to help in this way.’[6] Harold Storey of the Liberal Publication Department similarly offered financial assistance should it be necessary, explaining that ‘Many of us regard your book as so much the mouthpiece of a great cause, that I do not think there would be any difficulty in spending money in order to get it quickly before a larger public.’[7]

On the subject of a cheaper edition, Keynes eventually worked with G.D.H. Cole of the Labour Research Department to release a special cheaper edition of 10,000 copies. By September 1st of 1920, there remained only 170 copies of the 10,000 unsold.[8] A photograph of the Marshall Library’s copy from this edition is below. The book is on display at the entrance of the Marshall Library for the next few months for those interested in a closer look.

Within a year of publication, the spread of Keynes’ work was so broad that he had to cancel plans for 2,000 copies of a Czech translated edition. At this time, the spread of the German edition throughout Czechoslovakia made it unprofitable to translate further.[9] Clearly, neither Keynes nor his publishers predicted this work’s universal popularity.

It is important to keep in mind that these publication figures give just a glimmer of the work’s popularity; for every book sold it is impossible to say how many times it was read and passed between individuals. While the publication figures certainly tell a story of the work’s unanticipated popularity, the reasons for and nature of that popularity cannot been seen in these figures. Future blog posts will begin to address just this.

Special thanks to the Archive Centre and King’s College, Cambridge for use of and help with their collection of Keynes’ correspondence.

[1] Cambridge, King’s College Archive Centre, EC/5/1/29 & 30. 
[2] EC/5/1/49 & 50 & 51.
[3] EC/5/1/44.
[4] EC/4/6 & 7.
[5] EC/4/13 & 14.
[6] EC/4/1.
[7] EC/4/10 & 11.
[8] EC/4/48.
[9] EC/5/2/10.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Inside the Marshall Library by Barbara Heindl, Work Experience Student from Berlin State Library

When I first applied for an internship at the UL Cambridge, I didn’t expect to get a glimpse into such a diverse landscape of libraries which is part of a university that is at the least just as diverse! Having studied Literature at the University of Tübingen in southern Germany, having started my PhD in Cultural Studies in Frankfurt/Oder and working now in the Berlin State Library while getting another master’s degree in Library- and Information Sciences from the Humboldt-University in Berlin, I thought I knew what to expect. But Cambridge doesn’t work like most other universities. Here, there’s not only the UL, the faculty and departmental libraries but also quite a few college libraries: That means that the entire system works differently and whilst in Germany more or less every person working in a library is called “librarian”, Cambridge offers that title but to the heads of libraries.
cc-by-sa Martin McCormick

However, after two weeks in varied departments of the UL, I got the chance to spend one week in the Marshall Library and that was quite distinct from what I am used to!

© Marshall Library

The day starts off rather calm in the Marshall Library but that changes around 10 a.m. when a wave of students arrives. Most of them try to spend about an hour working in between classes and take the chance to return or borrow books. As library staff, it’s easy to see which books have been recommended in the previous class because the corresponding copies are in a very high demand. 

Both in the Berlin State Library and in the UL library life follows other rules and is a little less dependent on the schedules of students. Most of the readers come in during the morning, find their preferred desks and then stay until the evening, working on a paper or some kind of book etc.
Being above all a place for students also implicates special tasks – some of which might also be a little special to Cambridge. Libraries around Cambridge University try to get hold of as many reading lists as possible in order to provide students with whatever they might need. That means that library staff is checking each and every list to make sure that enough copies are available and that no one has to check different libraries to get that one book you’ll desperately need for your essay. That service is by no means standard in other universities where either students have to figure out how to get their books or teaching staff is scanning page after page – usually poorly paid.
But it’s not all about books, e-books and journals: The Marshall Library also offers training about finding literature and data searching. The Library also provides access to databases and economic data. 

Nor is the Library exclusively about students, the Marshall Library also supports researchers in Economics.  More and more funders expect researchers to publish open access and to provide open data. Researchers might be happy to learn that the Marshall Library knows what makes a good Data Management Plan and how to deposit works in Apollo. What is more: Did you ever think about the impact factor of your paper or the H-index? As that is part of bibliometrics, the library can help understanding these – controversial – measurements and can tell researchers about other possibilities, i.e. about Altmetrics. That might not sound too fascinating and certainly isn’t idealistic research. But it might help to demonstrate the importance and potential impact of one’s work.

As for me, I really enjoyed helping at the lending desk because I usually don’t get to meet the people for whom I’m actually working. In Berlin I’d only spend two hours twice a month at an information desk in the reading room and so it was quite a pleasure to be in touch with the students! 

As the Marshall Lectures take place in November, I was able to get to know somebody else: Robert Shiller. He will lecture on two occasions and the Marshall Library will put on an exhibition about his life, his works as well as books held in the Library. There will even be a video.