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Customer Case Studies

Researchers at all stages of their careers make use of our collections and services. We support research students, academics, consultants and campaigners in answering questions, discovering new directions and finding inspiration.

Researching the work of Peter Drucker

Peter Starbuck was born in 1936 in the West Midlands, England. He initially trained with an international construction contractor company and qualified as a quantity surveyor, while completing National Service in Germany, On his return from National Service he continued his studies and gained further qualifications in building and then general management.  In 1963, he moved to the West Midlands to manage a local building contractor and house builder.  In 1966, he established, along with his partners, a construction training and house building business. It was during this period, around 1974, when he first became aware of the work of Peter Drucker through reading Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practice. In 1992, Peter changed his working pattern so that he could focus on researching the life and work of Peter Drucker and of related management thinkers. This research led to the award of a PhD in 2007 from the Open University. The title of Peter’s thesis is ‘The Formative European Influences that shaped the thinking Peter Ferdinand Drucker and how they manifest themselves in his later ideas,’ it is the only one deposited with the British Library on Drucker. Peter as a Drucker scholar is considered to be an expert on his work and was recently elected as Chair of the Drucker Society of London.

When and why did you start using the British Library?

“I have used the British Library for many years, but my use of the Library increased dramatically around 1992, when I changed my working pattern to concentrate on studying the works of Drucker and related thinkers.  I discovered that the Library has a complete holding of his books - ranging from The End of Economic Man, published in 1939, to The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, which was published posthumously in 2008. This has proved to be an invaluable resource in understanding the genesis and development of Drucker’s management thinking, philosophy, theories and wider interests. And of course the Library also holds Drucker’s scholarly and popular articles – there are several hundred, Drucker was a prolific author - published in journals such as Harvard Business Review but also harder-to-obtain ones too.”  

“Drucker was very eclectic in his own research, so the Library has also been particularly valuable because I was able to read many of the works which influenced Drucker – from the writings of Edmund Burke and volumes such as Richard Cantillon’s Essai sur la nature du Commerce en General Traduit de L'Anglois, published in 1775, and those linked to Gestalt theory.”

“As well as using the reading rooms, where I have always found staff to be most helpful and welcoming, I have often made use of the Document Supply Service, and now new tools such as the Management and Business Studies Portal to obtain copies of the latest research in the field. It has also been a great pleasure to work with Sally Halper and to make a contribution to the Portal – another wonderful British Library resource.”

Creating a portal to third sector research

'Our partnership with the British Library has been invaluable'

Naomi Landau is a member of the Knowledge Exchange Team at the Third Sector Research Council (TSRC).  Naomi explains the project further:

'The TSRC is a national research centre set up to research the ‘third sector'.  Since the project began two years ago, TSRC has received many enquiries about research on various third sector issues. There is a lot of material out there, but it can be hard to identify and access. One of TSRC’s main aims is to increase the research capacity of the sector. We began to think that what people needed was a ‘collection’ of third sector research held in one place, where anyone could search for and easily find what they needed.'

'We contacted Jennie Grimshaw, Lead Curator of Social Policy and Official Publications, and Jude England, Head of Social Science, to discuss our thoughts.  Together we explored the idea of working in partnership and came up with an exciting proposal to build an online knowledge portal offering access to material on the third sector.  Professor Pete Alcock, director of TSRC, is delighted to be working in partnership with the British Library on this project, which will make information on the third sector easily available on-line.' 

Housing, land and property rights in Burma

'Overall, the British Library provided a fantastic service, well beyond what our organisation had expected.  We are truly grateful for the efforts of Jonathan Sims and his team and the highly professional and friendly service rendered to us.'

Ezekiel Simperingham is a Human Rights Lawyer working for Displacement Solutions, an  International Non-Government Organisation which supports refugees and displaced people in exercising their right to return to their original homes. We were able to help Ezekiel by providing copies of six Burmese laws relating to housing, property and land rights, which Displacement Solutions had been unable to find anywhere else. These laws helped complete their publication, Housing, Land and Property Rights in Burma: the current legal framework. You can download or purchase this publication from Displacement Solutions.

Understanding collaboration between government, commercial and third sector organisations

'Using the British Library has been a first-rate experience, in terms of the quality of advice and support, and the breadth and depth of the collections for management and the social sciences more broadly. Thanks to the British Library, I feel like a true knowledge worker, connecting and connected!'

Lucian Hudson was asked to advise the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on how governments can work effectively with commercial organisations and charity and campaigning groups. Lucian used our collections to find out about recent research and theories from a range of subject disciplines.  You can read more about Lucian’s experiences, and his final report The enabling state: collaborating for success on our new Management and Business Studies portal.

Researching social networks

'The British Library has been an indispensable source of books for my MBA studies. It is a fantastic environment in which to study and the specialist reference staff have been enormously helpful.'

Eileen Neilson has been using our Social Sciences Reading Room to support her studies for a Masters in Business Administration. Our collections have provided up-to-date research on social networks, and government publications on corporate governance and financial strategy. Using our foreign government publications, and European Union collections, Eileen has researched European initiatives towards currency union from the 1960s onwards.

Tell us your story

We are looking for more examples to help us understand how the Library supports your research or work. If you would like to tell us how we have helped you, please email us at