CBS Library in the 1940s

During the centennial, we look back at the 100 years that have passed since the foundation of CBS Library. We have reached the 1940s.


Illustration of the reading room at CBS Library in the 1940s

The first half of the 1940s was scarred by the events of World War II, which undoubtedly also affected CBS Library. The rumor has it that librarian Per Boesen helped refugees hide in the library. We have no way of knowing if this is true or not, but we do know that Gerda Helms, who was married to Per Boesen, worked as a secretary to Frode Jakobsen, the leader of the Danish resistance movement. On top of her secretarial duties, she also helped the Freedom Council identify safe places to meet. You can find more information about Gerda in the resistance database (cf. below) and in the 2nd volume of Frode Jakobsen’s book Frihedsrådet [The Freedom Council]. And who knows, perhaps members of the resistance movement did in fact hide out in CBS Library. 

Steady increase in numbers of visitors and library usage

In the annual reports from the 1940s are listed statistics on library usage. One of the measures is the number of loans, which in 1940 stood at 3145 and in 1949 at 4555, a 45 % increase. Another measure are shelve picks, i.e. documents picked from the shelves by library staff for reading room use. In 1940, this happened 3456 times and in 1949, a whopping 18633 times! A robust increase indeed. We can infer from this data that it was just as popular to study in the library in the 1940s as it is today. For comparison, in 2020 CBS Library processed 42.958 loans.  We no longer pick from shelves for reading room use, as most library items are availble from open collections or online.

The collections grow through acquisition of American and British literature

More and more books found their way to the collections. Between 1940 and 1949, the number of books jumped from 12500 to 23500, almost a twofold increase. After the war, there was a shift in influence at the business school, from Germany to America. This is also reflected in the library. A US committee raised 25000 USD from Danish-Americans for the purchase of American literature and documents that the scientific libraries in Denmark had been cut off from during the war. The gift arrived in Denmark in 1945 and CBS Library received 25 new books and 9 new journals. During the war, a lot of British literature, in particular journals, was acquired with the help of the Royal Library. Conditions in the UK, however, meant that only incomplete series arrived in Denmark.

The library also initiated the collection of annual reports from Danish enterprises and organizations, including Central Bank of Denmark / Report and Accounts.

Special collections: Cross-organizational collaborations

CBS departments also collected important documents. In fact, in the 1940s they all boasted a reference library of relevant titles from their respective fields as well as special collections that were only available on site. The departments were also responsible for the collection of study circle papers that could be accessed by students from the library reading room.

The Department of Sales Organization and Advertising, for instance, housed a collection of advertising materials (pamphlets, ads, etc., all sorted by industry), a poster collection, as well as a collection of branded packaging, advertisement boards, and much more. All of it necessary to explore the products and branding of the time.
The department was also responsible for maintaining an index of advertising journals on behalf of the library for retrieval purposes.

Methods book on information retrieval for students

In the 1940s, the library oversaw an increasing number of lectures on library use. 1943 saw the publication of Biblioteksorientering for Handelshøjskolens studerende [Library Navigation for CBS Students] by Head Librarian Knud Larsen, in which he discusses the Danish library organization and outlines reference works, bibliographies, and bibliographic systems (library shelving logic).

Forside fra bogen Biblioteksorientering og udklip af afsnit og arbejdsteknik


In his chapter on study techniques, Knud Larsen discusses how best to collect literature on a specific topic, how to read and take notes, how to write, and how to cite and create references.

Up to this day, all the principles that he set out in his book are still at work in our daily practices, although the practicalities may have changed a bit due to technological advances. We still teach students about how to navigate the library resources, how to write, and how to reference properly.

Obviously, one cannot talk about study techniques without reference to methodology. One example of a methodology of the day is available from the 1944 edition of Haages Haandbog for handel og industri [Haage´s Handbook of Commerce and Industry] about business economics, finance, corporate collaborations, and much more, and in which Head Librarian Knud Larsen also plays a part as the author of the preface.

In this book is a chapter on market research and polling through questionnaires, which was a lot more complicated that it is today when questionnaires are born, distributed, and parsed digitally, via Qualtrics or a similar tool.

Below you will find an example of a questionnaire about cardboard cans for household goods.

Udsnit af spørgeundersøgelse om papdåser


The following resources were used for this article:   

Årsberetninger fra Handelshøjskolen. (1940-1949) Find them in Libsearch 

Jacobsen, K., & Ravn Sørensen, A. (2017). CBS gennem 100 år. (1. udgave. 1. oplag.). Historika. Find it in Libsearch

Larsen, Knud (1943). Biblioteksorientering for Handelshøjskolens studerende. Einar Harcks Forlag.

Larsen, Knud (ed.) (1944). Hages haandbog for handel og industri. Bd. 1. G.E.C. Gads Forlag Find den i Libsearch

Lykkegaard, Anne Thora. (2017). Hidden refugees and one forbidden book, WIRE, Profile, 12. Juni 2017
Read the article here:

Frihedsmuseets Modstansdatabsse, Nationalmuseet,

Jakobsen, Frode (1975). I Danmarks Frihedsråd, Bd. 2.. Gyldendal. Find it in


You may also want to check out:
CBS Library celebrates 100 years (about the early days in the 1920s)
CBS Library in the 1930s
CBS Library in the 1940s 
CBS Library in the 1950s 
CBS Library in the 1960s 
CBS Library in the 1970s 
CBS Library in the 1980s 
CBS Library in the 1990s 
CBS Library in the noughties



Sidst opdateret: CBS Library // 19/01/2023