Catherwood Library Takes on the Books that Shaped Work in America

The following post was co-authored by Aliqae Geraci, a Murphy Institute Labor Studies Masters Alum and now a research librarian at the Martin P. Catherwood Library, part of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University; and Jessica Withers, a library communications and development assistant. The articled was originally posted on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. 

As staff of Catherwood Library, one of the few dedicated labor relations libraries in U.S., we are always looking out for innovative ways to join and facilitate conversations about work and labor. As avid readers of the Labor Department’s blog and newsletter, we were thrilled to learn about the list of Books that Shaped Work in America − an initiative of the department and the Library of Congress Center for the Book − and knew immediately that we wanted to be part of the project. It was a moment for us to reiterate our commitment to collecting and preserving the literature and research of labor and the workplace. Our main reading room display was the perfect setting to showcase many books on the list during the spring 2014 semester. Jessica Withers designed the display, creating placards echoing the design of the Books that Shaped Work in America initiative and pulling content from our collection of over 200,000 items. Catherwood owns about half the 100 titles originally selected for the list, and many more are scattered across the numerous libraries at Cornell University. We were able to show the depth and breadth of Catherwood holdings, including a 1974 first edition of Studs Terkel’s “Working” and the graphic adaptation illustrated by Harvey Pekar.

To facilitate dialogue about and celebrate the impact of the literature of work on our daily lives and workplaces, we promoted the initiative through library and school Listservs, social media outlets and the Cornell Chronicle. And it worked: the display proved a focal point of interest and discussion during tours for visiting scholars and speakers, and garnered faculty and student compliments. We were touched by how people really wanted to look at the books, and how many expressed appreciation that they were held and valued by Catherwood. The faculty, staff and students of the ILR School show tremendous care and concern for the historical record of labor and are keen on ensuring that Catherwood anticipates and documents the labor movements and work experiences of America. As the spring semester comes to a close, we will be changing out the display case, but we will be watching for future opportunities to coordinate with Labor Department initiatives. Through our broad and varied collections and services, Catherwood Library continues to advance the world of work for the researchers and practitioners of today and tomorrow.