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 Stories for April 22, 1998

The Librarian is Always In at Industrial Relations
ALA’s Sessions Award Recognizes Outstanding Service to Labor Community

by Sunny Merik, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 22, 1998

Each year, a division of the American Library Association gives one John Sessions Memorial Award to a library or library system for outstanding service to the labor community.

This year the award went to Berkeley’s Institute of Industrial Relations Library.

Housed in Berkeley’s Institute of Industrial Relations on Channing Way, the library has for years “provided reference, training and new programs to the labor community,” said Carol Krismann, chair of the award committee. “One very impressive part of their outreach program is their web site (, which features full-text research reports, bibliographic and electronic guides and other resources. They receive more than 10,000 “hits” each week from users all over the world. This winner reflects the best in library/labor community interaction in its web site, reference work and programs.”

The only award of its kind in the nation, the John Sessions Memorial Award is presented by the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.

The award plaque is donated by the AFL-CIO.

Kirsten Snow Spalding, who chairs Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, and nominated the library for the award, said, “This award recognizes that our library, unlike any other, is reaching out, serving both the academic community and the labor community.”

The library holds all materials for Industrial Relations, such as literature on the status of work worldwide, major collections on human relations practices and theory, economics literature, as well as materials on labor relations and union bargaining, Spalding said. It also holds a unique collection on labor and employment law.

The web site makes available working papers developed by institute faculty, a complete listing of all Institute of Industrial Relations programs, and some labor journals.

Terence K. Huwe, library director since 1989, said, “When I arrived at Berkeley, two things were abundantly clear to me. First, our faculty needed new electronic services to support their research. Second, California labor had a huge, unmet need for professional library services.”

With an open-door policy, the Institute of Industrial Relations serves all types of clientele.

“It is not unusual for us to see patrons concerned with every major workplace trend,” Huwe said. “Students and faculty, downsized employees who want to know their rights, attorneys researching labor law, human resources administrators, and union representatives all pass through our doors and all get the same service.”

James R. Lincoln, the Institute of Industrial Relations’ director, said, “The University of California has three missions: teaching, research and community service. This institute was formed to support faculty research and serve the labor community. The library is very much part of that effort.”

The library serves faculty both on campus and off. For example, last summer when Harley Shaiken, professor of education, was abroad, the library came to his rescue. “I was traveling in Latin America when UPS went on strike. Suddenly, four U.S. television networks wanted commentary and analysis and I had no materials on hand,” he said. “I left a message with the Industrial Relations Library without much hope. But (the library) located me in Santiago, Chile, and faxed me everything I needed for TV interviews that same day. It was just amazing.”

David I. Levine, a professor at the Haas School of Business, concurred. “When I was on leave at the U.S. Department of Labor, I frequently called the library from Washington to get background information. You get spoiled by the service they offer.”

With the web site, the services of the library are not limited to working hours or geographic location.

“Last week, the library got a call from a student in Brazil,” said Spalding. “With the website, the library is reaching a worldwide community of workers. This is not happening anywhere else in the country. The activism of the library staff in extending the university’s services to the labor movement is both inspiring and invaluable.”

Obviously the American Library Association agrees.

The Sessions Memorial Award will be presented at the association’s annual conference June 29 in Washington, D.C. Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFLO-CIO, will be the awards ceremony speaker. More than 18,000 librarians are expected to attend the conference.

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