The Industrial Relations Library at Princeton University—a part of the Industrial Relations Section (IR Section) in Princeton’s Economics Department—has been awarded the 2023 John Sessions Memorial Award by the American Library Association’s Reference & User Services Association. The award is received just as IR Section faculty and staff celebrate 100 years since the founding of the IR Section in 1922.
The John Sessions Memorial Award, established in 1980 and sponsored by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, “recognizes a library or library system which has made a significant effort to work with the labor community and by doing so has brought recognition to the history and contribution of the labor movement to the development of the United States.”
In an announcement about this year’s award, the Association writes that “Princeton University’s Industrial Relations Library is commended for their work digitizing and providing access to the over 30,000 items in their collection.”
The announcement also highlighted an online exhibit of pamphlets on employment discrimination curated by Charissa Jefferson, Princeton’s Labor Economics Librarian, as well as last fall’s Future of the Labor Movement Conference.
“We applaud their work in bringing this rich heritage of the labor movement to a wider audience,” the announcement says.
This summer, the IR Section will mark its 100th anniversary at a two-day celebration of past and current work by IR Section members. Since the IR Section’s founding in 1922, research by IR Section faculty and staff has not only influenced policy at federal, state, and local levels, but set new standards for rigor through the development of new tools and methodologies.
However, it was the need for a specialized library dedicated to labor and industrial relations issues that inspired the labor relations expert Clarence Hicks and his boss John D. Rockefeller to help establish the IR Section in the first place.
A timeline of IR Section accomplishments, created to mark group’s 100th anniversary, describes the events that led to the Section’s establishment.
At a dinner with faculty hosted by Princeton President John G. Hibben, Hicks outlined his vision for the IR Section as a subdivision of the Department of Economics where students and faculty could build and maintain a unique library of data and information to inform their academic study of labor issues. Under Hicks’ proposal, this library of information would be available not only to faculty and students, but also labor leaders, business leaders, and anyone else who would want to access it. Rockefeller himself provided the funding for the Section’s first five years.