Off the Shelf: Learn about labor at the library

Kelley Minica, Library Staff

Have you been asking yourself lately what thousands of sign-carrying people are doing down at the Capitol? What’s all this talk about unions and collective bargaining? What, if anything, does it have to do with you? Whether it’s the topic for your next paper or you’d just like to be more informed, the Madison College Libraries are here to point you in the right (or left) direction.

To get a balanced perspective on the issue of collective bargaining and labor relations, start with our electronic databases Opposing Viewpoints and Points of View Reference Center. From the library’s home page click on the databases tab, and then the Browse databases A-Z link. In Opposing Viewpoints, type in “labor unions” to get a nice overview on the history of labor unions that can either be read or listened to. There are opposing viewpoint essays, popular and scholarly articles, statistics, and more. In Points of View Reference Center there’s an overview on labor unions with point (pro-union) and counterpoint (anti-union) arguments.

One of our librarians has put together an excellent labor history research guide. To get there, click on the Research tab, go the Research Guides, and scroll down to History: Labor History. You can also go directly to

Here you will find additional database sources, recommended web sites, and an extensive list of books in our catalog.

Do you want a Wisconsin perspective on the issue?  “Workers and Unions in Wisconsin: Labor History Anthology” by Darryl Holter and “WEAC : A History” by Dustin Beilke are just a few of the books in our collection. To view a complete list of the library’s Labor History Collection, do a keyword search in our catalog on labor history. For more books examining various aspects of the issue type in collective bargaining or labor relations. Many of the materials in our Labor History Collection were donated by the Madison Area Technical College Teacher’s Union Local 243 and the Part-time Teacher’s Union 6100.

Available at each of the Madison College libraries is a locally produced documentary, Madison Labor: Building a City. Other feature films about labor issues in our collection include “Salt of the Earth” (1954) about a group of Mexican-American miners in New Mexico, “Norma Rae” (with Best Actress Academy Award winner Sally Field) about a southern mill worker, and Matewan about a group of 1920’s West Virginian coal miners written and directed by John Sayles.

The library is more than just a place to study for classes. It’s a place where you can learn the history behind current events to help you form your own perspective.