Labor Studies and Radical History

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LaborTech 2001

Dec. 7-9, 2001

Web Research and Organizing Panel



I. Introduction 

Shannon Sheppard, MLIS
Director, Holt Labor Library

  • MLIS, from San Jose State University
  • BA in American Studies from San Francisco State University
  • AS in Registered Nursing from College of Marin
  • Library Director at Holt Labor Library since Feb. 1997
  • Background in social activism & labor (CLUW, OPE 3)
  • Most recently: organizing support for the Marriott workers amongst librarians attending the American Library Association conference in San Francisco (June 2001).


II. Historical Context

Radicals (socialists, communists, anarchists) historically have played a major role in labor movement

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) - founded by socialists and trade unionists:

  • Big Bill Haywood (Western Federation of Miners)
  • Eugene V. Debs (Socialist Party)
  • Mother Jones
  • Daniel DeLeon (Socialist Labor Party)
  • Lucy Parsons (widow of Haymarket martyr)

Major strikes of 1934 that led to formation of CIO - radicals played decisive role in providing leadership:

  • Toledo Auto-lite Strike - decisive involvement of Unemployed League led by A.J. Muste (Conference for Progressive Labor Action - later the Americal Workers Party)
  • Minneapolis Teamster Strike - led by Farrell Dobbs and the leadership of the Trotskyist, Socialist Workers Party
  • San Francisco Longshore and General Strike - Communist Party-USA played leading role


III. Establishment of Holt Labor Library

Founded in 1992 on the New College of California, 50 Fell St., campus

Cooperative effort between members of the New College of California community and Rod Holt, though library is not affiliated with the college.

Library is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization - contributions to the library are tax deductible

"Special Library" - as distinguished from an Academic Library or Public Library

Rod Holt's background:

  • long time social activist
  • active in Free Speech Movement at Ohio State University in the late 1950s
  • became a socialist with advent of Cuban Revolution
  • electronics engineer by profession
  • joined with Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak in development of Apple II - Chief Engineer & VP of Engineering - left in mid 1980s
  • founder, driving force, and primary funder of the Holt Labor Library


IV. Collection

  • Much of it donated. Do have a modest collection development budget.
  • 6,000+ books & pamphlets - large percentage are out-of-print & many are very rare
  • Majority of collection: labor & socialist history (esp. Trotskyism)
  • Recent donation of books & audio-tapes on labor law from David Previant estate (He was chief labor counsel for International Brotherhood of Teamsters)
  • 90 current subscriptions to labor and left periodicals (newspapers, journals, magazines)
  • Microfilm includes complete run of the International Herald Tribune back to 1900, complete run of The Militant
  • 80 audio-tapes - very rare - mostly classes, speeches
  • 300 videos - movies & documentaries
  • Pamphlet files - pamphlets, flyers, programs, etc.
  • Scrapbooks & archives of Fair Play for Cuba, Anti-Vietnam War (What does this have to do with labor? Dig through & find individual & union endorsements, etc.)
  • Historic socialist newspapers
  • Political documents from Socialist Workers Party, and other socialist political organizations

Don't Have:

  • Official union archives
  • Online proprietary databases (InfoTrac, EBSCO, Dow Jones Interactive, Lexis-Nexis)
  • Online resources from mainstream labor.


V. Holt Labor Library Current Internet Efforts

Goal: Virtual Reference to provide information when library closed and to people outside San Francisco Bay Area

See ourselves as becoming a portal for Internet resources of value to those researching labor and radical history

All sites selected and evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Authority
  • Currency
  • Accuracy (or bias)
  • Commercialism
  • Purpose
  • Scope

Web Pages - 8 Parts:

 Email Reference:

  • students of all ages
  • scholars from all over the world
  • faculty from middle schools to universities
  • activists
  • union members
  • those trying to organize

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The Holt Labor Library provides these links for your convenience. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, the Holt Labor Library makes no guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of the information on these sites, and is not liable for any inaccuracy, error, or omission, regardless of cause.
 Pages created by Shannon Sheppard, MLIS