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Researching Labor Unions at NYPL: Locating Specific Trade Unions

Starting Your Search

If you're looking for materials published by a specific union, it never hurts to do a simple keyword search in the Research Catalog. In some cases, especially if a union has a particularly unique name, you will find what you're looking for immediately. But in other cases, such as a national union with locals across the country having very similar names, such a search will be difficult. Do not assume that an unsuccessful keyword search means the Library does not hold any materials about your topic.

If you are looking for publications written by a union, the union will typically be listed as the author using the standardized format discussed below. If you simply search for a colloquial name, you will find only results with that exact name in the item's title or description, which does not necessarily reflect the extent of our holdings. For example, a search for “ILGWU” returns a number of books written about the ILGWU and only a few publications by the union. Searching for items with “International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union” as the author will return a more complete list of publications from that union.

Library of Congress Authorities

 Unions, like other entities, are assigned what is called a Library of Congress Authority Record. This is a standard form of its name that is used across research libraries to make it easier for researchers to find materials by or about a specific person or organization. The Library of Congress provides a tool to find these authority records, but searching for names that contain numbers can be problematic. The screenshot below shows an example of an unsuccessful search for “Local 1930,” the guild representing NYPL workers. In this case, I had selected the option to search by Subject. Although Local 1930 does in fact have its own subject heading, the system performed a hierarchical search and my desired result never appeared.

Screenshot showing a subject search for local 1930 afscme with 100 results, none of which are the correct record

In this successful example of a search, I selected the option to search by keyword. In this case, I found the local successfully. Now, when I go to the Research Catalog, I will search in the "author" field for "AFSCME. Local 1930 (New York, N.Y.)" and find materials published by Local 1930.


screenshot showing results of a keyword search, which returned only two relevant results

Ad in The Garment Worker urging readers to wear union-made clothes, accessed via HathiTrust.