Charissa Jefferson and Industrial Relations Section receive ALA Award

Charissa Jefferson installs exhibition items in a case in the IR Section at Princeton University

Charissa Jefferson installs exhibition items in a case in the IR Section at Princeton University. Photo credit: Brandon Johnson

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. 

Princeton University Library’s (PUL) Labor Economics Librarian Charissa Jefferson also serves as liaison to the Industrial Relations Section. Her work, particularly the online exhibit of pamphlets on employment discrimination she curated, which is part of an effort to revitalize a long dormant collection, was recognized as part of the award received last month.


What does it mean for the IR Library, and particularly your employment pamphlet exhibition, to have been highlighted with this award?  

It is my hope that receipt of this award leads to an increase of the awareness and discoverability of the collection throughout the labor community and this inspires companionship among parallel collections in labor studies. Princeton’s collection is the oldest labor collection in an academic library, albeit not the largest. The collection is rich in policy and political history and its contents would complement information from other labor archival collections. For scholars of labor history, seeing the changes in policies can be difficult to visualize clearly without seeing the full arch of the story as in the exhibition on pamphlets about discrimination in employment.

Seeing a span of a 25-years on the history of fair employment practices between the end of World War II and the Civil Rights Act is a visceral mechanism of reflection on what policies and efforts were tried and sometimes achieved by unions, government agencies, and associations. Each record’s context gives researchers more information and together tells us a story of our human experience as working people. The Industrial Relations Library’s collection is just waiting for more of those stories about policies and labor practices in the U.S. to be told!

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge in receiving this award? 

I would like to acknowledge the previous work by Library staff who have proceeded my work by procuring, organizing, and cataloging the records of this collection I have inherited. I believe that access has always been at the core of their philosophy. I’m grateful to be able to be a part of the ongoing efforts for stewardship. I wish to thank Adrianna Taraboletti for her assistance in this work. I also want to thank my colleague Bobray Bordelon for his nomination as well as economics professors Leah Boustan and Hank Farber for their support by attesting to the impact of this work in the labor community and to the legacy of the Industrial Relations Section.

Do you have any upcoming programming or resources you’d like to highlight for the coming year?  

To coincide with the celebration of the Industrial Relations Section’s centennial celebration, we are initiating this project with the first 100 boxes, which I have identified that may be of interest to many researchers. We will be releasing the digitized material on a new DPUL site for the Industrial Relations Library in which individual records will be fully searchable. I will also continue to curate engaging exhibitions which showcase the unique stories this collection holds that inspire all who have the opportunity to interact with the materials. I already have two more in mind and can’t wait to share them with everybody. Finding and telling the story that the records are showing me is a big highlight of my job as a curator, librarian, and steward of this amazing collection!

Published on April 10, 2023

Related: Charissa Jefferson, Labor Economics Librarian: Q&A

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications