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Wirtz Labor Library
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Library Background

The U.S. Department of Labor Library, established in 1917, is one of the oldest Cabinet-level libraries. The Library was created with the consolidation of the libraries of the former Children's Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Large segments of the Library’s collection, which document the history of labor, labor unions and the growth and development of the labor movement in a national and world context, are unique either in their nature and content or in the length and completeness of their coverage. The Library's role as an information repository and access point is central in supporting the day-to-day regulating, monitoring, and analytical work of the Department.

The Library's online catalog provides access to all materials that have been acquired by the Library since 1975, as well as access to selected pre-1975 items. All catalog records, however, have not been converted to electronic format and a card catalog still provides access to most holdings acquired prior to 1975.

The Library's journal collection, which is predominantly historic, is distinguished by a large collection of labor union newspapers and periodicals, numbering more than 3,000 titles. Labor union newspapers representing more than 60 national unions, some no longer in existence, date to the 1860s. More than 400 American trade unions are represented by their constitutions, proceedings, reports and journals. Foreign union publications are extensively represented as well.

On March 28, 2000, the Library was dedicated in honor of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz and his wife Mrs. Jane Wirtz to become the Wirtz Labor Library of the U.S. Department of Labor. In the same year, the Library was designated a Millennium Library by the White House Millennium Council in recognition of its unique historical holdings.

Special Collections

The James Taylor Collection

The James Taylor Collection comprises some of the Wirtz Labor Library's most valuable and historical materials. These materials are maintained under secure, limited-access, climate-controlled conditions in the Library's James Taylor Room because of their unique or historically significant nature, and/or their relatively frail physical condition. This collection is housed separately from the Main Library and is available for researchers by appointment only.

The James Taylor Room, which houses the James Taylor Collection, was dedicated on June 3, 1991, by then U.S. Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin, to the memory of the late James Taylor (1919 - 1991). Mr. Taylor was a 50-year employee of the U.S. Department of Labor, friend of the Library, and champion of preserving the history of labor.

Trade Union Periodicals

The Wirtz Labor Library provides access to an extensive collection of union periodicals, which are located in a separate section of the stacks in the Main Library. This valuable collection of trade union periodicals is divided into U.S. Unions and Foreign Unions representing both a wide variety of trades and a growing number of nationalities. The items in this collection are generally more current than the periodicals in the Folio Collection.

The Folio Collection

The Folio Collection consists primarily of trade union serials, both domestic and foreign, which date back in some cases to the early 1890s. The folios encompass a wide variety of items including newspapers, periodicals and statistical summaries that describe and depict the rise of the labor movement in this country and abroad. This collection of rare and valuable materials consists of some 750 titles.

Due to the fragile condition and importance of the material in the Folio Collection, it is housed separately from the Main Library and is available for researchers by appointment only.

The Portrait Collection

The U.S. Department of Labor showcases a unique collection of original paintings of former U.S. Secretaries of Labor that are located throughout the Wirtz Labor Library. The latest addition to this collection is a portrait of Alexis Herman, who served as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1997 to 2001. It is the custom to have the portrait painted after the Secretary leaves office.

Updated April 2005