Joseph Labadie, a prominent Detroit anarchist, donated his library to the University of Michigan in 1911. The Labadie Collection continues to collect anarchist materials, but has broadened its scope to include many other social protest groups and materials espousing political views of both the far right and the far left. Some of the areas of focus are socialism, communism, civil liberties, civil rights, feminism, sexual freedom, gay rights, student protest, the underground press, American labor history through the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War and the Industrial Workers of the World.
The Labadie Collection is housed in the 7th floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library and is part of the University Library System. Although a distinct entity, the Labadie Collection shares a reading room with Special Collections and there is some overlap in the stacks. There is also an exhibit room that can be used by either the Library or by outside groups. Most users are undergraduates doing research for classes. Access is somewhat limited due to the hours the Collection is open: Monday through Friday 10-5 and Saturday 10-12.
Although there is ample space provided for researchers and visitors, the lack of work space for employees is daunting. Within Special Collections there is one workroom shared by the Workroom Supervisor, Technical Library Assistant I, unit secretary and a student hourly. Beyond the workroom there are two offices which are shared between the Head of Special Collections, the Assistant Head, a Curator and an Archivist. The remaining staff members, who oversee the Labadie Collection, reside in the northeast corner of the seventh floor stacks. This area is shared by two full-time Curators, a part-time Serials Technician and three student hourlies.
The Assistant Curator, Julie Herrada, gave us a tour of the Collection. There are 10,000 books and 7,000 serials, 600 of which are currently received. There is a high demand for current periodicals and the students, who work a total of 25 hours a week, spend most of their time recieving and shelving the serials. Thanks to a title 2 C grant, most of the retrospective serials have been catalogued and can be found on MIRLYN. The monographs present more of a problem, as the Labadie does not do its own cataloging. Currently, all of the Labadie's cataloging is done in rm.100 of the Hatcher Graduate Library, which has resulted in a 5 to 8 year backlog. This is mainly do to the the fact the bulk of the collection requires original cataloging and special handling.
The biggest strength of the Collection is the large quantity of ephemera. There are 20,000 pamphlets, 15,000 of which can now be accessed through MIRLYN. Until last year, when the cataloged records were merged with MIRLYN, they were only available through a database called SPIRES. The resulting merger has added substantially to the Labadie's on-line holdings. However, nearly 50% of the overall collection still remains unavailable though MIRLYN. Further complicating the access problem has been The Hatcher Library's decision to remove the card catalog from public use. Because of this, much of the material in the Labadie must be located with the help of a staff member.
Some of the other ephemeral materials include 100 feet of vertical subject files, hundreds of photographs, about 500 posters, buttons, and several hundred records and tape recordings of speeches, songs, oral history and debate. There is a folder level finding aid for the vertical files and care has been taken to preserve the photographs and buttons as they wait to be catalogued. A map case was recently purchased and set up to house the posters. The posters are presently uncatalogued and there is some thought that an image database might be an appropriate way of providing access to these, in some cases, very large images.
There are 75 manuscript collections as well, with collecting strengths in anarchism and post-WWII social protest issues. The largest is the records of the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born. Manscripts are processed by a Processing Archivist. Most are included in the published guide, Manuscripts in the Labadie Collection. Much of the fragile material has been microfilmed, and thanks to a three year N.E.H. grant to film the HX's (Anarchism), nearly a hundred years worth of anarchist materials have been preserved. Unfortunately the reading room does not have a microfilm reader. Eventually these reels will be transferred to the Serials/Microfilm collection to improve access and regain (some) space. They are also available through Interlibrary Loan, as are some of the books. Some more infrequently used materials are now housed in offsite storage in the Buhr Building, a few blocks away.