U.S. Department of Labor (& Lit?) Marks a Centennial of Work in America

Putting a face on government information offers some delightful surprises! Thanks to National Public Radio Weekend Edition (which btw is supported in part with federal funds) I just learned about the United States Department of Labor’s commemoration of their Centennial year.    In March 1913 President William Howard Taft signed the legislation that established the DOL, Taft was on his way out and the establishment of DOL marked a triumph for the Progressive movement that was on the ascendancy with the election of Woodrow Wilson.

To celebrate its roots DOL might have created a massive bibliography of the countless books by and about the Department’s century of achievement.  Instead, in partnership with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, DOL launched an open-ended campaign to identify a list of Books that Shaped Work in America.

The intent of the project is to ignite a lively national conversation about the impact of books on American life – with an obvious emphasis on books related to work in America.   The promotional material from DOL notes that “it was the wide range of books with work as a central theme that really served to underscore the significant role published works have played in shaping American workers and workplaces.”

Like any good list builder, DOL primed the bibliographic pump.  They asked a cross-section of Americans – politicians, writers, bureaucrats and others – to think about the books that have shaped Americans’ attitudes towards labor.  There are the obvious – e.g. Barbara Ehrenreich’s  Nickle and Dimed, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged along with a host of less obvious titles that have captured the attention of readers.  And there are children’s books such as Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town and Doreen Cronin’s very funny Click, Clack, Moo-Cows That Type.

Carl Fillichio, who oversees the DOL project, avers that his pick is Moby Dick.  You can hear his rationale and his enthusiasm for the project in his interview with Jennifer Ludden on NPR’s Sunday Edition for December 29, 2013.

All of the responses, with photos and information about the readers and their choices are posted on the DOL website.

Better yet, the website invites all readers to name their own pick.   Join the conversation by posting your choice.  The very simple form is also on the website where readers will be advised that “of course, the list of Books that Shaped Work in America is, and always will be, a work in progress, since – like America itself – work is constantly changing and evolving.”

 

 

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