Tag Archives: Labor History

Lively mix of issues and media at ESFL this month!

The East Side Freedom Library (www.eastsidefreeodmlibrary.org) continues to explode with creative ideas, provocative programs, and an open door to all who wish to share the energy that fuels this amazing community resource. Here’s what’s up in the weeks to come:

  • Wednesday, October 5, 7:00 p.m. Free and open — Deregulating Desire: Flight attendant activism, family politics, and workplace . Author and former flight attendant and union activist Ryan Murphy will discuss his book by this title. Held at the ESFL 1105 Greenbrier Street in St. Paul.
  • Friday, October 7, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Screening and Discussion of What Happened Miss Simone? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4284010/mediaviewer/rm346220288) The evening, is co-hosted with A Greener Read Used Bookstore. (http://www.agreenerread.com.  Festivities  begin at 5:00 p.m. at the bookstore (506 Kenny Road) with viewing and discussion of the documentary. This will be followed by discussion of Come Back Africa (https://comebackafrica.com) at 7:00 at the ESFL, 1105 Greenbrier Street.
  • Friday & Saturday, October 15-16, it’s a “political graphics workshop” featuring Design and Screenprint from the Living Proof Print Collective. (https://wehavelivingproof.com) Presenters are Aaron Johnson-Ortiz and Aaron Rosenblum. Attend one day or both – it’s free but take time to register at http://goo.gl/forms/NXeFeJVBV7tqewlf2
  • If you actually survive Election Day 2016 you‘ll need to pause and reflect on it all by taking in a series of post-election talks on “Turbulent Times in the Race for the Presidency: An Historical Overview.” The series will explore the issues that have “driven political energies in the past two years – and in the more distant past. Presentations are set for Tuesdays in November (the 15th, 22nd, and 29th) 12:30 p.m. at the Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Avenue North. The series features presentations by Peter Rachleff, History Professor Emeritus at Macalester and founding Co-ED of the East Side Freedom Library.   The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is co-sponsor of the series.

Questions? info@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org or 651 230 3294.


East Side Freedom Library Gives New Life to Carnegie Library & St. Paul Neighborhood

NOTE: Librarian has-been that I am, I regret to admit that I had not followed the creation of the East Side Freedom Library with the attention it richly deserves. Perennial information-sharer that I hope to remain, my intent here is to share some of the story of this community work-in-progress. ESFL thrives as a living legacy that breathes life into the stories of a neighborhood always in flux and of the people who have long shaped — and continue to enhance — this vibrant community.

Browsing a Friends of the Library book sale a few years ago, I picked up a copy of Twelve Branches: A collection of stories gathered from the dozen branches of the St. Paul Public Library published several years ago Friends of SPPL. I was reminded of that little tome when I learned recently of the reincarnation of the Arlington Hills Library on St. Paul’s East Side. It made me think about the subtle presence – the stories, experiences, spirit of a neighborhood that lingers within a library building. The stories survive, even when the bricks and mortar structure that once thrived as a public library is deemed a Digital Age Dinosaur.

The venerable Arlington Hills Branch was a Carnegie Library, constructed in 1918, located to serve the ever-changing flow of immigrant workers who continue to settle – and stay – on St. Paul’s East Side. Library patrons have always been new Americans.   Once they were-Post World War I immigrants from Europe, the immigrants who built the churches and schools, worked on the railroad, and labored in the industries that thrived on the East Side “back in the day. Today’s residents are a mix of immigrant newcomers from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Central America, poor people seeking jobs and a place to rear their families. (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/building/st-pauls-east-side/)

Once abandoned, the stately Arlington Hills Library building has risen Phoenix-like to preserve and share the stories of the neighbors and the neighborhood – stories that echo in the once-lonely structure while they reflect the ever-evolving vitality of the community.

The Carnegie building now houses the East Side Freedom Library, once a dream, now a reality. ESFL reflects the vision of labor historian Peter Rachleff, his wife theater artist Beth Cleary, and a host of determined colleagues including Macalester and East Side residents.

Readily evident in the library’s fledgling collection are the stories of organized labor, much culled from the personal collection of founder Rachleff. There’s more, however, including selection by and about African American History, especially works by and about W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP, and a mix of fiction and non-fiction that capture the lives of working people, stories of the East Side community. Soon to find their place on ESFL shelves are the Hmong Archives (http://hmongarchives.org), a collection of books and materials that capture the history and lives of the East Side’s more recent residents.

The ESFL also boasts a robust agenda of public programming that draws neighbors to the emerging community gathering place. Rachleff estimates that ESFL hosts public events six days a week. Neighbors gather to explore ideas ranging from this week’s discussion of the papal encyclicals of Pope Francis (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/conversation-on-the-papal-encyclical-on-climate-crisis-july-29/) to next week’s documentary on Minnesota’s best known architectural feature (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/who-built-our-capitol/)

The impressive story of the resurrection and evolution of the library building is told by those far better informed and more articulate than this blogger. My intent is to highlight – and link to – the stories that others have recorded, just in case the reader has somehow missed (as I did) this bit of history unfolding in our own time.

  • The first link is to the East Side Free Library’s impressive website which shares the stories of the library’s evolution and of the East Side community itself.   (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org



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.”