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Rutgers' library puts thousands of NJ labor contracts online

In an initiative to help people find and use information on labor-related issues, the Rutgers' James B. Carey Library recently completed a multi-year project to digitize thousands of public sector collective bargaining agreements in New Jersey. The agreements between towns, counties, school boards, and labor unions representing police, firefighters, teachers, maintenance workers, and bookkeepers over the past four decades were previously stored as paper copies in rows of filing cabinets in the library.

The library, housed in the Labor Education Center on Rutgers' Douglass Campus, understood that its public service mission would be better served by making these records broadly accessible and began working with the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) in 2006 to digitize these contracts and place them online, on PERC's website: www.state.nj.us/perc.

PERC is a state administrative agency charged with administering the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act. The agency deals with labor relations issues involving public employers, public employees, and unions that represent public employees.

The digitization project was initiated by former library director Constance Finlay and then PERC general counsel Ira Mintz. The project was advanced by Donna L. Schulman, the librarian of the James B. Carey Library. Library Associate Eugene McElroy, working with part-time graduate assistant Marina Malysheva, labored over five years to carefully scan 7356 contracts and create digital files with accompanying records that make the contracts easily searchable on the PERC website.

This project serves not only public interest but also the real-time interests of labor unions and the schools and governing bodies that negotiate with them. Previously, if someone negotiating a contract sought perspective from other contracts, they would need to either visit PERC or the Carey Library or request a fax of a copy that had to be pulled from the files - a time consuming process that was dependent on staff time and resources. Now, negotiators can consult the conditions of other contracts by simply clicking links on the PERC website.

"We applaud the Rutgers' James B Carey Library for undertaking an ambitious public service in digitizing hundreds of public sector labor agreements to assist municipal governments in preparing for labor negotiations." said Bill Dressel, Executive Director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. "This was an awesome undertaking that will go a long way in helping officials do a better job in managing their labor costs and we are pleased to inform our members of this useful resource."

For more information on the digitization project, please contact Donna Schulman at dlschulman@work.rutgers.edu or by phone at 732/932-9608.

Donna Schulman, librarian of the James B. Carey Library, standing, looks on as Library Associate Eugene McElroy scans the last public sector labor contract in the digitization project on June 2nd.




Posted July 5, 2011