The East Side Freedom Library was selected as the 2017 winner of the John Sessions Memorial Award. The award, sponsored by the Department for Professional Employees AFL-CIO, recognizes a library or library system which has made a significant effort to work with the labor community and by doing so has brought recognition to the history and contribution of the labor movement to the development of the United States.
The mission of the East Side Freedom Library is “to inspire solidarity, advocate for justice, and work toward equity for all.” As an independent library located in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., the ESFL has successfully built relationships with organized labor and community groups that facilitate the empowerment, learning, and engagement of working people.
Since the library was established in 2013, co-founders Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary have secured a permanent home in a former Carnegie Library, built a collection of 15,000 items, and hosted more than one hundred programs and 6,000 visitors.
Multiple letters from local and regional labor unions glowingly attest to the Library’s leadership in raising awareness of the centrality of workers, immigrants, and the labor movement to the past, present and future of the East Side, Twin Cities, and Minnesota, as well as being a “valuable resource and reliable ally,” “a place where diverse audiences assemble, hold conversations, and explore shared concerns,” “an important extension of the local labor movement,” and repeatedly, a “partner.”
The John Sessions Memorial Award committee includes: Aliqae Geraci (Chair), Hilary Meg Albert, and Phebe L. Dickson.
The East Side Freedom Library will be honored with a plaque at the RUSA Achievement Awards ceremony at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. The ceremony will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 25. All conference attendees are invited to the event. Additional event details will be available on the conference website in April.