Library preserves at-risk worker center websites

Cornell University Library has created an online collection of the websites of worker centers – the latest library effort to collect internet sites with scholarly significance before they disappear from the open web.

Worker centers – nonprofit and community-based organizations that often support and advocate for immigrant or low-wage workers – are rising in importance in the United States as the number of workers covered by traditional collective bargaining declines, said Suzanne Cohen, collection development coordinator for the Martin P. Catherwood Library.

But these centers are often unpredictably funded; they and their websites can come and go.

“Worker center websites serve as important communication tools and few print archives for these organizations exist,” Cohen said. “These websites are disappearing as we speak.”

Information and conversations about important topics frequently exist only online, where they can easily disappear. Without preservation, rich primary sources may be permanently lost. Since 2011, when the library began selecting websites, 70 million pages have been collected, encompassing 5 terabytes of data.

Other thematic web collection efforts by the library include New York climate change science websites and the New York state hydraulic fracturing debate. Cornell is also participating in the Ivy Plus Libraries Web Resources Collection Program – a partnership among 11 leading academic research libraries – to provide long-term access to thematic collections of at-risk web content, such as the Contemporary Composers Web Archive.

Faculty who are interested in working with library staff to develop a web collection on a specific topic may contact

- Melanie Lefkowitz

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson