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The Labour Studies Index is a searchable open-access index of recent publications in Canadian labour studies. It covers books, book chapters, journal articles, reviews, commissioned reports, and theses.

There is an evident need for open-access tools that index the growing literature deposited in institutional repositories, open-access journals, e-books, and other sources. This is particularly the case in multidisciplinary fields such as labour studies, where the Canadian perspective tends to be subsumed under the immense amount of material emanating from the US and other countries. Library collection budgets are also under enormous pressure due to the heavy cost of subscriptions to privately-produced electronic databases; this situation has been exacerbated recently by the weakness of the Canadian dollar. Thus, the Index parallels other initiatives to create low-cost alternatives for the discovery of the literature: a sustainable effort that is freely available to anyone on the web.


Until 2008, Michael Lonardo and Robert Sweeney published an annual bibliography in Labour/LeTravail. Lonardo also developed the Canadian Labour History Bibliography, 1976-2009, an online index published at Memorial University. Both the print and online bibliographies consist of historical studies from 1800 to 1975. The impetus for their work was Douglas Vaisey’s The Labour Companion (1980), a bibliography of materials printed from 1950 to 1975. Vaisey and Marcel Leduc also published an annual bibliography in Labour/Le Travail until 1984.

It is a sign of how much the landscape has shifted in recent years that the Lonardo-Sweeney bibliographies do not list the URLs of open-access publications. In fact, just this past year, the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications initiated the requirement that all peer-reviewed journal publications funded by one of the three federal granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC) to be freely available within 12 months.

The Labour Studies Index began as a pilot project in the fall of 2014 when Desmond Maley and Dan Scott, both of whom are librarians at Laurentian University, became interested in growing “the next generation” of Canadian labour studies’ bibliography. Maley is the liaison librarian for labour studies, while Scott is a systems librarian with expertise in the theory and applications of the semantic web. With the assistance of student researchers in the Laurentian Labour Studies program, the Index was compiled and launched at a presentation made by Maley and Scott at the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies conference in Ottawa in June 2015.[1]

Scope of the Index

Open access is a key criterion for what is included in the Index. The following three scholarly journals are indexed comprehensively: Labour/Le Travail (1976-, open access except for the current year), Just Labour. A Canadian Journal of Work and Society (2002-2014, open access), and Relations industrielles/Industrial Relations (1945- , open access since 1964 except for the current two years). Work has been completed on the first two journals, while the latter is still in the process of being indexed. Just Labour, published by York University’s Centre for Work and Society, appears to have been indexed previously only by Google Scholar.

All other publications or resources are indexed selectively with priority given to recency (i.e., since 2000). They include research (e.g., theses, dissertations) in institutional repositories, Canadian university presses (e.g., Athabasca), Canadian publishers (e.g., Fernwood), commercial academic publishers, commissioned reports (e.g., Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives), and reviews.

Tools and Process

The Index is compiled through the Zotero Group Library entitled Canadian Labour Studies Bibliography. Zotero is an open source, searchable, browser-based citation manager that downloads in snapshot style the details of items by clicking the Zotero button of the item or items. The Zotero community normally creates and maintains the site “translators” that capture the bibliographic details of items from a given website. Zotero is the standard tool for citation management and bibliography at many institutions, including Laurentian.

The Zotero platform is excellent both for individual and collaborative work. Indexers add and edit items in their individual libraries of citations, which they can then copy into the Group Library, where it can be further edited if necessary. The Zotero Group Library is also searchable, although it is slower and less comprehensive than the Labour Studies Index.

The Zotero abstract field is used by the indexing team not only for abstracts, but also for publisher descriptions of books. Even if there is already a publisher’s description or author’s abstract included in the item record, it is possible to add abstracts, comments or links to reviews using other Zotero fields. This illustrates the tool’s remarkable flexibility.

The bilingual (French and English) Labour Studies Index web site at is built on the data extracted from the Zotero group bibliography. The dedicated site currently offers users the ability to search citation text using a fast search engine that ranks results by relevancy, or to filter citations by author, publication title, publication type, or series title. Search results include links to open access versions of the indexed documents or to provide additional detail.

The Maley-Scott tandem is responsible for the indexing and software creation of the Labour Studies Index, as well as its ongoing maintenance and development. They also pay the hosting cost of $7.50 a month.

The Labour Studies Index is developed as ris2web, an open source project. The underlying code is available under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 3 and the data are available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. Making the code and data freely available enables similar bibliographic projects to build on and enhance this initial effort; it also provides a path for the continuation of the Index. Development of ris2web is ongoing and contributions of enhancements, such as improvements to the user experience, are welcome.

Future Directions

Who can contribute to the Index? The short answer is scholars from inside or outside of Canada whose research pertains to Canadian labour studies. This could include lists of books, articles, or other research, including works in repositories. Students may also contribute under faculty supervision. For example, a graduate seminar in bibliography could identify topical resources or index/abstract articles from a particular journal or journals.

The most straightforward way of becoming a contributor is to register with Zotero and then send a request to join the Zotero Group Library. Editorial oversight of the Index is the responsibility of the Laurentian team, which keeps a record of the community’s work. The team also uses the ris2web ticket system to track problems and suggest improvements to the Index software.

In conclusion, the creation of the Labour Studies Index is a promising development for bibliography in the 21st century. The principal long-term goal is to expand from the local community of indexers at Laurentian to a networked, national community of contributors for current and retrospective bibliography. A second commitment is to provide enhanced descriptions for materials that lack them, such as the writing of abstracts for book chapters and anthologies. If these goals can be achieved, the Index will be indispensable for researchers in the field.

Desmond Maley and Dan Scott
J.N. Desmarais Library
Laurentian University

[1] The contributions of Fiona McQuade-Crangle and Carley Whittle for 2014-15, and Tapanga Lecompte for 2015-16, who were (or are) upper-year labour studies’ students, as well as Dr. Reuben Roth, the work-placement program coordinator, are gratefully acknowledged.

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