The PRA Library

The library and archive at Political Research Associates was established in 1982 with the assistance of librarians and academics in the Chicago area and the Midwest. It was designed to house literature from groups promoting forms of bigotry and oppression, including racism, sexism, homophobia, and antisemitism. It has since been expanded to include several other areas, including Islamophobia, Arabophobia, and anti-immigrant xenophobia. The collection serves as a safe space for researchers who might be reluctant to visit some of the organizations producing the literature. At the same time, it is also open to the public with no barriers based on political outlook or opinion—just an ability to maintain civility while in the library or archive.

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As the collection grew, we sought out the advice and assistance of librarians from the ALA Social Responsibilities Roundtable, including Sanford Berman, a specialist in alternative cataloging schemes then at the Hennepin County library in Minnesota; and James P. Danky, for many years the periodicals librarian at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

In 2005 as a major project, Library Science student Jonathan Rochkind conducted a review of our collection and suggested a number of major changes, including recataloging the entire collection in a way that would also create a useful finding aid for offsite researchers.

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The library reading room is comfortable and well-lit with a set of four work tables.

The collection contains over one half million items, including 5,000 books, 1,121 sample serials, 120 archived serials, and 480,000 documents on antidemocratic, authoritarian, and other oppressive movements and trends in the United States.

The file cabinets contain vertical files with direct mail appeals, clippings, pamphlets, and flyers.

In addition there are hundreds of videotapes and audiotapes with the equipment for viewing and listening by individuals or small study groups. Some of our serials run in full sets back to the early 1980s.

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As PRA strives to adhere to the rigorous standards of social science research, we use the library to inform and fact-check our own work. PRA staff regularly access the files to answer information inquiries, and visiting researchers hunt down important documentation which is often not available elsewhere.

Those we have hosted include community activists researching hate crimes; labor activists investigating anti-union campaigns; students looking into anti-democratic movements and trends; researchers and writers needing to fact-check and strengthen their work; and legal professionals preparing for civil rights and civil liberties cases.

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Photocopies can be made from the collection for a small fee that starts at ten cents per page and declines as the volume increases to five cents per page. PRA does insist that researchers observe the applicable copyright laws.

Political Research Associates is an independent, nonprofit, research center, based on progressive values, that serves as a national resource for information on antidemocratic, authoritarian, and other oppressive movements and trends.  PRA is committed to advancing an open, democratic, and pluralistic society by providing useful, accurate, and reliable research and analysis to activists, journalists, educators, policymakers, and the public at large.

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