The Labadie Collection was established in 1911 when Joseph Labadie, a prominent Detroit anarchist, donated his library to the University of Michigan. Although the Collection was originally concerned mainly with anarchist materials (the field in which it remains strongest), its scope was later widened considerably to include a great variety of social protest literature together with political views from both the extreme left and the extreme right. Materials are now collected from all parts of the world. In addition to anarchism, the Collection's strengths include: civil liberties (with an emphases on racial minorities), socialism, communism, colonialism and imperialism, American labor history through the 1930s, the IWW, the Spanish Civil War, s-xual freedom, women's liberation, gay liberation, the underground press, and student protest.

Although the Labadie Collection contains 35,000 books and 8,000 periodicals (including nearly 800 currently received titles), it is justly famous for its ephemera. There are nearly 6,000 subject vertical files, consisting principally of brochures, leaflets, clippings, and reprints. Seven hundred posters illustrate aspects of protest, a number of which were used in 1995 for the online exhibit, Anarchist Images: Posters from the Labadie Collection. A like number of photographs may be found in the collection, for the most part consisting of portraits of people prominent in the anarchist movement. In 1999, under the auspices of the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service, this rich collection of photographs was digitized and mounted on the web. They may be viewed via a link on the Labadie Collection's main page.

Edward Weber, the long time curator of the Labadie Collection, died in April of 2006.