Library of Congress Subject Headings and “Illegal Aliens”

Original Article Here

The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) comprise a thesaurus of subject headings maintained by the United States Library of Congress for use in bibliographic records. LC Subject Headings are an integral part of bibliographic control, which is the function by which libraries collect, organize and disseminate documents. LCSHs are applied to every item within a library’s collection, and facilitate a user’s access to items in the catalog that pertain to similar subject matter. Now regarding the subject heading “illegal alien.” People like Melissa Padilla and other immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, are on one side of the argument while lawmakers and conservative politicians are on the other. Padilla argues that no human is illegal and the subject heading is degrading to her identity. She would like to see the term be replaced with something like non citizens or something more humane. On the other hand, conservatives who are trying to enforce illegal immigration do not see the need to change the term and since it is already lawfully established, the library must uphold the laws and accuracy. While it makes sense for the library to parallel government policy, I believe that the library also has the the right to make alterations appropriate to the time period. As mentioned earlier in the article, they have already replaced terms such as negro and retard without restrain so why not alien. Maybe there isn’t enough support to change it or maybe there is enough support to uphold it. Either way it is clear that there is currently a divide between government and it’s people, alien or not. In the future, the Library of Congress might consider providing substitute headings or legitimate complaint methods but in the end, without people like Melissa Padilla the progressive movement would not exist.

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