Library of Congress Subject Headings

The Library of Congress subject headings are used to catalog materials held at the Library of Congress. They use these subject headings to provide easy subject access to the material held in the library. The subject headings use things like genre/form headings, childrens headings, and validation strings for which authority records have been created. They can use things such as names and geographical locations and are added as needed to provide subdivisions and reference structure to the Library of Congress.

The term “illegal alien” has long been a subject of controversy and prevalent now more than ever due to the relevance of our current political situation and new presidential elect. As we saw through the New York Times article, this issue holds particular relevance to people of actual immigrant heritage who find the term offensive and derogatory. As Melissa Padilla puts it, people use this term to “criminalize choices our parents made in order to provide us with better lives, completely detracts from the brave choices and obstacles we overcame in order to survive.” Because of this, people like Ms. Padilla and other like minded people such as other Dartmouth students petitioned at the Coalition for Immigration Reform to remove the the term “illegal alien” from the Library of Congress subject headings. Those who oppose this change seem to be primarily republicans specifically senators from Texas and Alabama. They have been critical of the LIbrary of Congress for bowing to political pressure and public outcry. In addition, Republican senators said not using the term would be legally in accurate and therefore the LIbrary of Congress is legally required to use the term. In March of this year, the Library of Congress agreed with the reformist movement that the term “illegal alien” was a “prerogative” and would be replaced with the terms “noncitizen” and “unauthorized immigration.” Despite this decision, the House has added a provision that would keep terminology used in laws, such as “alien,” in the Library of Congress subject headings.

Personally I feel as the term “alien” is derogatory and has no place in legislation or the Library of Congress headlines. As Ms. Osterberg said there was no legislative opposition when words like “Negro” were removed subject headings. Using these as examples I see now reason why “alien” would be any different. It implies that these hard working immigrants, who are just trying there best to make a better life for their family, are somehow not classified as humans. When classifications like this are used against a whole group of people, it can make this type of discrimination seem ok. This is similar to that happened decades earlier about changing the subject headline of “retard.” As we progress as a society and a culture, so does our terminology. The word “alien” is long past ready to dismissed from our culture or at the very least, from our actual legislation.