Library of Congress Subject Headings and “Illegal Aliens”

The Library of Congress is the largest library on the planet and contains two copies of every single book published in the United States. In order to maintain the vast collection the library relies on a system of subject headings that allow users to more easily find information. Recently these subject headings have been called into question as the general public becomes more aware of offensive terms such as “illegal aliens.”

Subject headings use words and groups of words to make searching for resources more productive by using terms to describe a subject. The Library of Congress uses the number of words and the word order to group subject headings. In addition, there exists four main subdivisions known as topical, form, chronological, and geographic.

The use of subject headings has resulted in a controversial term of “illegal aliens.” The term has been commonly used in the past by the Library of Congress and government to define those that have entered the country in an unauthorized way without documentation. Recently people like Ms. Padilla have taken action and requested that the library alter the subject to a heading that does not take away from the hard work of undocumented people living inside the United States. Many other people of foreign decent living in the country and democratic lawmakers convinced the library to alter the name to something more favorable with the people.

The process of renaming the subject heading was pushed against by republican lawmakers aiming to hold true to the past. It is believed by these people that the library must uphold similar definitions of groups of people that the government has. The republicans within congress are fighting a very heated battle against immigration and believe that in changing the name it would make it much easier for more “illegal aliens” to enter the country.

The government's actions in overruling the library’s decision is almost unprecedented. The library has consistently changed the names of controversial and offensive categories to conform to societal norms. The lawmakers in congress have stopped the library’s progress in an effort to uphold a political agenda.

The Library of Congress must continue to maintain its subject headings through the use of modern terms and opinions. As time goes on the political correctness of ideas shifts along with what is viewed as offensive by society. The library can devote an entire branch to the organizational efforts of the library. Overall, the use of subject headings within the library system is crucial to the structure of information within, but the headings must be given with caution.

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