Library of Congress Subject Headings and “Illegal Aliens”

The Congress Subject headings(LCSH) comprise a thesaurus (in the information science sense, a controlled vocabulary) of subject headings, maintained by the United States Library of Congress, for use in bibliographic records. Librarians could use it to 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 catalogue that pertain to similar subject matter. Terms like “illegal aliens” and “aliens” have been used for several years, and in March, 2016, the library at the Dartmouth College agreed to get rid of these terms and has said it will replace the terms with “non-citizens” and “unauthorized immigration,” setting a precedent that may be followed by other libraries on a global scale. However, the stakeholders, conservative lawmakers who accuse the library of abandoning the letter of the law to pander to immigrant rights’ advocates opposed the decision claiming that “the library has bowed to the political pressure of the moment.” I think that government should not have overruled the subject-heading decisions made by the Library of Congress through legislation because this was the first time Congress has intervened with the routine relabeling, which the library does every year to keep thousands of catalogs current, and the terms themselves are controversial and fail to treat people not from America as human. There are many pejorative and controversial subject headings such as subject headings related to Nazis or terms like “Afro-American”. I think in order to remove offensive and pejorative subject headings and prevent new ones from being created, the LCSH administrators should have a stricter policy of not changing terms for a subject category and supervise the appearance of those terms so that administrators could respond quickly.

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