A Path for Moving Forward with Local Changes to the Library of Congress Subject Heading “Illegal Aliens”

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University Libraries


Discovery, Subject analysis, Critical cataloging, Inclusive metadata


In 2014, the Library of Congress (LC) rejected a proposal to change headings in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) that refer to undocumented immigrants as “Illegal aliens.” Two years later, a Subject Analysis Committee (SAC) working group submitted recommendations regarding how and why LC should change the LCSH “Illegal aliens.” That same year, LC decided to cancel the “Illegal aliens” subject heading, which Congress subsequently sought to block. Congress eventually required LC “to make publicly available its process for changing or adding subject headings . . . [and use] a process to change or add subject headings that are clearly defined, transparent, and allows input from stakeholders including those in the congressional community.” In response, LC paused their plan to change “Illegal aliens.” In June 2019, a new SAC Working Group on Alternatives to LCSH “Illegal aliens” was convened to survey local institutions implementing changes to the subject heading and to chart a path for librarians to address the subject heading at the organizational level. At the 2020 ALA Annual Conference, the working group presented their report. This paper builds upon that report and details next steps both for the working group and library professionals who plan to implement changes at their own organizations.