Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Power – And Politics – of Words: The Library of Congress Changes the Subject Headings "Aliens" to "Noncitizens" and "Illegal Aliens" to "Illegal Immigration"

Screen shot of the article from Publishers Weekly,
"Library of Congress to Replace 'Aliens,' 'Illegal Aliens' Subject Headings"

Reported in this article by Andrew Albanese in Publishers Weekly, the subject heading change that will roll out to libraries all over the USA was announced earlier this month. The change away from calling people 'aliens' and then calling those same people 'illegal,' as Andrew writes,

“comes after a long-running advocacy campaign by a number of groups, including the library community—and a conservative political backlash against the effort.”

Turns out this change was agreed to by the Library of Congress back in 2016... Why the delay in making this change official? Back in  2016,

“...in an unprecedented action, a group of conservative members of Congress objected to the change, and went so far as to add a provision to an appropriations bill that would require the library to retain the terminology—the first time in LC's history, LC officials told reporters, that lawmakers had intervened in a routine cataloguing matter.”

Wow. It's nice to see this long-overdue change happen, and it also is a humbling reminder of the power of words to shape our (and others') views of the world. A reminder that we creators should choose the words we have control over with care. And it's also a reminder that librarians are awesome, and that change to make systems more just is possible.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

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