January 26, 2022

Wrong & Silly: U.S. Congress Needs to Stay Out of Library of Congress Subject Headings

Note from infoDOCKET Founder/Editor, Gary Price:

infoDOCKET is primarily about sharing news and new resources with you. I try to keep commentary to a minimum here. Your time is precious. I do share my views regularly at presentations, on webinars, etc.

Today, I do want mention that news out of the U.S. Congress yesterday is troubling, wrong, and silly. If this sounds like the beginning of a long rant it is but again your time is precious so I’ll be brief.

Seven weeks ago we posted about a decision by the Library of Congress to cancel the subject heading illegal alien and begin using Noncitizens and Unauthorized Immigration. Details including LC’s rationale is available here.

This post is not about LC making this decision. That’s their view (more specifically, the view of LC’s Policy and Standards Division (PSD)) that was made with comments by some members of the library community including an ALA resolution.

The issue is that yesterday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted 25-24 to force LC to reverse their decision.

How LC will proceed is TBD.

From AP:

Appropriations Committee Democrats tried to defend the library’s move, which came in response to a petition from the American Library Association, to change the immigration-related search terms. They lost by a 25-24 vote.

Conservatives were angered by the library’s move and sought the provision, which was added to legislation funding House and Senate operations and congressional agencies like the library.

Give me a BIG BIG break. Having the U.S. Congress influence or make decisions on what subject headings to use or not to use is not only a waste of time but also a waste of resources.

I would be willing to bet those that those wanting to politicize LC Subject Headings have little or no idea about why they exist, what they do, how they are selected/modified, where they can be found. etc. Do these members of congress or their staff members use these headings when searching the LC OPAC?

Slippery Slope? Will Congress begin a review of all LC Subject Headings and ask for some of them to be changed for political reasons? I sure hope not. Let’s also hope that Congress doesn’t get involved with Library of Congress Classification (LCC).

The U.S. Congress should stay out of these decisions. My hope is that if (or must more likely when) Carla Hayden is named the next Librarian of Congress that she does all she can to make sure that LCSH should not become political footballs.

See Also: Recent Library of Congress Subject Heading Approved Lists, Tentative Lists

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.