May 22, 2022

ALA Welcomes Removal of Offensive ‘Illegal Aliens’ Subject Headings

UPDATED November 18, 2021: “Cruz, Braun Slam Library of Congress For Forgoing Term ‘Illegal Aliens’ To Suit ‘Progressive Preference'” (via The Hill)

“Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) criticized the Library of Congress for forgoing the terms “aliens” and “illegal aliens” in its subject headings, claiming it was caving to “progressive preference.”

The two Republican senators said in a letter addressed to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on Wednesday that “the LOC’s proposed replacement has nothing to do with Congress’s original instruction — that the LOC ‘consider appropriate sources of common terminology used to refer to a concept, including current statutory language and other legal reference sources; and other sources’ — and everything to do with a progressive preference to control language and take up arms on a ‘political battleground.’ ”

Read the Complete Article

—End Update—

From the Amereican Library Association:

The American Library Association (ALA) praised the Library of Congress’s decision to update the cataloging subject headings “Aliens” and “Illegal aliens.” The Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress, which maintains Library of Congress Subject Headings, announced the decision to replace the terms with new subject headings “Noncitizens” and “Illegal immigration” at its regularly scheduled meeting on November 12.

ALA President Patty Wong said, “We are pleased that the Library of Congress is replacing these subject headings, which are both outdated and dehumanizing. This update better reflects common terminology and respects library users and library workers from all backgrounds. It also reflects the core value of social justice for ALA members, who have been at the vanguard of this change for years.”


The Library of Congress Subject Headings are widely used in library catalogs to index the topics of library materials. The Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress routinely adds and updates the terms used as subject headings.

The revisions will appear on Special List 21-11B, to be issued imminently. Headings on existing bibliographic records in the Library of Congress’s catalog will be updated as expeditiously as possible after heading changes are approved.

See Also: Direct to Special Tentative Subject List 21-11b and Other Items (via SACO-List Archive)

See Also: Harvard Library Ends Use of Subject Heading ‘Illegal Alien (March 9, 2021)

See Also: “Words Matter’: Why the UC Berkeley Library is Embracing Another Term for “Illegal Aliens” (November 17, 2020)

See Also: ‘Change the Subject’: A Hard-Fought Battle Over Words (via Dartmouth News, April 22, 2019)

See Also: LC Originally First Announced They Would Cancel the Illegal Alien Subject Heading on March 25, 2016  & Library of Congress Releases Page For the Public to Comment on Proposed “Ilegal Aliens” Subject Heading Cancellation and Replacement (May 20, 2016)


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.