Immigrants, Aliens, and the Library of Congress

March 4, 2016 -- The American Library Association (ALA) recently passed a resolution urging the United States Library of Congress to change the subject heading "Illegal aliens" to "Undocumented immigrants." The Library of Congress manages a list of subject headings (LCSH) that is widely used by academic libraries in the United States and around the world to describe the subject content of books and other materials.

This resolution was the outcome of student and librarian initiatives to push the Library to remove language seen as dehumanizing and pejorative from LCSH. HAPI uses a modified version of this subject heading scheme as the basis for our list of subject headings. While we generally defer to the LCSH terminology, in this case we use "Undocumented immigrants" rather than "Illegal aliens." HAPI strongly supports these efforts to update LCSH, a system so central to information access in libraries.

Two librarians (and HAPI indexers) who have been involved with these efforts have written a brief background piece: Petition to change LC subject heading from "Illegal Aliens" to "Undocumented Immigrants". This piece also includes a link to the ALA resolution.