The Library of Congress (LC) sparked debate recently when it announced that it would no longer use the term illegal aliens as a subject heading. The library maintains that the phrase has become “pejorative,” a sentiment echoed by social justice projects such as Race Forward’s Drop the I-Word campaign. However, Republican lawmakers who introduced legislation to force the library to keep the term argue that the LC’s subject headings (LCSH) should be consistent with U.S. Code.
Thanks to the joint efforts of a student group and university librarians at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, with a push from the American Library Association (ALA), the Library of Congress (LC) announced on March 22 that it would remove the term “Illegal alien” from the LC Subject Heading (LCSH) system, replacing it with “Noncitizen” and, to describe the act of residing without authorization, “Unauthorized immigration.” Per LC’s executive summary, the proposed change will be posted on a “Tentative List” for comments “not earlier than May, 2016.” Ultimately the heading “Illegal aliens” will become a “former heading” reference, cross-referenced with the new terminology; other headings that include the phrase will also be revised or canceled. This decision currently stands despite recent backlash: members of the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to attach language to a funding bill which would require LC to switch back to the original term, but the bill is not yet law.
Update: The Library of Congress has posted a survey where the public can share their views on the proposed changes, and will accept comments through July 20.