Library of Congress Changes Illegal Aliens Subject Heading

ALA welcomes removal of offensive terms

November 12, 2021

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In a November 12 statement, the American Library Association praised news that the Library of Congress agreed to change two controversial subject headings. The full statement follows:

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 Patricia “Patty” M. Wong said: “We are pleased that the Library of Congress is replacing these subject headings, which are both outdated and dehumanizing.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.


Text graphic showing possible changes to Library of Congress Subject Headings, such as "undocumented immigrant" for "illegal alien."

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