Tell Congress that Cataloging and Politics Don’t Mix

From the ALA Washington Office:

“It’s not often that the House of Representatives’ ‘power of the purse’ is used to control — of all things — what subject headings the Library of Congress can use to classify materials, but that’s just what’s on the agenda when the House Appropriations Committee meets on May 17. As recently detailed in District Dispatch, it will be deciding whether to follow the lead of its Legislative Branch Subcommittee to, in effect, bar the Library from replacing ‘Aliens’ and ‘Illegal aliens’ with the more neutral and appropriate ‘Noncitizens’ and/or ‘Unauthorized immigration.'”

More here.

Yep.  The House Appropriations Committee appears prepared to force the Library of Congress to use in its subject headings, not the terms determined by expert professional judgment, but terms that fit the political and social agenda of the Republican majority.

In 2007, in a response to the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, I wrote in tribute to the staff of the Library of Congress “that these librarians–among the most knowledgeable and dedicated in our profession–have for most of the past six years been accountable to a Congress more deeply anti-intellectual perhaps, and more hostile to the public and nonprofit sectors and to open access to information, than any other in our history.”  What have the almost nine years since that summer shown us?  Apparently, among other things, that in politics nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse.

I don’t know what practical result it will have—we librarians and friends of libraries are hardly the natural constituency of those now driving the agenda in Congress—but the least we can do is speak up on behalf of intellectual integrity and the independence of our profession.  Let’s all take a few minutes to call or email.

The list of members of the Appropriations Committee

Tracking and contact links here.


Author: R.A. Stewart

Librarian, poet, sometime musician, father, grandfather, codger; as of November 9, 2016, second-class citizen of a banana republic.

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