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Tackling Racism and Bias in the Library Catalog

Thursday, December 16, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Register for this one-hour webinar.

The Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) “illegal aliens” is viewed as insulting and biased by many immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. Although LCSH recently updated the terminology to “noncitizens” and “illegal immigration,” many library professionals and social justice advocates consider the retention of the term “illegal” as hugely problematic. Brooklyn (NY) Public Library (BPL) and The New York Public Library (NYPL) have joined forces to replace and maintain less offensive terminology within both systems’ catalogs.

In partnership with BookOps (the NYPL and BPL shared technical services collaboration), over sixty-five variations of this terminology were identified and replaced in thousands of catalog records. The team launched a series of public programs and community engagement sessions to connect with users about the harm caused by problematic classification language, furthering their commitment to learning how libraries may continue addressing racist and biased terminology in classifying their respective collections.

In this webinar, staff from BPL, NYPL, and BookOps will share resources for libraries looking to make and maintain local revisions to subject headings. Learn technical procedures and guidance, tips for organizing internally (including getting buy-in from leadership), and how to engage patrons and other stakeholders around these changes, regardless of the size and shape of your library.

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Recognize the ways in which systemic racism and bias are hidden within library catalog records and metadata;
  • Understand the opportunities and limitations in addressing problematic language in the catalog;
  • Leverage procedures, processes, and other resources appropriate for all libraries; and
  • Design community engagement and public programming around the use of catalog language.



Thursday, December 16, 2021
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
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Tackling Racism and Bias in the Library Catalog