Spring Term 2020 Blog Post #2

Blog 2 due: Response to video “Change the Subject”

The “Change the Subject” documentary, in short, focuses on a group of students from Dartmouth that are trying to change the subject heading that appears in the library catalog as “illegal aliens” to “undocumented immigrants.” The librarians at that college agree that there should be a change in the subject heading and try to help out the students by sending a request to revise the Library of Congress subject heading to “undocumented immigrants.” What should have been an easy process, is then politicized and it gets the attention of many different politicians thus making it a controversial topic of whether or not the subject heading should be changed.

I find this documentary interesting because (from an article that I read during fall term) we see how subject headings are in fact biased and can lead to harmful associations and stereotypes of people. This is not only seen when searching up books, but also when searching up scholarly articles and such. This would be because at the end of the day it is people who are both cataloging books and coding the search engines that we use to look up items on. I also agree with the documentary that there needs to be a change of subject heading from “illegal aliens” to “undocumented immigrants” because it is denigrating to the Latin American population here in the US. Although, there are undocumented immigrants coming from all over the world when someone uses the term “illegal aliens” they associate it with the Mexican population living in the US.  Following this, people associate any Latin American with being either Mexican or foreign-born. Because of this, the dangers of generalization increases and thus creates a division between people. So, I believe that changing the subject heading to a less negative connotative word could ultimately decrease the negative stigma that people have towards people of color here in the US.

I first saw this documentary in the Minitext Symposium during Fall Term and was happy to watch it again. It made me capture more details that I feel that I missed the first time that I watched it. I also appreciated all of the support that the librarians in this documentary seemed to show towards librarians across the US and with the Dartmouth students. It makes me excited to go into a profession that seems so supportive of not only their coworkers but also of their patrons.



One thought on “Spring Term 2020 Blog Post #2

  1. Hi Valerie-

    Wow, this sounds like a very interesting video. I have been meaning to watch it, and plan on assigning it to our new reference interns next fall. Thank you for your feedback on the topic!


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