Through the Change the Subject project, Brooklyn Public Library and The New York Public Library, working with Book Ops, seeked to align their public catalogs with their values by identifying and replacing subject headings, including the terms “illegal aliens” and “aliens,” with the less biased terms “undocumented immigrants” and “noncitizens.”
Library of Congress authorities that generate these subject headings were replaced in the NYPL and BPL catalogs with new terminology from local authority records. A public-facing guide on the process will be shared with the profession at large.
A series of public events included screenings of the Change the Subject in order to raise awareness of the challenges inherent in the existing library classification systems and highlight the role library users can play in advocating for reforms.
A collections-based curriculum will be written around the project themes for use in the delivery of public library classes after the grant period.
A community engagement process led by THE CITY, an independent, NYC-based nonprofit newsroom, enabled the partners to better understand how library staff and patrons feel about classification language used in the library catalog.