The October Core e-Forum brought perspectives from a wide range of libraries, including public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries. Some belong to institutions that currently have active DEI committees and initiatives.
Potential benefits from library DEI efforts in cataloging and collection development include more satisfied users and increased library usage. DEI in the library may also encourage awareness in the community.
In the area of cataloging, much of the discussion focused on the issue of subject headings and how libraries can include headings that are reflective of the populations they serve. The example of the Dartmouth students’ appeal to have the Library of Congress subject heading changed from “illegal aliens” was referenced several times. Possible steps to improve terminology include using local subject headings or alternate terms. Some participants noted that using local subject headings requires a time and staffing commitment for documentation and maintenance. The Homosaurus was also mentioned. Adding keywords, summaries (especially in the author’s own voice), and content can also help patrons find material that reflects their identity. Bringing imported vendor eRecords up to local cataloging practices was seen as prohibitively time consuming.
Regarding collection development and weeding, participants had an active discussion on ways to improve DEI in the collection. Thoughtfully adding new items to achieve a balanced, inclusive collection was discussed. Particularly for fiction items, selectors can consider things like the presence of loaded words, illustrations or storylines that reinforce stereotypes, the author’s background, and several other factors. Reference was made to the “ALA’s Diverse Collections: An Interpretation of Library Bill of Rights” for guidance about collection development. Tools that can help with DEI analysis include CollectionHQ’s DEI report and iCurate’s inClusive. There may be a need to take DEI into consideration when weeding items as they may not circulate at the same rate.
When considering how to deal with biased and/or outdated literature, consideration of the historical value and recognition of foundational material was seen as important. Participants debated the merits of using notes to indicate outdated/biased/problematic material. Thoughts on this included concerns with how to word the note and reluctance to make evaluative statements about sources. Linking to reviews was also mentioned as a way to make patrons aware of content.
Inclusion through accessibility was addressed. The use of alternative languages, text equivalents, site structure, keyboard access, color contrast, and magnification were all mentioned as helpful features to incorporate. Participants referenced the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Possible alternative classification systems such as the C# (Customer Centered Classification) or The Glade system were mentioned as a way to increase accessibility and address DEI issues with Dewey.
Finally, we discussed the need to continue to learn from our fellow librarians, be aware of our own biases, and generally keep current on events that can impact our patrons and their information needs and relationship to the library.
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Johnson, M., & Forsythe, C. (2019). Disability and accessibility language in subject headings and social tags. Catalogue & Index, (197), 16-26. https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1345&context=fimspub
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W3C Web Accessibility Initiative. (2021, April). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/)
Diverse collections: An interpretation of the library bill of rights. (2006, July). American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/diversecollections
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Cataloging Ethics Steering Committee. (2021, January). A Code of Ethics for Catalogers. https://sites.google.com/view/cataloging-ethics/home [sites.google.com]
Ferris, A. M. (2018). Birth of a subject heading. Library Resources & Technical Services, 62(1), 16–27. https://journals.ala.org/index.php/lrts/article/view/6555/8738
George, K., Grant, E., Kellett, C., & Pettitt, K. (2021). A path for moving forward with local changes to the Library of Congress subject heading “illegal aliens.” Library Resources & Technical Services, 65(3), 84–95. https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/47142
Hobart, E. (2020). Antiracism in the catalog: An analysis of records. College & Research Libraries News, 81.8, 378. https://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/24596
Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms PDF Files. (2021, September). https://www.loc.gov/aba/publications/FreeLCDGT/freelcdgt.html
Smith-Yoshimura, K. (2019, October). Strategies for alternate subject headings and maintaining subject headings. Hanging Together. https://hangingtogether.org/?p=7591
Ros, A. (2019, March). The bias hiding in your library. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-bias-hiding-in-your-library-111951
-Jennifer Batson and Kelly Williams, e-Forum moderators
Core e-Forums are two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians and library professionals to discuss matters of interest on an email discussion list. These discussions are free of charge and available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to the email list.