two people looking at a computer
February 24, 2022

Tina Gross, NDSU Libraries Metadata and Cataloging Librarian, recently wrote “Search Terms Up for Debate: The Politics and Purpose of Library Subject Headings” for Perspectives on History, the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association.

In July of 2020, the editor of Perspectives on History emailed Tina to ask her if she'd be willing to write "a short article for online publication about subject headings, librarianship, and the push to change them" because someone that they knew had recommended her based on her participation in the documentary film Change the Subject. Tina states, "I honestly would never have thought of writing anything for a publication outside of my field like this, but I’m very glad that they asked me." 

The American Historical Association (AHA) communicated to Tina: "As you can imagine, the AHA has been following the push to remove all kinds of commemoration of the Confederacy and white supremacy-- statues, names of Army bases, logos, etc.-- with great interest. We're planning a series of short online articles about this movement and we'd like to include a piece from a librarian or archivist working to change biased or exclusionary LoC (Library of Congress) subject headings."

Tina worked on it off and on, and the process became long. A different person took over as editor, and at some point, they decided that they wanted it for the print magazine as well as online (which Tina notes was a great thing as it allowed for a word count increase).

Tina explains in the article how Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are used and developed, and how we can continue to help improve the words and phrases used to specify the topics of library resources. She writes, "For the last century, librarians have worked to make LCSH more inclusive and accurate by replacing offensive or racist terms with language that more fully reflects the identities and experiences of diverse populations...By working to improve LCSH, librarians, historians, and advocates strive to make it possible for all library users to have a positive, productive experience."

Please join us in extending a well-deserved congratulations to Tina. We are inspired by her enthusiasm in this work as well as her work at NDSU Libraries as she makes resources accessible through the online catalog and other search tools, while continuously improving and enhancing access to our users.

This story was also featured in NDSU News.