Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This book chapter reviews the various stages of response to the “Illegal aliens” subject heading change, including the initial advocacy within both the undocumented student community and the library community, the Library of Congress’s announcement that it would enact the change, the subsequent backlash among conservative politicians and media, and the resulting inaction on the part of the Library of Congress. Whereas the library profession seized the mantle of activism in reaction to the Patriot Act, the response to the Library of Congress’ inaction has been lukewarm at best. As two of the librarians involved in the initial and ongoing effort to push for this subject heading change, we puzzle over what this lack of response to an unsatisfactory resolution reveals about the profession’s ability to uphold the core values and code of ethics framed by the American Library Association. By allowing that subject heading to persist, how can we see ourselves as perpetrating anything but a hostile environment? This chapter will probe what a lack of response, or audible silence, communicates: a profession complicit in xenophobia and nativism.

Original Citation

Baron, Jill E., and Tina Gross. "Sorrow, Fury, Helplessness, and Cynicism: An Account of the Library of Congress Subject Heading "Illegal aliens."" Borders and Belonging: Critical Examinations of Library Approaches toward Immigrants, edited by Ana Ndumu. Sacramento, CA, Library Juice Press, 2021.