Jessica Colbert’s new article “Patron-Driven Subject Access: How Librarians Can Mitigate that ‘Power to Name‘” published by the open-access, peer reviewed journal, In The Library With The Lead Pipe, discusses subject headings, user-tags, and how culture and power affect language.
“Information organization and access is one of the core goals of librarianship. However, as librarians, we have the power to control what language patrons must use when searching for items. This power often manifests itself by limiting access to materials by and/or about oppressed or otherwise marginalized groups, due to how we label those materials. Many librarians, such as Sanford Berman, criticize this language and suggest better language for subject access. But does this “better language” match how patrons search? … My research illustrates one potential method of patron-driven subject heading creation that I hope inspires librarians when doing subject access work.”
Colbert’s article offers a fresh opportunity for discussing how subject headings and access points get determined in our controlled vocabularies and libraries.