Library of Congress to Stop Using Term 'Illegal Aliens'

Former 'aliens' now 'non-citizens'

The tweak to the Library of Congress' taxonomy appears to be significant, if only because these types of rewrites rarely happen. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Library of Congress will expunge the term “illegal aliens” — just as soon as officials can reconfigure the library's reference catalog.  

The Library announced in late March that it would fine-tune the search terms within its voluminous records in response to a two-year advocacy campaign by the student-led Dartmouth Coalition For Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers (CoFIRED) and research professionals at the American Library Association .  

“This is not a trivial change,” spokeswoman Jennifer Gavin said, noting that thousands of local libraries rely on Library of Congress resources.  

Terms to be changed

  • “Aliens” are now “noncitizens”
  • “Illegal immigration” is now “unauthorized immigration”
  • Number of bibliographic records to be revised: approximately 6,900

The group at Dartmouth took up the issue in 2014 after stumbling on an "illegal alien" subject heading while doing research. But it was only once the ALA became involved that the effort picked up traction.  

The tweak is significant in part because such rewrites rarely happen. Of other potential changes, Gavin said, the library “is not engaged in or investigating any change in subject terminology that will be of broad interest."  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.