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Program Slides: Impacts and Limitations of Culturally Responsive Subject Headings in Tribal College Libraries

Presentation slides from the ALCTS Metadata Interest Group Program at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando are available below as an attachment (pptx). 

Impacts and Limitations of Culturally Responsive Subject Headings in Tribal College Libraries

Presenter: Hannah Buckland, Leech Lake Tribal College


At tribal college libraries, prejudice embedded in controlled subject vocabularies impedes students’ access to library materials.  The Eurocentric terminology and viewpoint underpinning Library of Congress Subject Headings, for example, often exclude tribes which have not been federally recognized, favor anglicized generalization over local precision, and treat concepts as mutually exclusive entities rather than overlapping, interrelated pieces, as is more consistent with Native worldview.  Culture directly molds classification; while no classification system is free of cultural bias, mass-adopted classification systems like LCSH are troubling in that they fail to reflect the full spectrum of diversity, both of the collection and of library users.

At the Bezhigoogahbow Library—a joint-use academic/community library serving both students of Leech Lake Tribal College LLTC and residents of the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota—locally assigned, culturally responsive subject headings improve access to LLTC-owned materials.  Strategies for developing this metadata will be discussed.  Despite  local successes, however, library staff have observed students familiar with the specialized vocabulary of the Bezhigoogahbow Library’s online catalog struggle when conducting subject searches in the consortial catalog and databases where LCSH remain the norm.  While inclusive metadata may originate on a local level, implementation on a larger scale remains necessary.

Buckland.pptx3.77 MB