Anna Murphy, Response to Berman

I admire Berman’s ethical motivations, but I think the examples provided in this article aren’t as compelling as the progressive philosophy behind them. While librarians tend to be pretty liberal, it seems libraries are not. And perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe it’s up to libraries to be torch bearers for progressive movements. Berman’s dissatisfaction with this disconnect is warranted—it seems so silly to even see the word “transsexual” yet I imagine the vast majority of the published texts on the subject have yet to embrace preferred nomenclature. And because of this, the subject heading should change once the texts themselves change. In fact, it may even be useful to keep the outdated subject headings if researchers are interested in how certain subjects used to be written about. It could even be an educational moment, allowing young researchers to understand how opinions and terminologies have changed. This is an important and valuable lesson that may be lost with consistently up-to-date, politically correct subject headings. I think it’s up to librarians to be aware of all of these subject headings and direct their users to the right place, no matter what that place is called, and use any disparities as teachable moments.


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