How LCSH represents transgender children and young people

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of headings used by many libraries to describe books and other items in their collections so that they are findable by users when searching catalogues. This post explores how transgender children and young people are represented in LCSH including:

  • How LCSH works
  • How transgender children and young people are currently represented in LCSH
  • How other classification systems represent transgender children and young people
  • Why this is important
  • What can libraries do
  • Where to learn more

How LCSH works

When a new resource (book, eBook, DVD etc) is added to a library collection, multiple pieces of information (metadata) about it are added to the catalogue. This includes subject headings (such as LCSH) which describe what a resource is about. If someone asks for books about video game players, the library staff can look up LCSH (free online here or here) to find the exact heading ‘Video gamers’. This search term can then be used in the Advanced Search of a library catalogue to search by Subject. All resources that were tagged with the heading ‘Video gamers’ when they were added to the library’s collection will be returned in the search – even if they don’t have the words video or gamer in their title or description.

Subject headings can be expanded to include places, time periods and subtopics, and resources can have multiple subject headings to describe what they are about.

How transgender children and young people are currently represented in LCSH

There are a few different headings relevant to transgender children and young people in LCSH including:

However, there are two LC subject headings that could be considered problematic:

In controlled vocabularies such as LCSH, a ‘broader term’ for a subject heading is the bigger category it belongs to. The broader terms for these two subject headings in LCSH are psychosexual disorders, which implies that being transgender is a mental disorder, or a problem or illness.

Heading in LCSH Category in LCSH (Broader Term)
Gender identity disorders in children Psychosexual disorders in children
Gender identity disorders in adolescence Psychosexual disorders in adolescence
Gender identity disorders Psychosexual disorders

The visibility of these subject headings online in a library catalogue could signal non-acceptance of transgender children and young people. A search of the online global catalogue WorldCat shows that resources published this year are still being catalogued using these subject headings:

It is important to note that some libraries use catalogue records provided by publishers and other sources, and may not have actively chosen the subject headings for all of their resources.

How other classification systems represent transgender people

Despite being used in LCSH headings, the term ‘gender identity disorder’ is outdated, and was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013. It was replaced by the term ‘Gender dysphoria’, and was also moved out of the Sexual Dysfunctions category. In describing these changes, the American Psychiatric Association stated that changing disorder to dysphoria “removes the connotation that the patient is “disordered”.”

In 2019 the term ‘gender identity disorder’ was also removed as a mental illness from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), and replaced by ‘gender incongruence’ as a sexual health condition. Many transgender support organisations consider ‘gender incongruence’ as a temporary term, but still a step towards transgender depathologisation.

Why this is important

These subject headings are relevant to:

  • Transgender children and young people seeking library resources for themselves with a positive portrayal of transgender people
  • Parents supporting their transgender children seeking non-fiction and fiction resources.

Transgender young people in Australia are significantly more likely than other young people to experience depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, bullying, homelessness and discrimination (Strauss et al., 2017, pp. 15–35). Libraries should be a safe space where transgender young people can independently seek and access information relevant to them. The use of the word disorder to describe transgender children and young people is not appropriate.

What can libraries do

Online library catalogues appear as a single interface to users, who are unaware that this is a mix of systems, standards and vocabularies containing records created both from inside and outside the library.

Libraries need to ensure that appropriate headings with a positive portrayal of transgender children and young people are consistently applied. A search by subject for ‘Gender identity disorders in children’ and ‘Gender identity disorders in adolescence’ will reveal if these headings are being used in a library’s catalogue. If so, alternatives such as ‘Transgender children’ and ‘Transgender youth’ could be used – but this needs to be assessed on a resource by resource basis.

Libraries can also make sure their resources for transgender children and young people are visible and findable. One way to review these resources is to consult the recommended reading lists of relevant support organisations, and check that any resources already in a library’s collection have LCSH such as ‘Transgender children’ and ‘Transgender youth’. This review will result in more relevant resources being found by transgender children and young people, and their families.

The implications of using outdated terms is that transgender children and young people may not feel seen or supported. Controlled vocabularies are always works in progress and can be questioned.

Where to learn more

Cataloguing

We need to talk about cataloguing: the #NLS9 transcript’ by Alissa McCulloch

Depathologisation

Trans health care from a depathologization and human rights perspective’ by Dr Amets Suess Schwend

LCSH resources

Library of Congress Subject Headings PDF Files (includes About and Intro)

Recommended books for and about transgender children and young people

17 Books about Gender Non-Conforming and Transgender Kids’ from No Time For Flash Cards

Transgender Reading List for Children’ from PFLAG 

Transgender Terminology

GLAAD media reference guide: 10th edition from GLAAD

Background to this post

I’m a Master of Information Management student at Curtin University, and researched this topic as part of a unit last year. It includes my personal views as an early career information professional, as I do not have lived experience of how the LCSH discussed would affect transgender people and the finding of relevant library resources.

Thanks to Dr Hollie White, Curtin University for encouraging her students to delve into “the problematic representation of peoples in LCSH” in her excellent Resource Description and Access unit.

Photo of a lamp shaped like an open book. The lamp is switched on and is glowing softly in a dark room.Photo of a book lamp

#CreateConnections – Library and Information Week 2020

Today is the start of Library and Information Week 2020! The theme is Create, with a different creative theme for each day (thanks to ALIA Groups, Jess Pietsch and Gemma Steele for coming up with these).

Monday’s creative theme is #CreateConnections

A lot has happened since I posted “What happened when I joined ALIA” over two years ago. I decided to revisit this post and update it with all of the new connections that I’ve made since then …

Joined ALIA 2020

All of these connections have built on each other, and in February this year I became ALIA State Manager for WA. This was the result of many conversations with passionate library and information professionals, who are always willing to share what they’ve learned.

If you’re starting out as a student, look for opportunities to #CreateConnections. There’s lots happening online while in-person meetings are on hold (see my blog post series).

If you’re a library or information professional, thank you for making time to welcome me and other students and new graduates to our profession!

Graphic created in Mindomo

Learn something #3 – Experience a conference

Going to conferences is difficult for students and new grads who live outside of cities (too far), or have work commitments or caring responsibilities (too busy). Student rates for conferences are usually reasonable, but travel + accommodation adds up (too much).

Thanks to my supportive family, I’m very fortunate to have attended three conferences in the past year (including two in Perth where I live).

Three things I love about conferences

  • Meeting new people and strengthening existing connections
  • Finding out about new ideas and new ways of doing things
  • Seeing the library and information world from different perspectives

We can’t do the first one due to no physical conferences during COVID-19 restrictions, but we can seek out new ideas and different perspectives.

Experience an Australian conference

Here are some recent Australian library and information sector conferences – thank you to the organisers for making the talks available freely online:

My top two picks

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. The blog posts are:

Feel connected #1 – Join Twitter

Feel connected #2 – Join a Twitter chat

Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

Learn something #2 – Keep up to date

Learn something #3 – Experience a conference (this post)

Take regular breaks from being online during intense news cycles (like now) – see here for lots of mental health support resources.

Southern Ocean and cliffs

Photo of the Southern Ocean, taken near Tookulup Lookout in Western Australia 

Learn something #2 – Keep up to date

Library and information professionals are always learning, and constantly looking for new ways to meet the needs of their communities. As well as keeping up to date via Twitter, I subscribe to a few old-school newsletters. Here’s some of my picks:

General library and information newsletters:

  • Newslet for Libraries is an international “curated newsletter for library & information professionals” – subscribe here
  • Information and Data Manager weekly is an information management newsletter –  subscribe here
  • Read for Later is a weekly newsletter from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries – subscribe here
  • ALIA weekly contains library and information sector news from the Australian Library and Information Association. You can subscribe here even if you’re not an ALIA member.

Special topic newsletters

And here’s a million more library newsletters from different bloggers.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. The blog posts so far are:

Feel connected #1 – Join Twitter

Feel connected #2 – Join a Twitter chat

Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

Learn something #2 – Keep up to date (this post)

Take regular breaks from being online during intense news cycles (like now) – see here for lots of mental health support resources.

Coming up next – Learn something #3 – Experience a conference

lake and sky

Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

You may not feel like learning anything right now, and have enough on your plate with study deadlines, work, unexpected work from home, unexpected lack of work, or the challenge of home-schooling kids.

If there comes a time when you have the mental space for some self-directed learning, there are lots of free online options.

This is the third in a series of blog posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. The blog posts so far are:

What is a MOOC?

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are online courses from different providers (mostly universities), collected in one handy place. There are usually a few levels of membership, but they generally have a free option. The learning is more important than paying for a certificate, and I use the free option.

Some MOOC ideas…

Here’s a selection from Future Learn, all are very relevant to the library and information profession:

Where to find more MOOCs

Future Learn is just one MOOC provider. Others to browse include:

This is my usual reminder to take breaks from being online, especially during intense news cycles (like now). Look here for lots of mental health support resources.

Coming up next – Learn something #2 – Keeping up to date

title page of The Book of Knowledge Volume 1

Title page from Stowell, G. & Mason, J. E. (Eds.). (1954). The Book of Knowledge Volume 1 (5th ed.). London, UK: The Waverley Book Company Ltd.

 

 

Feel connected #2 – Join a Twitter chat

This is the second in a series of posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in.

The first post was Feel connected #1 – Join Twitter, this post is about Twitter chats.

Feel connected #2 – Join a Twitter chat

Imagine if you could do this from home…

  • Find out how library and information professionals feel about different topics
  • Join in a community conversation
  • Find voices that resonate with you

You can by following a Twitter chat. A Twitter chat is a scheduled gathering on Twitter, where participants discuss a specific topic. If you have a Twitter account you can participate and respond, but even if you don’t have a Twitter account you can still read the chat.

How do I find these chats?

Here’s how a Twitter chat works…

  1. Pick a chat
  2. Figure out when the next chat is on (might need some time zone maths for this)
  3. Get a cup of tea (or preferred beverage)
  4. Look at the questions on the chat website
  5. Follow along by searching for the # hashtag of the chat OR follow the account that is running the chat
  6. Reply to any of the questions or comments if you like – just include the chat hashtag and the question number
  7. If there’s something you want to say, or don’t have a Twitter account, the chat moderators usually provide a way for you to email them so that you can be anonymous.

A reminder to take breaks from Twitter especially during intense news cycles (like now). Look here for lots of mental health support resources.

Coming up next – Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

cup_of_tea

 

Dear students and new grads…

Two and a half years ago I started postgraduate studies in libraries, archives and records. I went to ALIA events (Australian Library and Information Association) even though I didn’t know anyone or anything about libraries. After a while I saw the same lovely faces, and they in turn introduced me to more great people.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, students and new grads can’t go to events for a while. Even if we can’t meet in person, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. This is the first in a series of blog posts with some ideas…

Feel connected #1 – Join Twitter

Twitter is full of interesting and passionate library and information peeps. I feel like I’m part of a big international community, and learn something new every day.

How to join and use Twitter:

Twitter tips:

  • You don’t have to post/reply/like anything, just read whatever takes your interest
  • Follow some ALIA Twitter accounts, here’s a few to start with (you’ll soon find other accounts you like too):
  • When you start a new unit or study topic, follow relevant educators, researchers and professionals who are active on Twitter
  • Look after yourself – take breaks from Twitter especially during intense news cycles (like now). Look here for lots of mental health support resources.

To give you an idea – here’s the types of Twitter accounts I follow:

twitter_types

Next in this series – Feel connected #2 – Join a live online chat

 

 

Serendipity out of my comfort zone

(with bonus library practicum tips!)

18 months ago, I went to a start of semester event for Curtin University library, archives and records students in Perth. This week I was back in the same room on campus but instead of being in the audience, I stood at the front of the room and gave a talk about my Master’s practicum experience to new students.

I have never been comfortable with public speaking, and admire those who make it look effortless. So why did I do it? I felt compelled to give back and share what I have learned, just like so many others have shared with me in person at ALIA events, and online on Twitter and blogs. Education is a huge part of an information management professional’s role, so I’ve been been taking opportunities to practice related skills.

The serendipity for me was that I turned an anxiety inducing experience into an achievement. And my next trip out of my comfort zone can be more challenging!

Here’s a summary of my talk – tips for students on library practicums. You can read more about my practicum on the Curtin library blog.

Tips before your practicum

  • If you’re not sure which library area you want to work in, find out as much as you can about different specialisations. You can do this by chatting to people at ALIA events and cardiParties and by looking at the ALIA website under Professional Development
  • Use your pre-practicum meeting to discuss project ideas, and have another meeting if you need to.

Tips during your practicum

  • Ask lots and lots of questions! That’s what your mentor is for
  • Ask if you can attend any internal development opportunities taking place while you’re on practicum – I went to a journal club, a makerspace talk, research supervisor training, and team planning meetings
  • If you need to create something on your practicum, try to complete it a few days before the end so that your mentor has time to review it and ask you questions
  • Build on your strengths and use the placement as an opportunity to fill any gaps. I felt I was rusty on presentation skills, so I offered to summarise my report as a 15-minute presentation to library management.

Be open, and say yes to trying new things even if they’re a little bit out of your comfort zone. Practicums are only a few weeks long, but the potential to achieve is huge!

 

Control your files

(a five-minute guide for students)

At an ALIAWest event last month in Perth, I was surprised to learn of a recent Australian survey which found that students prefer print over digital for their reading preferences. Nicole Johnston and Alicia Salaz surveyed 582 university students at Edith Cowan University in Perth, and presented their findings at the VALA 2018 conference.

This preference for print reading made me think of a set of beautifully colour-coded, highlighted, printed and filed paper notes which aren’t digitally searchable. These could be seen as information silos, where useful information is divided and trapped.

information silos in the 1960's

Imagine yourself in a year’s time. What information from your studies might you want to find? Instead of approaching study unit by unit, you could think of it as building up your own personal collection of knowledge.

Where’s my stuff?

Try to leave your files in a state that the future version of you can use. The real test of a useful filename is if you found it abandoned on its own, would you know what it was? You can make up any file and folder naming convention, as long as it’s meaningful to you. Here’s an example:

Naming folders and files

For students using an online learning management system like Blackboard, beware. Your access to unit materials can disappear into a black hole at the end of semester. Save as you go each week, including keeping a copy of your assignments and all the lovely feedback from lecturers.

Backup all the things

A common backup strategy is the 3-2-1 Rule. For me this means the main copy on my laptop, a copy in the cloud (OneDrive), and another copy on an external drive. If you are feeling brave, check that you can restore files from your backups.

Control over your files does take a little time to set up, but the benefits are that your information will be searchable, backed up, restorable and reusable.