Subject metadata forms a critical access point in bibliographic and other information systems, providing access through search terms and browsing or filtering through subject links. Typically, libraries use standardized knowledge organization systems to provide better access to information resources. However, many of these standardized systems are problematic because they include outdated, harmful, exclusionary, or critical terms may not be present at all in thesauri or vocabularies. Problematic terms can negatively impact library users of all kinds. There is an increasing recognition of the need for more equitable and inclusive language subject metadata.

The Subject Analysis and Access Section (SAA) has taken up several initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion regarding subject access. The SAA sponsored a well-attended open session at WLIC 2023 in Rotterdam entitled Identifiers for Identities: Rectifying the (Mis)Representation of Demographic Groups. This session featured talks on topics such as handling gender identities within the catalogue, subject terms for Indigenous peoples in the United States, and a project on creating respectful terminology for Indigenous peoples in Canada. These talks highlight the active implementation of more inclusive practices when applying subject terms.

WLIC in Rotterdam also sparked an initiative to explore the creation of an accessibility metadata network. A previous IFLA newsletter highlighted Accessibility metadata, representing an essential connection to inclusion and equity. With Amanda Ros as liaison, the SAA is exploring the opportunity to collaborate with other sections to consider the intersections of subject access and accessibility.

Other initiatives are ongoing, including the SAA’s Knowledge Organization System change and Data Structure (KOS-D) working group survey and compilation of different KOSs, including some with connections to diverse populations.

Ensuring libraries support equitable and inclusive language in subject metadata is crucial for equitable access to materials in libraries, and the SAA will continue to look for opportunities to support best practices and initiatives in the future.

Stacy Allison-Cassin, Dalhousie University (Canada) and IFLA Subject Analysis and Access Member