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Undocumented Students: Resources & Research: Librarian Activism: Change the Subject

Change the Subject: A Documentary about Labels, Libraries and Activism

Change the Subject (2019) is a 54-minute documentary film about a group of Dartmouth students who challenged anti-immigrant language in the Library of Congress subject headings. 

Watch the Film  Watch the Trailer

Interview with Change the Subject Documentary Makers

In July 2020, the Harvard Widener Library and the Harvard Film Archive virtually presented the film CHANGE THE SUBJECT(2019)The screenings were followed by a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers and staff from the Harvard Libraries. Watch the recorded Q&A (closed captioning available through Vimeo; Q&A transcription attached):

Subject Headings as a “Systems of Bias”: Role of College Libraries in Driving Change

The Bias Hiding in your Library, Amanda Ros, The Conversation, 2019.

Three Decades Since Prejudices and Antipathies: A Study of Changes in the Library of Congress Subject Headings, Steven A. Knowlton, Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 2005.

The Importance of Names & Naming: Reversing Dehumanizing Practices

There is an entire body of literature across the disciplines on how language can be used to dehumanize individuals and groups.

Here's a brief read: "Dehumanizing always starts with language," adapted from Braving the Wilderness (2017), Brene Brown.

Questions for consideration:

  • Do we give our student groups the agency to name or identify themselves in their preferred ways? The flexibility to change these names?
  • Should we take an active role in learning how our students identify - or is a listening role more appropriate?
  • Do we cause harm by using outdated terms or use terms incorrectly? (ie. "DACA students")
  • Are we careful not to "out" students who confide in us their identification with a certain group?
  • What obstacles might we face in effecting changes around terms and labels?

Supporting & Growing Student Activism for Equity

Question: What are ways we can support student activism and promote students' voices on our campuses?

Join a campus group working on behalf of marginalized students

  • Dream Center Task Force (Skyline College)
  • Dream Center Task Force (Canada College)
  • Multicultural & Dream Center Task Force (College of San Mateo)
  • Anti-Oppression Committee (AFT, Districtwide, includes students)

Attend a student club meeting, Dream Center or Multicultural Center event as an ally

Create venues, platforms and opportunities for students to share their activism and voices

  • Support students to speak out at BOT meetings, Teach-in's, etc.

Engage with students about changes they'd like to see

Read or contribute related articles to student or campus newspapers and newsletters

Share your experiences supporting students with your colleagues in department/division mtgs

Educate yourself about student activism by attending sessions within your own profession

Encourage students participation in honor's programs, clubs and other organizations