Library Services Centre

LSC is proud to announce that in 2020 we will offer libraries the option of receiving topical subject headings that are more respectful of indigenous peoples instead of, or in addition to, the professional-standard headings in LCSH and CSH, which currently use colonial language.


The notion of adding subject headings that are more respectful to Indigenous peoples has been a topic of conversation in the library world for many years. Some academic libraries began working on such projects independently or consulting with one another, but were able to invest dedicated time and personnel to consulting and correcting these headings. Public libraries however have largely been left to their own, without the resources that academic libraries have access to. We at LSC are aware of how monumental a project this is for libraries to undertake on their own, and the trepidation of starting a project of this level of sensitivity.


However, with the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation commission having been delivered nearly five years ago, LSC feels the act of appropriate, respectful representation for indigenous peoples in library records is long overdue. This correction to over 120 years of misidentification of cultures and peoples is too important not to take action upon. Worse than doing nothing would be rushing this task and attempting a correction that results in headings that are equally disrespectful.

LSC's position has been to wait for the Library and Archives Canada to produce a national standard. As with all things in the library world, consistency is important, and we had felt that a national standard would best serve all libraries. However, LAC has not issued a list of respectful headings, and it appears that they will not do so in the near future.  LSC’s position is this change is far too important and necessary to wait any longer.


To this end, LSC has adopted the extensive English language list created by the Greater Victoria Public Library, in consultation with the University of Manitoba. GVPL has made this list publicly available, and LSC wants to make clear that we hold no propriety over it. The GVPL list contains over 700 respectful headings which applies to indigenous peoples in general and to specific peoples and groups in Canada and the rest of the world. LSC is aware of other lists created by other institutions, which have not been made publicly available, and while we are open to investigating their use at this time we believe the Greater Victoria list to be reasonably exhaustive. We want to be clear: if and when LAC issues a national standardized list, LSC will adopt this standard as the preferred headings. 

LSC is happy to offer this service as a complimentary part of our cataloguing records, provided upon request from libraries. Libraries can chose from three options: one, to exclusively keep the older, traditionally used headings; two, to solely adopt the new respectful headings; or three, and is LSC's recommendation, records which contain both the older and the new headings. Inclusion of the respectful headings in our base records will be the standard operation for our cataloguing team moving forward, and it is our hope that the older headings will be phased out entirely in the near future. However, we understand that a transition period may be preferable for libraries.


As such, as we are implementing the new records, they will be coded for easy identification and mapping, should future standardization require them to be updated. And, so that the old headings can be quickly overwritten. As with all changes made to the structure of MARC records, there will be a period of adjustment. As our service begins, we will work one-on-one with libraries conducting tests with the new records to ensure that individual ILSs are capable of handling the new headings. We stress, there is no time limit on libraries opting in to receive the new headings. They will be available at any point after our service is fully realized.

Our one caveat to this new service: LSC is continuing to investigate French language versions of the new headings. At present, many French headings are translations of colonized terminology. The effects of French language grammatical conventions may also have an effect on preferred terminology. Until we have found a respectful standardization to adopt, we are willing to work with libraries on-demand with French headings.


This is a new service that we are in the process of developing in-house, and hope to have active and tested within the first quarter of 2020. This timeline will rely mostly on the cooperation of technology involved. To learn more about this service, to receive updates, or to opt-in to receiving these new headings in your MARC records, please contact LSC at 1.800.265.3360, or send an email to


*A previous version of this post used the phrase "decolonized subject headings". This had been the terminology in use by multiple segments of the industry in relation this these kinds of projects for many years. As with so many things, the terminology has evolved. As with so many things, there is no consensus as to what the preferred terminology should be. As such, LSC will no longer refer to its service using this language. We have opted to use "respectful" and "Indigenous". We are comfortable with these designations as they represent the intent of the service, which has been so long coming to fruition.

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