This is because Libraries use standardized sets of words, sometimes called controlled vocabularies, to describe and organize books and media in their collections. This standardized language is designed to help people find sources related to their topics consistently. However, marginalized communities do not choose the terms libraries use to describe sources, and the language used in library search tools isn't updated as quickly as our cultural discourse changes.
It is very common to encounter offensive and harmful language used to describe and categorize library sources about LGBTQIA+ Studies. It can also make it harder to search for sources related to LGBTQIA+ topics because the language you are familiar with doesn't match the language to describe the sources.
Libraries using controlled vocabularies that are inaccurate, outdated, or offensive is an issue that impacts collections related to lots marginalized communities, not just LGBTQIA+ themed materials. Within the field of librarianship, there is a movement to combat harmful controlled vocabulary use called critical cataloging. Some strategies critical catalogers use to describe and organize materials include: making offensive descriptor terms less visible in public-facing search tools, employing alternative (more inclusive) controlled vocabularies, and creating more humane language systems for describing library materials.
For more information on critical cataloging, visit:
The good news is: many library search tools are more powerful than ever before. Search@UW will match your search terms with language used the text of abstracts, titles, and content. Here are a few strategies you can use to maximize your searching success:
In your own writing about your research, try to use inclusive language and language that reflects current terminology being used in Queer Studies. If you are unsure about what terminology your should use, contact your instructor for clarification about their expectations.