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Two moves on either side of the Atlantic demonstrate the continuing awakening of the book industry to inappropriate or racist language, and a willingness to involve applicants from diverse backgrounds. In the US, the Library of Congress has confirmed that it will replace the terms ‘Aliens’ and ‘Illegal aliens’ with the non-offensive terms ‘Noncitizens’ and ‘Illegal immigration’ in its subject headings, while in the UK, Pan Macmillan is launching a ‘positive action proofreading traineeship’ for applicants from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in publishing.
The American Library Association (ALA) has been campaigning for the Library of Congress to make the change for many years. In fact back in 2016 the Library did agree to replace the headings but the move was blocked by conservative members of Congress. Commenting on the Library’s confirmation of the change, Patty Wong, ALA president, said: “We are pleased that the Library of Congress is replacing these subject headings, which are both outdated and dehumanizing. This update better reflects common terminology and respects library users and library workers from all backgrounds. It also reflects the core value of social justice for ALA members, who have been at the vanguard of this change for years.”
In the UK, Pan Macmillan’s proofreading course is aimed at black, Asian and ethnically diverse candidates, disabled people, people who are neurodivergent, and trans or otherwise gender non-confirming people. Sophie Brewer, associate publisher at Pan Macmillan, said: “Freelance proofreaders are an important part of the publishing process. Alongside our in-house diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, the managing editors recognise the importance of ensuring that the pool of freelances they work with is as diverse and inclusive as possible. We hope that the applicants who take advantage of this positive action training scheme will become valued proofreaders and, perhaps – in time – copy-editors, with long-term freelance careers in publishing, and will ultimately be of benefit to the publishing industry as a whole.”