Describing our past and our future: applying indigenous subject headings [slides]

ALIA Library

Bryce, Catriona

ALIA National 2022 Conference, 16 May - 19 May 2022 Canberra: Diversity
Abstract: Cataloguers have the unique ability to make an item discoverable, make it hard to find, or assign value and significance. The application of specific subject headings can reflect current cultural thinking and personal bias. At worst, subject headings can reflect dated, racist, or derogatory language and as a consequence be re-traumatising. Cataloguing tools have not always considered different perspectives and social structures. The AIATSIS Pathways thesauri ( is an internationally recognised subject standard that allows any library to describe First Nations material in way that makes it more discoverable by Indigenous and non-Indigenous users, is respectful and appropriate and less likely to re-traumatise. Using the Thesaurus enables libraries to describe collection material with greater cultural integrity, meaning and respect. This presentation will explore the history and future of the AIATSIS Pathway Thesaurus and way in which Trove and the National Library have embedded it into their work. Co-delivered by staff from the National Library’s Indigenous Engagement Section, Trove and AIATSIS, this session will: • discuss why this work is so important • learn more about how the AIATSIS Pathway Thesaurus was developed and how it is continuing to be enhanced • provide insight into the how Trove uses the Thesaurus to enhance the discoverability of Indigenous material, and; • look at how other libraries can use the AIATSIS Thesauri to enhance the description and discoverability of First Nations material in their collections This presentation provides a unique opportunity to hear about the Thesaurus from a number of inter-related perspectives. National Library’s Assistant Director of Indigenous Engagement Rebecca Bateman will discuss the importance of the AIATSIS Thesaurus to her as a library professional and why describing First Nations material appropriately, respectfully and meaningfully is so critical from an Indigenous perspective. Jen Douglas, Metadata Coordinator, Descriptive Metadata and Cataloguing at AIATSIS will talk about the Pathways Thesaurus – how it was developed, what are its features, where is it heading in the future, and how libraries can access the Thesaurus. In 2020 the National Library launched a new Trove, the first major redesign since its launch in 2009. One of the goals of new Trove was to make the service a culturally safer space for First Nations people. We could not have achieved these initiatives without the Thesaurus or the Austlang language codes. However, there is more to do to make Trove genuinely safe, and that must be a collaborative effort. Catriona Bryce, Assistant Director Trove Data Support will outline what was achieved in the redesign and some potential pathways forward.

Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association