Please indulge me a geeky librarian post. So it turns out that the Library of Congress (LC) recently added a new subject heading to their catalog, entitled “Children of sperm donors”. It’s viewed as a significant addition, because it’s the first time that a renowned library institution has recognized that books about, or written for, donor-conceived children do in fact warrant their own subject heading. For the last two decades the books had been lumped under “Infertility” or “Babies”. The LC had a subject heading for “Children of celebrities”, but nothing for a topic that involves millions of families worldwide. Nice, LC. After several years spent ignoring impassioned lobbying from research librarians, the LC finally changed their tune.
But here’s the controversy – everyone except the dimwits at the LC think that “Children of sperm donors” is a spectacularly crappy subject heading. Librarians had been lobbying for “Donor offspring”, “Donor-conceived”, or even “Children of donor conception”. As Patricia Mendell and Patricia Sarles write on the American Fertility Association blog, the subject heading is wholly inadequate, “recognizing one group of donor children over another, instead of recognizing the importance of creating an all inclusive heading that recognizes all donor offspring”.
Knock me over with a feather, but even Elizabeth Marquardt over at Family Scholars is in agreement, advocating “Persons conceived via gamete donation” or Mendell and Sarles’ “Donor-conceived.” Her conclusion? That naming of any kind is a step forward. She didn’t quite elaborate on why she thinks this. I can only presume it’s because, if the donor-conceived receive greater recognition from official institutions, it provides a path for the bioethicists to eradicate the entire mode of family building from Planet Earth. Or whatever their master plan is.
Who the bloody hell except geeky librarians like me care about LC subject headings, you ask? Well, firstly, formal recognition by the LC helps elevate the status of the donor-conceived in the U.S. and worldwide. Where the LC goes, others follow. They’re like the Lady Gaga of the library world. Pretty influential. But the other reason this is important? So we can categorize and locate books written about and for the donor-conceived! People: Google is not a library catalog. It’s more like a giant, syrupy fruit salad where everything’s jumbled up together and if you don’t like watermelon you have to try and pick it out but it’s really bothersome. LC subject headings provide order. They help librarians and laymen alike identify all books on a given subject rather than leaving it to “feeling lucky”.
Mendell and Sarles are continuing to put pressure on the LC to add the subject heading “Children of donor conception” or “Donor-conceived”. I wish them speedy success.
Thank you for indulging me.