Princeton University Library incorporates Homosaurus vocabulary in item tagging

Logo for Homosaurus, an International LGBTQ+ Linked Data Vocabulary

Princeton University Library (PUL) has adopted the use of the Homosaurus, a specialized vocabulary for describing LGBTQIA+ materials in libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions. 

When cataloging the LGBTQIA periodical and ephemera collection PUL staff – Librarian for Gender & Sexuality Studies Sara Howard, Special Collections Assistants Kim McCauley and Adrianna Taraboletti, and Librarian for Metadata Sarah Hamerman – recognized the necessity of adopting the Homosaurus vocabulary.  

PUL staff found that due to the current limitations of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) with regard to LGBTQIA+ topics, they were unable to fully represent the scope of the collection. For example, the LC Subject Heading “Gay men” is a broad term staff felt comfortable using for a number of boxes. In many cases, however, on its own that term felt insufficient. Within the gay community there are a range of narrower terms that can more specifically describe men who identify as gay and as belonging to various gay communities. These include “Queer men,” “Baby gay,” “Macho men,” “Queens (Gay culture)”, “Bears (Gay culture)”, etc. None of these identities can be described accurately and/or exclusively by the LC Subject Headings. 

Additionally, LCSH uses the term “Sexual minorities” for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, which not only conflates sexuality and gender, but also is not a commonly used phrase, as the Trans Metadata Collective writes. The Homosaurus terms “LGBTQ+ people” and “Queer people” will be added to supplement this term, providing language that researchers, especially students and younger researchers, are more familiar with.

The Homosaurus vocabulary uses the current language of the LGBTQIA+ community, and is congruent with best practices for its description. It also includes a number of historical LGBTQIA+ terms with instructions on the subjects and periods to which these terms can be applied. Through consultations with Homosaurus board members who are experts in information science and gender and sexuality studies, PUL staff felt reassured that we were using common terms, utilized across the world by various other cultural institutions, to accurately describe LGBTQIA+ materials. Furthermore, as an online linked data vocabulary, the Homosaurus helps researchers discover and access related resources across multiple collections and institutions.

PUL staff are working on documenting best practices for using the Homosaurus and look forward to sharing this information with the cataloging community.

For questions please reach out to Sara Howard, Librarian for Gender & Sexuality Studies or Sarah Hamerman, Librarian for Metadata, Rare Books Specialty.

Published June 11, 2022

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications