Alaska Native Subject Headings: Indigenizing libraries, one word at a time


In the summer of 2021, members from the Alaska Library Network received an Interlibrary Cooperation Grant from the Alaska State Library, funded by the State of Alaska, to investigate the development and creation of a controlled vocabulary for Alaska Native Subject Headings. Controlled vocabularies provide a systematic way to organize knowledge to help bolster information retrieval. However, the vocabularies currently in use, notably the Library of Congress Subject Headings, do not comprehensively or appropriately represent Alaska Natives.

The grant will further research and develop a controlled vocabulary that properly represents Alaska Native communities to enhance accessibility for Alaska Natives, researchers of Indigenous Alaskan cultures, and colleagues. With approval and input from Alaska Native organizations and individuals, the vocabulary will use culturally appropriate subject headings to describe materials about Alaska Native communities, languages, beliefs, cultures, and more.

When completed, the Alaska Native Subject Headings will be implemented in the statewide Alaska Library Catalog and Alaska’s Digital Archives, which serves Alaskans across the state. From there, the group will petition the Library of Congress to update their subject headings, thereby making the vocabulary accessible to all.

Alaska Native Subject Headings Survey

This survey is being conducted by the Alaska Library Network for the purpose of updating the language used in our library catalog to describe materials about Alaska Natives. Our goal is to ensure the words that we use represent the cultures they describe accurately and respectfully. The survey should take no more than a few minutes of your time.

Please note that some language in this survey may be considered offensive to some participants. These terms do not reflect the views of the Alaska Library Catalog, and we hope that your insight will help us to replace them with the preferred terms for the respective communities they describe.

Click here to take the survey


  • To develop a controlled vocabulary containing the names of every Alaska Native group.
  • To enhance accessibility for Alaska Natives and researchers of Indigenous Alaskan cultures by implementing subject headings that are culturally appropriate.
  • To develop a roadmap for the Alaska Library Catalog and Alaska’s Digital Archives to use these terms to describe materials and apply them to existing records in each collection.
  • To work with the Alaska Library Catalog Systems team and Cataloging Workgroup to implement this controlled vocabulary to describe materials in the Alaska Library Catalog, a consortium of 87 public, academic, special, and K-12 libraries who serve 92% of the population of Alaska through a shared catalog with 3.2 million titles.
  • To work with Alaska’s Digital Archives to implement this controlled vocabulary to describe historical photographs, albums, oral histories, moving images, maps, documents, physical objects, and other materials from archives, museums, and libraries throughout Alaska.
  • To develop a plan to petition the Library of Congress to add the new terms to the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Alaska State Libraries, Archives, & Museum Logo next to the Institute of Museum and Library Services Logo

This project is supported by an Interlibrary Cooperation (ILC) Grant from the Alaska State Library and is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). For more information on IMLS, visit


  • Chair – Lisa Digou, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Co-Chair – Tyson Rinio, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Principal Investigator – Rebecca Moorman, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Secretary – Jenna Ginnaty, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Community Liaison, Hope Roberts, Alaska Library Network
  • Lead Cataloger – Lauren Wallace, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • David Cox II, University of Alaska Southeast

Emeritus Members

  • Erin Hollingsworth, North Slope Borough School District
  • Catherine Pool, Community Liaison, Alaska Library Network

Project Supporters

  • Arlene Schmuland, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Kathy Arndt, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Project Updates

  • March 2024 – Begin distributing survey and collecting community feedback
  • November 2023 – Begin outreach and developing survey for terminology.
  • September 2023 – Hired one Community Liaison
  • August 2023 – Second Grant approved by the Alaska State Library.
  • April 2023 – Applied for second Grant.
  • March 2023 – Present at AkLA, Database and structure for terminology drafted and presented
  • November 2022 – Research into topic areas and terminology in need of update.
  • September 2022 – Implementation plan submitted to the state. To view, please click here.
  • June 2022 – Hired two Community Liaisons.
  • May 2022 – Applications for the Community Liaison contract closed.
  • March 2022 – Presented at the AkLA 2022 conference.
  • January 2022 – Began search for Community Liaison(s).
  • December 2021 – Community Liaison(s) contractor description completed, budget created, the website developed and published, committee members began building connections.
  • August 2021 – The project’s first phase focused on identifying the need, investigating data, exploring standards, building a committee, writing a grant proposal, and the committee was formed and established regular meetings.
  • August 2021 – Grant approved by the Alaska State Library.
  • April 2021 – Grant Application submitted.