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One student's crusade to change derogatory cataloging in California libraries

An energetic Stanford student from the Bay Area wants the cataloging abbreviation, “JAP,” to disappear from California’s libraries. When Christine Hironaka, a 2005 alumnus of Piedmont High School, met State Librarian Susan Hildreth at the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program conference last June, Hironaka explained that she had discovered a problem, what Hironaka calls “the J word,” in her alma mater’s library.

Hironaka found three books, Japan (952), Japanese American History (973.0495), Japanese American Internment Camps (973.095), all without designated authors, with the call symbol “JAP,” a term that has, Hironaka says, “stirred-up hatred” against Japanese and Japanese Americans since World War II. Hironaka’s family knows that fact all too well. Three of Hironaka’s grandparents were incarcerated in Japanese internment camps while, ironically, her other grandfather fought for the United States as a member of 442nd Regiment, a highly decorated Japanese American combat unit.

While she knew that the call letters were just a technical abbreviation, Hironaka sought a cataloging alternative.

She found it.

At the Oakland Public Library Hironaka learned that Oakland catalogs books (with no designated author) about Japan as “Japanese” or “Japan.” Japanese Americans- From Relocation to Redress, for example, is catalogued as “Japanese” in Oakland’s collection. Hironaka also discussed the challenge with Piedmont Middle School Librarian Randi Voorhies who suggested using the editor’s name.

Both of these options, Hironaka suggests, would be a good idea for all books about Japan without a designated author.

Hironaka asked Hildreth to “openly address the practice of using ‘the J word’ in our school and public libraries.” Hildreth says, “Christine has done a great job finding alternatives for this cataloging abbreviation. If our libraries are aware of this problem, they might find the options that Christine found useful.”

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