Problematic Language in the Library Catalogue

Statement of Acknowledgement

Western Libraries and the affiliated university college libraries hold a broad range of items in our shared collections. Part of organizing and describing these materials includes the use of standardized metadata that reflect the biases and norms of the time in which the items and/or descriptions were created. These metadata can include offensive wording, cultural references, and stereotypes.

To ensure these attitudes and viewpoints are not erased from the historical record, and to preserve and accurately present historical materials, we acknowledge the value of historic terminologies in tandem with today's user discovery needs.

We also recognize that the national and international cataloguing standards we use to categorize these materials uphold the library’s place as a colonial institution that contributes to ongoing oppression and white supremacy.

While we work within the parameters of these standards, we pledge to make metadata more inclusive by:

  1. Engaging in ongoing discussions dedicated to examining our legacy cataloguing practices.
  2. Participating in larger initiatives of the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) to decolonize descriptive practices across all partner institutions, including Western Libraries.
  3. Reviewing all feedback we receive, marking reported records as containing offensive descriptions.

Maintaining updated and accurate description of materials is an ongoing process and we may not always make the right decisions. We encourage feedback from all members of the Western Libraries community, so that we can learn and adjust our practices.

If you encounter language that you find discriminatory in our research guides, catalogue records, digitized collections, exhibitions or elsewhere, or if you have questions about our metadata work, we welcome your feedback. Please email or complete this form.

This acknowledgement draws on the work of many others, including the Tufts Digital Collections and Archives statement on harmful language in description and the Duke University Statement on Inclusive Description.