Remediation of Harmful Language in Descriptions of Collection Material

The University of Michigan Library acknowledges that the language and structures used to describe collections are not, and should not be, neutral.

We further recognize that catalog records, finding aids, and descriptive information associated with databases, digital collections, exhibits, and other library resources are based on established systems and standards that often uphold and perpetuate many forms of oppression and bias, such as white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, patriarchy, misogyny, sexism and the marginalization of sexual orientations and gender identities.

Our commitment

We stand against marginalization, oppression, and bias in its many forms. We are committed to reckoning with systemic injustice and making every aspect of our services, including our collections and the way we describe them, inclusive and accessible. Therefore we strive to:

  • Examine and remediate offensive or harmful language used in the description  of library resources when we have agency to make change. The transcription of language that is evident in library resources — on title pages and in tables of contents, for example — is required for ensuring searchability and discoverability of collection material, and for accurately representing the perspectives, intentions, and limitations of creators. It is not an endorsement of the language transcribed.
  • Facilitate access to collection materials in ways that support researchers and users. 
  • Push to eliminate oppression and bias embedded in established systems and standards and encourage the use of alternative vocabularies wherever possible.
  • Work with community partners on campus and off to help identify language in collection descriptions that causes harm and to find replacement terminology.
  • Coordinate diverse and anti-racist collection development strategies.

We encourage you to contact us via our anonymous form if you encounter harmful or problematic language in the description of material.


This statement was developed by our DEIA Catalog Working Group and is based on similar statements and efforts at:

A related statement can also be found at the Bentley Historical Library.