Remediation of Harmful Language in Library Metadata
The University of Michigan Library acknowledges that language and structure used to describe collections are not, and should not be, neutral.
As it stands, these collection descriptions (or metadata) — which include catalog records, finding aids, databases, digitized collections, and exhibitions — 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.
We stand against marginalization, oppression, and bias in its many forms. One way we look to combat this is by addressing exclusionary descriptive collection metadata. Therefore we strive to:
- Examine and remediate offensive or harmful language used in descriptions of resources where we as the University of Michigan Library have agency to make the change. The retention or inclusion of original language as printed or evident on works (transcribed from title pages, table of contents, summaries, captions, etc.) is an intentional decision to ensure searchability and discoverability of the collections, as well as an accurate representation of author perspectives, intentions, and limitations. This is not an endorsement of the language it contains.
- Facilitate access to collection materials in a way that supports researchers and users.
- Push to eliminate oppression and bias embedded in national standards and metadata and support the use of alternative vocabularies in local and national metadata descriptions.
- Work with community partners on campus and off to help identify vocabulary in collection descriptions that causes harm and find replacement terminology.
- Coordinate diverse and anti-racist collection development strategies.
This statement was developed by our DEIA Catalog Working Group and is based on similar statements and efforts at the William L. Clements Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (UCLA), Temple University’s Special Collections Research Center, Duke University Library, and Yale University Library. A related statement can also be found at the Bentley Historical Library.