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Harmful Language Statement

The William L. Clements Library is committed to the remediation of historical cataloging language and the work of critical cataloging. This is both a corrective measure and an integral part of our cataloging process moving forward.

Cataloging is not a neutral practice. The methods used to describe and arrange materials reflect contemporary attitudes as well as historic structures of power. Surveying and updating catalog records and finding aids is a core element of our commitment to the work of anti-racism and inclusion.

As you use Clements resources, you may encounter language that may be considered culturally insensitive or derogatory. Clements staff aim to only include such language where it is essential for access and discoverability.  We will:

  • Fix finding aids and catalog records produced in years past that contain descriptive terms that may be considered antiquated and offensive
  • Prioritize the use of preferred terminology of marginalized people and communities whose histories are represented in the collections
  • Ensure that offensive terminology is only present in collection descriptions when quoted directly from the original material in order to enhance research discoverability

However, we may make mistakes, and we welcome feedback to draw attention to records that need review. This is an ongoing process that we are committed to undertaking.


This statement has been informed by similar initiatives implemented by peer institutions and ongoing conversations within our fields.

Other examples:
Princeton University Library, “Statement on Language in Archival Description”
Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, “Statement on Potentially Harmful Language in Archival Description and Cataloging”
Emory University’s Rose Library, “Harmful Language in Finding Aids”


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