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Statement on Harmful Language in Atkins Library Descriptions

As part of its commitment to cultivating an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and differences are respected, Atkins Library is working to address harmful, offensive, derogatory, or otherwise problematic language used in descriptions of library resources about people of color and other historically marginalized communities. The Working Group on DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) Descriptive Practices at Atkins is gathering feedback from the community about such language and updating descriptions in catalog records, archival finding aids, and digital collections materials metadata where appropriate and feasible. We welcome your participation in this effort.

Harmful or offensive language can appear in descriptions of library resources for some of the following reasons:

  • Atkins uses Library of Congress Subject Headings and FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology) headings to facilitate standardized searching and retrieval across its collections. The process through which new LCSH and FAST subject terms are created and old terms are reviewed and replaced can be complex and lengthy. In some cases, terms can only be changed through legislative action. That means that some LCSH and FAST headings in our search systems may still use outmoded or offensive terminology.
  • Terms formerly used by communities to describe themselves have fallen out of favor.
  • The titles and table of contents of some resources contain problematic language and were directly transcribed from the resources themselves. 
  • Some historically marginalized communities have reclaimed derogatory terms to describe themselves, and authors and creators from these communities may use them in their works.

Most but not all of this language appears in records for older resources.

Please use this form to report problematic language you encounter in resource descriptions in Atkins Library finding aids and catalog and digital repository records. Members of the Working Group will review comments submitted through the form and make changes to descriptions as appropriate in a way that preserves the original context while furthering the library’s commitment to describing library resources with respectful and inclusive language.

If you have other questions about the Working Group’s efforts, you may submit questions to [].