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Harmful Language Statement

Harmful Language in the Library Catalog and Archival Description

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside Library and Archives aim to describe library and archival materials in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we manage. However, users may encounter harmful or offensive language, for example, language that is racist, sexist, or homophobic, in catalog records or archival finding aids. Please contact us at if you encounter concerning language in library or archival description. Harmful or offensive language may appear for several reasons: 

  • Descriptions incorporate language that was used by the people and organizations that created the material. For example, it is standard practice to transcribe book titles and to use archival folder titles when they are present; these are entered as they are represented in the materials themselves for research purposes. Language that comes from the original material can provide information about the people who created it and the cultural context in which it was created.
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings and other standardized subject terms may contain offensive or outdated language. Libraries worldwide collaborate on updating these headings, and such changes involve an extensive review, editorial, and approval process.
  • Our catalog contains some records that are maintained by sources outside of the University of Wisconsin. Our ability to update those records is limited.

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside Library and Archives are currently exploring ways to address harmful or offensive language as part of routine description work. When we encounter problematic language that was created by library or archives staff, we update it whenever possible. In addition, we encourage users to provide feedback to help us address this issue. We recognize that terminology evolves over time and that efforts to create respectful and inclusive descriptions must be ongoing.

If you encounter problematic language, please email Staff will review the description and whenever possible, update it in a way that balances the preservation of original context with an awareness of the effect of language on our users. We welcome your feedback.


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