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Emory's LibGuide on LibGuides: Best Practices & Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining LibGuides

An internal guide for Emory Libraries.

LibGuides & DEI - An Introduction

Integrating DEI principles into a LibGuide can cover a wide variety of topics, from using appropriate author pronouns to advocating for historically-underrepresented voices. This section covers a few basic considerations to take into account when creating a LibGuide.


Be sure to check out the DEI Boilerplate content as well:

This page is still under construction

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If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact Kyle Tanaka ( or Jennifer Elder (

Metadata bias

Although they aren't our only means of conducting research, often we will recommend to researchers that they use keywords, subject headings, and classifications in their research, e.g. Library of Congress Subject Headings or simply browsing the stacks in a relevant area. While these tactics can be useful, they should be advertised with some precautions. Library authority terms, including subject headings, have been critiqued for several decades as describing resources with a very particular worldview in mind. In the 1970s, Joan Marshall described this perspective as “White, Christian (often specifically Protestant,) male, and straight (heterosexual.)” (1). Today, we might add the presumption of cisgendered and Western.

Practically, this means wording found in library metadata can stymie and marginalize research coming from non-traditional backgrounds. Patrons may encounter alienating language, as Marielena Fina noted when she found works about Latinas accessing information through libraries grouped under the heading “LIBRARIES AND THE SOCIALLY HANDICAPPED” (2). They may also find language that is outdated or offensive, or find that their topic of interest is positioned problematically, e.g. placing efforts at emancipation and liberation from U.S. slaves under "Slavery in the U.S. - Insurrections" (3) or homosexual behavior and lifestyles under "Sexual Perversion" (4).

It is important to note that such issues are not simply about protecting researchers' feelings. Instead, it is about recognizing that historically such populations were seen as the object of study by outsiders, a position that is increasingly being challenged as such populations become subjects: individuals researching such issues for their own sake and the sake of their communities.



  1. "LC Labeling: An Indictment," in Revolting Librarians (1972), 46.
  2. "The Role of Subject Headings in Access to Information,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 17, no. 1–2 (December 14, 1993): 269.
  3. Knowlton, Steven A. “Three Decades Since Prejudices and Antipathies: A Study of Changes in the Library of Congress Subject Headings.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 40, no. 2 (August 2005): 141.
  4. Adler, Melissa. Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge. Bronx: Fordham University Press, 2017. 35-36.

Publication Bias

Historically, not all peoples have had equal access to publication. Sometimes this is due to individual and/or societal bias, such as when an author's work is denied publication because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. More broadly, however, expectations about what makes a work "worth publishing" have created problems for historically-underrepresented groups.

This is what we might call an inertia problem. Publishers often prioritize publishing those works for which there is a known audience; but if the audience has historically been white, Western, cis, male, etc., then they will prioritize publishing works that speak to the interests and traditions of that group. Authors from the margins find themselves in a catch-22: there is no audience, so they don't get published; but because they don't get published, they can't find an audience.

What does this mean for LibGuides? For starters, we should think carefully and critically about what resources we present to our readers. When we select books from the catalog as examples or curate materials for a bibliography, we should strive to go beyond "usual" sources (e.g. Oxford Bibliographies, Routledge manuals) to include underrepresented voices. This consideration pertains to when we discuss ideas like reputability as well. Although discussing such ideas is key to information literacy, we should do so with a sensitivity for how social expectations about "reputability" can be encoded with conceptions about race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on.

Field Centrality Bias

Over time, fields and publications have become broader and more open to diverse voices. It is true that discrepancies in representation still exist, but in many cases the gaps of representation are smaller than they once were.

However, this increase in representation can be deceptive. Deborah Rosenfelt notes that sometimes when the historically-underrepresented are included, it is done so on the terms of the dominant group. In her example, she points out how as women authors became more represented in the canon of Western Literature, only women whose work closely resembled existing esteemed forms of writing were "admitted." That is, women who wrote novels or poetry were more likely to be included than those whose writing was primarily that of diaries or letters (1).

This approach carries over into other types of collection besides the canon, such as "Best of" lists and award winners. It may be true that more diverse voices are included in such groupings than was previously the case, but if the expanded inclusion is still biased, its effect is limited.


  1. Rosenfelt, Deborah S. “The Politics of Bibliography: Women’s Studies and the Literary Canon.” In Women in Print: Opportunities for Women’s Studies Research in Language and Literature, edited by Joan E. Hartman and Ellen Messer-Davidow. New York: Modern Language Association, 1982. 21-22.

Specific Recommendations

Voice and Style

  • Take an empathetic, individual-centric approach to description
    • "For example, consider the difference between “documents the business dealings of a Black woman named
       Maria in 18th century Mexico” and “documents the business dealings of Maria, a Black woman in 18th
       century Mexico” (Anti-Racist Description Resources, p. 4)
  • "Describe relationships of power when they are important for understanding the context of records. Racism,
    slurs, white supremacy, colonialism, and histories of oppression are important context. For example, 'Thomas Jefferson was a known enslaver despite his legacy as a supporter of individual rights'" (Anti-Racist Description Resources, p. 4).


  • Include descriptions for links, including hyperlinks in text boxes
  • Ensure your guide is visually accessible
    • There are many online tools to check the accessibility of your guide, such as WAVE (click here to go to WAVE)
    • Ensure your color choices have sufficient contrast, or simply use the recommended Emory LibGuide Template
    • Add alternative text to images
      • This can be done by adding a brief description of the image to the "Alternative Text" box when using the add an image button

Supporting Research

  • Advocate using additional or alternative sources for finding resource beyond Library of Congress Subject Headings and Classification
    • While these headings can be useful, they can also be problematic and hinder research (especially if the research conducted involves marginalized peoples, non-traditional methodology, etc.)
  • Ensure users are aware of biases in metadata, either through field-specific considerations or a more general acknowledgment


Works Cited and Additional Resources

Further Reading

Articles & Book Chapter:

  • Clack, Doris Hargrett. “Subject Access to African American Studies Resources in Online Catalogs: Issues and Answers.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 2, Routledge, Feb. 1995, pp. 49–66. Taylor and Francis+NEJM,
  • Knowlton, Steven A. “Three Decades Since Prejudices and Antipathies: A Study of Changes in the Library of Congress Subject Headings.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 2, Aug. 2005, pp. 123–45. (Crossref),
  • Olson, Hope A., and Rose Schlegl. “Standardization, Objectivity, and User Focus: A Meta-Analysis of Subject Access Critiques.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 2, Routledge, Sept. 2001, pp. 61–80. Taylor and Francis+NEJM,
  • Rosenfelt, Deborah S. “The Politics of Bibliography: Women’s Studies and the Literary Canon.” Women in Print 1: Opportunities for Women’s Studies Research in Language and Literature, edited by Joan E. Hartman and Ellen Messer-Davidow, Modern Language Association, 1982, pp. 11–31.


  • Adler, Melissa. Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge. Fordham University Press, 2017. (Crossref),
  • Berman, Sanford. Prejudices and Antipathies: A Tract on the LC Subject Heads Concerning People. Scarecrow Press, 1971.
  • Downey, Annie. Critical Information Literacy: Foundations, Inspiration, and Ideas. Library Juice Press, 2016.
  • Olson, Hope A. The Power to Name: Locating the Limits of Subject Representation in Libraries. Springer Netherlands, 2013. Open WorldCat,