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Social Justice Corner (topic guide)

This guide attempts to provide a starting point to learn about social justice initiatives across the Emory Libraries, Emory Campus, Atlanta, and beyond, as well as provide knowledge and resources to key social justice issues.

FAQs

Why is there harmful language in the library catalog?

Harmful or offensive language may appear for the following reasons: 

  • Some derogatory terms used to describe historically oppressed people have been reclaimed and used by authors and creators from those communities.
  • Terms historically used by a community to describe themselves have fallen out of use or out of favor.
  • We use Library of Congress Subject Headings to enable standardized searching and access across our holdings.
  • We have transcribed information directly from the materials themselves. 
Why can't harmful language in Library of Congress Subject Headings be corrected?

Library of Congress Subject Headings changes have to go through an extensive review, editorial and approval process and sometimes can only be changed by legislative action. Some of these headings continue to use outdated language. For more information on this process, check out Change the Subject in the Additional Readings section.

What are the library's catalogers doing about this?

We recognize our responsibility to describe our resources and their creators respectfully and carefully. We also recognize that we may sometimes fail and are dedicated to a process of constant reflection and improvement. 

We are pursuing actions to remediate these issues, including reviewing and correcting existing records and implementing better processes going forward. This process is complex and ongoing, but we are committed to this effort.

How can I report harmful language that I see in the catalog?

If you discover harmful or offensive language in catalog records please use this form to report it and suggest alternative language or email us. We welcome your feedback.

Do library vendors that provide access to article databases and discovery interface do anything about harmful language appearing in their products?

Many vendors are aware of the issue and develop policies to mitigate harmful language. ExLibris, for example, developed  DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Policy Regarding Subject Headings in CDI (Central Discovery Index)

What else Emory Libraries are doing to address  harmful language issues?

The Rose Library issued "Harmful Language in Finding Aids" statement. 

Candler’s Pitts Theology Library corrected racists cutters in the Library of Congress Classification numbers.

 

Harmful Language in the Library Catalog Statement

Harmful Language in the Library Catalog Statement

At the Emory University Libraries, we are committed to creating inclusive, anti-racist, non-derogatory bibliographic descriptions that accurately describe our holdings. However, we acknowledge that some of our bibliographic descriptions may contain racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise derogatory and offensive language. In most cases, this language will be present in older bibliographic records that were created in years and decades past. We are dedicated to finding ways to mitigate use of harmful and offensive language in bibliographic descriptions in our catalog and we invite you to contact us if you have encountered hurtful language. 

Harmful or offensive language may appear for the following reasons: 

  • Some derogatory terms used to describe historically oppressed people have been reclaimed and used by authors and creators from those communities. 
  • Terms historically used by a community to describe themselves have fallen out of use or out of favor. 
  • We use Library of Congress Subject Headings to enable standardized searching and access across our holdings. LOC Subject Headings changes have to go through an extensive review, editorial and approval process and sometimes can only be changed by legislative action, and some of these headings continue to use outdated language. 
  • We have transcribed information directly from the materials themselves. 

We acknowledge that we are often describing communities of which we are not a part. We recognize our responsibility to describe our resources and their creators respectfully and carefully. We also recognize that we may sometimes fail and are dedicated to a process of constant reflection and improvement. 

We are pursuing actions to remediate these issues, including reviewing and correcting existing records and implementing better processes going forward. This process is complex and ongoing, but we are committed to this effort. If you discover harmful or offensive language in catalog records please use this form to report it and suggest alternative language or email us. We welcome your feedback.

Additional Readings

Additional Readings

Change the Subject. Directed by Sawyer Broadley and Jill Baron, Dartmouth College, 2019.

Green, Rebecca. “Indigenous Peoples in the US, Sovereign Nations, and the DDC.” Knowledge Organization, vol. 42, no. 4, 2015, pp. 211–221. 

Higgins, Molly. “Totally Invisible: Asian American Representation in the Dewey Decimal Classification, 1876–1996.” Knowledge Organization, vol.43, no. 8, 2016, pp. 609–621. 

Howard, Sarah A.and Knowlton, Steven A. "Browsing through Bias: The Library of Congress Classification and Subject Headings for African American Studies and LGBTQIA Studies." Library Trends, vol. 67, no. 1, 2018, pp. 74-88.

Olson, Hope A. “The Power to Name: Representation in Library Catalogs.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 26, no. 3, Apr. 2001, pp. 639–68.

The Cataloging Lab - https://cataloginglab.org/