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Resources for Faculty: Harmful Language Statement

Harmful Language Statement

The Gustavus Library is committed to fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all our patrons. We acknowledge that harmful and outdated language or terminology exists in our materials’ historical catalog records and finding aids (such as descriptions and inventories of collections), however much we strive to use appropriate, inclusive, and respectful language today.

Harmful or offensive language may appear for the following reasons: 

  • Some derogatory terms, once considered acceptable and used to describe historically oppressed people, have been reclaimed and used by authors and creators from those communities. 

  • Other terms historically used by a community to describe themselves have fallen out of use or out of favor. 

  • Library of Congress Subject Headings, which enable standardized searching and access across our holdings, retain certain problematic terms, and the process of reviewing and approving those headings is extensive and often involves legislative action, which may take months or years to resolve. 

  • We have transcribed information directly from the materials themselves. While this preserves important context, the creators’ biases and prejudices may also be reflected.

We are dedicated to critically examining our descriptive practices. If you encounter any language that you consider to be harmful or offensive to yourself or others, please use this form to report it and suggest alternative language. Our library staff is engaged in an ongoing effort to revise the finding aids and descriptions to which we have access. We will contact the Library of Congress to request that changes be made whenever we come across items under their purview and will supplement our own descriptions with more respectful terms as necessary.

 Click here to report harmful language: Harmful Language Report Form

Special thanks to the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, Emory University Libraries, and the Getty Research Institute, whose harmful-language and antiracist statements helped inform our own. 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License