Faculty and staff at the Evelyn S. Field Library of Raritan Valley Community College acknowledge that the descriptive text in catalog records, known as metadata or bibliographic description, can contain language that is insensitive, discriminatory, or offensive. Most of the language in our catalog descriptions is either taken directly from the source (for example, the title of a book), or is part of a structured system of bibliographic description, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). These systems were developed to provide standardized methods of description, enabling search and access. These systems are not neutral, and may reflect the biases of their creators, some of whom were active in earlier periods in America’s history. These systems can perpetuate historically dominant perspectives and subjugate marginalized people and groups.
Language taken directly from a book or other resource is retained to ensure access to the physical item. It also preserves the original intent of the author or creator. This can help us understand the past and inform our actions in the present. However, we recognize that terminology evolves over time and that efforts to create respectful and inclusive descriptions must be ongoing.
The professional library community is working to update our description practices. Some metadata, like LCSH, can take significant time and resources to change at the national level. Evelyn S. Field Library faculty and staff recognize our responsibility to describe our resources and their creators respectfully and carefully. We welcome any feedback that you can provide about the language you encounter. Please use this anonymous form to report harmful language and suggest an alternative: https://raritanval.libwizard.com/id/90340ef19f06517f72c7af72afef10cf. You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.