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Michigan State University

Harmful Language in Library Resource Descriptions

History and context to accompany MSU Libraries' Statement of Harmful Language in the Catalog.


Reporting to the Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Organizational Development and engaging with relevant units, this Working Group will identify, assess and respond to harmful language issues in the Library’s descriptive metadata, including practical ideation for how to remedy detected language issues.

This Working Group’s scope will include but not be limited to: 

  1. Engagement with harmful language issues in libraries and archives, including focused readings, professional development opportunities and other activities;

  2. Conceiving of and crafting project proposals for harmful language remediation in Library repositories and catalog, drawing on input from the Library, campus and community as appropriate;

  3. Where suitable, advising units in the library and on campus on policies and practice to address harmful language when encountered in standard description;

  4. Engage Dean of Libraries, Executive Council and implicated units on budget needs for proposed projects;

  5. Maintaining Working Group LibGuide of contextual information and project outcomes;

  6. Receiving inquiries and comments from the general public related to potentially harmful language in the Library’s metadata.

Membership will include standing and rotating members. Standing members will consist of the Head of Cataloging and Metadata Services (CMS) and Head of Metadata Management. Rotating members will include representation from CMS, Special Collections, University Archives & Historical Collections (UAHC), the Digital Repository Team, the Diversity Advisory Committee, and an At-Large member from the general library faculty and staff. The Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Organizational Development will serve in an advisory capacity.

Terms for regular members will be 2 years and be staggered as follows:
Even year rotation: Special Collections, CMS, Diversity Committee
Odd year rotation: UAHC, Digital Repository, At-large member
Terms run alongside faculty committees in the Librarian Bylaws, beginning and ending August 15 of each year.

The Working Group will meet monthly, with extra meetings scheduled as needed to complete projects.