January 23, 2022

The Princeton University Library Inclusive Description Working Group Shares Progress on Effort to Describe Collections Accurately, Respectfully

From Princeton University Library:

A team of archivists at Princeton University Library (PUL)’s Special Collections is working to describe archival materials in a manner that is accurate and respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections.

“We recognize that our field has fallen short of this goal, particularly when we’ve described people from marginalized groups,” said Kelly Bolding, project archivist in the Americana manuscript collections and chair of PUL’s Archival Description and Processing Team’s Inclusive Description Working Group (IDWG), formed in May 2019.

By using a reparative framework to redress past failures in describing people with respect and accuracy, IDWG’s efforts make records of marginalized groups more discoverable to researchers and bring to light more voices and stories in the collections. IDWG guidelines include prioritizing language that individuals and communities would use to describe themselves, updating archivist-supplied language, and discontinuing the perpetuation of inequalities in finding aids.

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Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.