May 16, 2022

Duke University Libraries Releases Statement on “Potentially Harmful Language in Library Descriptions”

From a Duke University Libraries “Bitstreams” Blog Post by Maggie Dickson:

One of the first steps that institutions can take is to publiclhese public acknowledgements often take the form of what is typically referred to as a ‘harmful language statement’ on the library’s website (The Cataloging Lab has created what looks to be a pretty comprehensive list of statements on bias in library and archives description). Last spring, our Executive Group convened a working group to develop such a statement for the Duke University Libraries and charged us with: Using harmful language statements drafted by other cultural heritage groups as a reference, draft statements acknowledging harmful language and content within our collections (digital and analog) and metadata.

The working group started by reviewing the Harmful Statement Research Log Laurier had compiled as part of her research, in which she analyzed the content and presentation of harmful language statements from GLAM institutions. This was extremely helpful to us in determining what we wanted to prioritize and emphasize as we developed our own statement. We met biweekly over the course of a few months, while also working asynchronously on verbiage in between meetings. Ultimately, we decided that we wanted our statement to be straightforward, communicating that we know library description is not a neutral space, that we are aware that harmful language exists on our website, and that we are committed to repairing such language as it is identified. We also wanted our statement to be short – no one likes a wall of text! – and we were able to accomplish this by linking from the statement to lengthier, more detailed statements on inclusive description prepared by our Technical Services division and the Rubenstein Libraries Technical Services department.

Learn More, Read the Complete Blog Post

Direct to Duke University Libraries: Statement on Potentially Harmful Language in Library Descriptions.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.