Statement on Harmful Language and Content

The University of Texas Libraries (UTL) preserves and provides access to a wide range of cultural heritage and research collections. UTL aims to provide access to collection materials in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, steward, and are represented in its holdings. Some content in UTL holdings may be disturbing or offensive, and may not reflect the current organizational values of UTL.

As members of our global society, we at UTL both recognize and take seriously our responsibility to all who entrust us with providing access to the information resources we steward. Resource descriptions enable the discovery and use of collection materials. Descriptive work is not and never has been neutral: it is done by people with their own backgrounds, experiences, and biases. Societal and professional norms about what constitutes a respectful description vary over time. Historically, the undertaking of reflective and responsive descriptive work at UTL has not received the attention it requires. As collection stewards, we take responsibility for the harmful language in our descriptions and apologize for the pain we have caused.

We aspire to describe all people, organizations, and communities respectfully, with an aim to mitigate existing and future harm. We are committed to correcting past errors, overcoming current limitations, and are actively working to provide the necessary support for the collections in our care and those who engage with them. For example, when we encounter harmful language that a staff member generated, we will update it. We will review word choice, do our best to contextualize original language within its historical context, and provide supplemental terms that will aid in research. We understand that this process requires continual work, self-reflection, and learning. This statement is a first step in recognizing the work that we have before us, and builds upon work currently underway across UTL and the profession.

We know that we will not always get it right. Words matter and terminology evolves over time. We welcome your feedback while we improve our descriptive practices. UTL staff will review your suggestions and work towards remediating harmful language in our descriptions.

Last revision: February 1, 2022

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