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Ethical Description

This guide provides catalogers and metadata practitioners interested in ethical description with questions to consider, examples, and resources to incorporate into their metadata work.

Making a Commitment to Ethical Description

Making a Commitment to Ethical Description at the UCLA Libraries and Archives

This Statement outlines the commitment by UCLA cataloging and metadata practitioners to assess and align our cataloging and metadata work toward more critically and ethically informed anti-racist description practices.

Disclaimer

This LibGuide was created by members of the Ethical Description Sub-Team, a component of the UCLA Library Anti-Racism Initiative (ARI) Collections Project Team. It is a resource for catalogers and metadata practitioners interested in critical cataloging and ethical description issues. It does not represent UCLA Library or its policies.

Purpose of this Guide

This LibGuide is meant to aid metadata creation and revision when approaching library resources having content that is considered harmful.

Critical cataloging and ethical description issues are complex. Depending upon the types of materials being described, library or department policies, and which cataloging conventions are being used, metadata practitioners and catalogers may find themselves transcribing offensive words in a title, making notes about marginalized individuals or painful circumstances, or adding subject headings that are outdated. This LibGuide attempts to guide decision-making in these circumstances and to consider their impact on the user. It should be considered a tool for creating a more inclusive, equitable, diverse, and anti-racist environment for library staff and patrons.

About this Guide

This LibGuide is a living document. We encourage additional examples or requests for guidance if a particular circumstance isn’t addressed in this guide. It will be reviewed periodically to ensure that it remains useful, relevant, and up-to-date.

How to Use this Guide

This guide is organized into sections by the metadata elements that may include problematic language. It includes examples and suggested actions that catalogers and archivists can take for making catalog records or finding aids more inclusive.

Guide credit

Created in 2023 by Ethical Description Sub-Team Members:

  • Paromita Biswas, Resource Acquisitions and Metadata Services
  • Jason Burton, Sciences User Engagement
  • Eileen Keegan, Resource Acquisitions and Metadata Services
  • Amanda Mack, Film and Television Archive
  • Rebecca Fenning Marschall, Clark Library
  • Caroline Miller, Resource Acquisitions and Metadata Services
  • Anju Mitchell, Resource Acquisitions and Metadata Services
  • Lizeth Ramírez, Library Special Collections 
  • Nina M. Schneider, Clark Library
  • Erica Zhang, Resource Acquisitions and Metadata Services