Harmful content statement


The University of Nevada, Reno Libraries contributes to the University’s mission and values, which aim to create an environment that provides outstanding learning, discovery, and engagement and to serve the needs of the citizens of Nevada, the nation, and the world. We value excellence, integrity, inclusiveness, and collaboration. This statement also supports the Libraries’ diversity statement: “We respect and appreciate the variety of beliefs, behaviors, orientations, identities and cultural backgrounds of the university community and foster an environment of understanding, respect and sensitivity in our services to the community.”  The objective of this Harmful Content Statement is to identify and address harmful content that may be found in our library, archival, and digital collections.

Problematic content in the Libraries

The Libraries acknowledges that some of our materials and vendor supplied resources may include language and content that is racist, sexist, colonialist, homophobic, and/or use other offensive terms and imagery that may cause harm or distress.  This language may have come from a variety of sources – creators of the collection material, previous metadata creators and stewards, publishers, or by University workers since acquisition, and only some of those sources are within our control. While the Libraries does not endorse the ideologies, images, or language found in such cases and rejects oppressive views reflected in our collections, items like these are made publicly available to provide an accurate and complete historical record. They are critically important resources for education and research and provide opportunities for contemporary and future entities seeking accountability and transparency.

Harmful language in descriptive metadata

We approach description of our physical and digital collections – including finding aids, catalog records, and other metadata – with a goal of balancing preservation of the original context while maintaining a dedication to creating, editing, and enhancing our description using language that reflects the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our description may include the use of problematic language when: transcribing original language from items; reusing language provided by creators and former stewards; and using certain, nationally recognized subject headings. We use several national standards like the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to normalize subject searching across our catalog. We support national efforts to update and change outdated or harmful terms found within these standards and may choose to include local subject headings when appropriate. We aim to clarify instances where original language is retained by providing a note with source information or additional historical context. Work on inclusive and reparative descriptions is a continuous and iterative process. We expect that language preferences will change over time, and that our work will continue to change with it.

Providing feedback on description and metadata

The Libraries is continuously working on updating and repairing our content and description. Due to the size of our collections, we acknowledge that there will be problematic items and descriptions that have gone unnoticed. If you find content that you believe contains inaccurate, harmful, or offensive language, please submit feedback through the form below:

Collections feedback form

Please include the name of the material or collection; its identifier, call number, or link; and a brief description of the issue. The Libraries does not guarantee that changes will or can be implemented, but we welcome recommendations.

About the Harmful Content Working Group

The Harmful Content Working Group is composed of University Libraries employees, both classified staff and faculty, with a variety of different backgrounds, perspectives, and personal identities. This is an inter-departmental group and includes members from the Special Collections and University Archives department; Metadata, Cataloging, and One-Time Acquisitions department; Digital Services department; and Jon Bilbao Basque Library.