Statement on Harmful Language in Omni

uOttawa Library acknowledges that bibliographic descriptions in our discovery platform Omni are not neutral and may contain language that is considered offensive or harmful to different marginalized groups. For consistency and access purposes, we use controlled vocabularies and standards to describe our collections (e.g. Library of Congress Subject Headings, Library of Congress Name Authority Cooperative Program), which may contain insensitive, outdated, or inappropriate language that reflects the norms and biases of the time in which they were created.

We recognize our responsibility to describe our resources and their creators respectfully. We are committed to implementing the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our cataloguing practices, and creating bibliographic descriptions that represent marginalized groups accurately and respectfully. We are dedicated to finding ways to mitigate the use of harmful and offensive language in Omni.

We are undertaking efforts to remediate the issue and are pursuing actions to reduce the presence of harmful language in our descriptive metadata. In most cases, harmful language will be present in thousands of older bibliographic records that were created many years ago, therefore reviewing and correcting existing records will be a complex and ongoing process. The actions we are taking include:

  1. Updating our cataloguing policies and procedures and implementing practices of critical cataloguing that emphasize cataloguers’ role in ensuring unbiased and respectful bibliographic description in our records. We use the Cataloguing Code of Ethics as the primary guide on ethical and DEI issues in metadata creation.  
  2. Working with provincial and national partners to support initiatives on respectful terminology and inclusive metadata (e.g. OCUL, LAC, NIKLA, CRKN, CFLA-FCAB). For instance, we have started a long-term project on decolonizing description related to Indigenous Peoples, knowledge, and contexts. We are using the final report of the OCUL Collaborative Futures (CF) Decolonizing Descriptions Working Group as a starting point.
  3. Implementing the use of relevant vocabularies of inclusive and respectful terminology in our cataloguing practices, such as the updated Canadian Subject Headings Related to Indigenous Peoples, CRKN Indigenous Subject Headings, MAIN Indigenous Subject Headings, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Indigenous Ontologies (FNMIIO), and more.
  4. Taking full advantage of our library system’s advanced functionalities to automate, as much as possible, the process of reviewing and updating catalogue records containing biased and harmful bibliographic description. However, this complex process and updating all the affected records will take considerable time, effort, and care.

If you wish to take part in this initiative, please contact us at [email protected] to report catalogue records with biased or problematic language and/or to provide feedback. We thank you for your ongoing collaboration.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This statement was prepared using examples of similar statements by Carleton University, Library and Archives Canada, Duke University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

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