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Metadata at Northwestern

Statement on Bias in Library Description

Metadata is the language used in Northwestern University Libraries’ (NUL) catalog, online tools, archives, and digital collections to describe and manage resources and enable their discovery and ongoing access by the scholarly community. This work occurs within an international community of libraries, archives, and systems.

NUL acknowledges the reality that our metadata and practices reflect a white supremacist and discriminatory culture. This may lead to problematic language that perpetuates past and present prejudices, especially in respect to race, Indigenous Peoples, sexuality, gender, class, disability, colonialism, and Global North bias. Our descriptive practices also historically center English and other western European languages. NUL’s metadata creators take responsibility for the language that describes our collections and are committed to remediating issues of outdated, inaccurate, objectifying or disrespectful language, while acknowledging that this reparative work is ongoing. 

We welcome suggestions, questions, or comments from any source using the form on this page. If you prefer email, you may contact Jamie Carlstone or the library's contact email

This statement was posted on October 27, 2021. It will be reviewed annually along with the Metadata Inclusivity Steering Group charge. More information on problematic metadata is on the NUL blog.

Resources on bias in metadata

Revisions to name authority headings

Northwestern University Libraries is a member of NACO, the name authority program of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC). As such, we have the ability to create and edit records in the Library of Congress Name Authority File. If you are an author with a record in the name authority file and you would like information added or changed, we will help--whether or not you are affiliated with Northwestern University.