William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Statement on Cataloging

Photo credit: Rebecca Fenning Marschall

On June 1, 2020, the Clark Library made a commitment to our patrons.

When we said it is important to create “a space in the cultural record for new voices, including those obscured, under-told, or excluded from our library in the past” we meant it.

A library catalog has never been a neutral space1. It is also more than just a tool for collection discovery. The catalog reflects current and past attitudes towards the authority to name2 and describe3, the power to organize and classify4. Its structure influences what you can find and how it can be discovered.

While we strive to catalog our collections as carefully and thoroughly as possible, we acknowledge that previous descriptive practices and outdated metadata conventions sometimes produce entries and information that are not historically accurate, or are offensive or discriminatory.5,6

Our catalog, much like our community, is diverse and dynamic. The library’s catalog is both a product and a process. We recognize long-standing professional biases, national and international standards that create problematic metadata, and our need for further education and reflection on how to recognize inequities in the language and practice of cataloging and archival description.

The Clark Library is revising our cataloging practices, checking records for accuracy and to eliminate, whenever possible, language that is biased or racist. We are updating metadata especially in instances when the historical narrative needs to be challenged or when greater social context needs to be included.

While we are committed to take responsibility and agency for this work, we welcome input if you choose to offer it. If at some point, while searching our online catalog, consulting our finding aids, or looking at our materials, you notice information that is inaccurate or problematic, please bring it to our attention if you wish and we will fix it. If you find anomalies in the way people, events, dates, or items are described in our collections, whether they are inaccurate, misleading, incomplete, derogatory, or otherwise unhelpful, please let us know and we’ll correct them.

Always feel free to contact us through email or on the Clark Library’s website if you are having difficulty finding something you need, or if you have questions about a particular item.

We are here to help!

Our catalog is meant to best describe and represent our collections in order to facilitate access to our shared cultural record. Just like us, it is not a perfect resource, but with your help, together we can make it better.

Clark Library Catalogers:
Nina M. Schneider
Rebecca Fenning Marschall
Alejandro Sanchez-Nunez
Megan Riley
Email: catalog@humnet.ucla.edu


Suggested Further Reading

Feel free to explore our brief bibliography below if you would like to learn more about these cataloging issues. Our thanks to the Cataloging Ethics Steering Committee (CaMMS, CMSC & CIG) for many of these titles. We will continue to add to this list:

ALA’s Code of Ethics (United States, 2008): http://www.ala.org/tools/ethics

CILIP’s Ethical Framework (United Kingdom, 2018): https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/ethics

CFLA-FCAB Code of Ethics (Canada, 2018): http://cfla-fcab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Code-of-ethics.pdf

IFLA. Code of ethics for librarians and other information workers. Retrieved from: https://www.ifla.org/publications/ifla-code-of-ethics-for-librarians-and-other-information-workers-full-version/

ALCTS (Association for Library Collections and Technical Services), Division of ALA. Report of the SAC Working Group on Alternatives to LCSH “Illegal aliens,” June 19. 2020. Retrieved from: https://alair.ala.org/handle/11213/14582

Adler, M. (2017). Classification along the color line: Excavating racism in the stacks. Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1. Retrieved from https://journals.litwinbooks.com/index.php/jclis/article/view/17

Adler, M., J. Huber, and A. T. Nix. (2017). Stigmatizing Disability: Library Classifications and the Marking and Marginalization of Books about People with Disabilities. Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 87 (2), 117–135.

Berman, Sanford. Prejudices and Antipathies: a tract on the LC subject heads concerning people. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., 1993 https://www.sanfordberman.org/prejant.htm

Brubaker, J. (2018). Text, lies and cataloging: Ethical treatment of deceptive works in the library. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. 978-0786497447

Drabinksi, E. (2013). Queering the catalog: Queer theory and the politics of correction. Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 83(2), 94-111. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/669547

Ferguson, S., Thornley, C., Gibb, F. (2016) Beyond codes of ethics: how library and information professionals navigate ethical dilemmas in a complex and dynamic information environment. International Journal of Information Management, 36(4), 543–556.

Fox, M.J. & Reece, A. (2012). Which ethics? Whose morality? An analysis of ethical standards for information organization. Knowledge Organization, 39(5), 377-383.

Knowlton, S. A. (2009). Three decades since Prejudices and antipathies: A study of changes in the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 40(2), 123-145. DOI: 10.1300/J104v40n02_08

López, S.M. & Wright, L. (2018). Radical cataloging: Using alternative subject headings locally to promote inclusiveness and diversity. Retrieved from: https://www.librarieslearn.org/calendar/radical-cataloging-using-alternative-subject-headings-locally-to-promote-inclusiveness-and-diversity

Olson, H. (2001). The Power to Name: Representation in Library Catalogs. Signs 2(3), 639-668.

Ridi, R. (2013). Ethical values for knowledge organization. Knowledge Organization, 40(3), 187-196.

Skekel, D. (2008). Ethical, unethical, or benign: Technical services definitions and access to information. Journal of Information Ethics, 17(1), 20-27.

Smiraglia, R.P. (2009). Bibliocentrism, cultural warrant, and the ethics of resource description: A case study. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 47(7), 671-686.

Smith-Yoshimura, K. (2018). Creating metadata for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Hanging Together: the OCLC Research blog. https://hangingtogether.org/?p=6833

Star, S. L. and Bowker, G. (2000). Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

Stitzlein, H. (2017, July 6). Diversity, inclusion, & social justice in technical services: 2017 Annual Conference. ALCTS News. Retrieved from: https://alcts.ala.org/news/2017/ac-diversity-inclusion-social-justice/

Watson, B. (2020). There was Sex but no Sexuality*: Critical Cataloging and the classification of Asexuality in LCSH. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 1-18.


  1. Ros, Amanda. The Bias Hiding in Your Library (March 20, 2019). https://theconversation.com/the-bias-hiding-in-your-library-111951 and Ford, Anne. Bringing Harassment Out of the History Books: Addressing the troubling aspects of Melvil Dewey’s legacy. American Libraries (June 1, 2018). Retrieved from: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/06/01/melvil-dewey-bringing-harassment-out-of-the-history-books/
  2. Authority Records: https://authorities.loc.gov/help/auth-faq.htm. See also Wikipedia entry for Authority Control: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authority_control
  3. Svenonius, Elaine. The intellectual foundation of information organization. Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 2000
  4. Foskett, A.C. The subject approach to information (5th ed.) London: Library Association Publishing, 1997. See also: https://www.loc.gov/aba/pcc/saco/index.html and http://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/org/cat/research/subjindclass07
  5. Hobart, Elizabeth. “Ethical Cataloging and Racism in Special Collections.” In Archives and Special Collections as Sites of Contestation, edited by Mary Kandiuk. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2020.
  6. Adler, Melissa. “Introduction” and “Naming Subjects. In Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.