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University of Washington Special Collections Anti-Racism Initiatives

We acknowledge that the Special Collections is the repository for some collections, material, finding aids and/or catalog records that may cause harm. We are actively working to address this issue.

Critical librarianship acknowledges that libraries and archives are impacted by society and culture. It aims to make our professional practice more transparent and accountable to change.

UW librarians and archivists are working to effect change today. 

Ongoing Special Collections Anti-Racism Initiatives

What are we doing now? 

We are collectively examining our policies and programs to embed anti-racist actions into the department now and into the future.

We are updating collection descriptions and digital object metadata, as feasible

  • Special Collections and Cataloging and Metadata Services (CAMS) acknowledge that we have biases and power in our choice of language when we create our finding aids, write biographical or historical notes, scope and content statements, and institutional notes. For new finding aids, catalog records, and digital collections records, we are committed to using inclusive, anti-racist, non-derogatory language. We are also actively looking for out of date language that is now understood to be racist, homophobic, sexist, and ableist language in our legacy finding aids and records. 

We commit to critical, collaborative deliberation in determining whether and when to retain harmful language in our finding aids and catalog records.

  • We are implementing the “Guidelines for Addressing Bias in Archival Description and Catalog Records'' from the Orbis Cascade Alliance Unique Material in the Shared Integrated Library System (UMSILS) and Archives West Standing Groups to document the existence of creator-supplied harmful description when maintained for the preservation of historical context as well as the existence of harmful content within individual collections. 

Projects Completed

What have we done so far?


Published Black Lives Matter (BLM) Statement in June 2020


Offered free, virtual We Are History Keepers programming, a series of archiving best practices workshops geared towards members of local ethnic communities in the Puget Sound region


Updated the CASA Latina records finding aid to include a Spanish language translation of the descriptive metadata


Created a bilingual transcription in English and Spanish, of the Rosalinda Guillén and Julio Romero oral history interviews  


Integrated collaborative EDI-Centered and non-normative questions into the COVID-19 oral history project in partnership with community and stakeholder organizations, including the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance (APALA)


Continued with EDI-centered social media programming highlighting collections documenting the stories of people of color, including workers of color from Labor Archives of Washington collections


Labor Archives of Washington participated in radio show/podcast episodes on Northwest Labor Employment Law Office (LELO), a regional BIPOC-led civil rights law and labor organizing organization


Worked with the rest of the Libraries on the Anti-Racist Collections LibGuide, linking to the African American Research & Archival Collections in the Pacific Northwest Collection 


Drafted and published Critical Cataloging and Archival Description Statement on the UW Libraries website, along with the creation of a feedback form for users to flag problematic description in catalog records, archival finding aids, digital collections metadata, and other descriptive records as well as a workflow for addressing flagged description in these descriptive records

Began tracking and addressing issues through the feedback form related to specific instances of problematic and harmal description in finding aids and digital collections


Conducted a survey on workflow for discovering and flagging racist imagery in ‘Historical Children’s Literature’ ContentDM  


We are open to your feedback! 

We want to ensure that we are compassionate listeners that are ready to act on your meaningful feedback. If you have questions regarding material or collections, you are welcome to contact the subject-area curator. If you have feedback regarding outdated, problematic, and/or harmful descriptions in our finding aids, digital collections records, and other descriptive resources, you can submit questions and comments via this form or by emailing

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