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Ethical Cataloging Statement


Queens Public Library Ethical Cataloging Statement

The Queens Public Library endeavors to preserve and provide an extensive collection of circulating and reference materials for our patrons that reflect the multitude of communities in Queens. One way we accomplish this is through accurately and respectfully describing materials relating to underrepresented communities.

We recognize that while browsing the catalog you may come across language that reflects outdated or discriminatory viewpoints that may be difficult or harmful to view. We are working to update language in our catalog that is derived from descriptive practices entrenched in discriminatory concepts, such as racism, ableism, homophobia, and misogyny.

Still, many outdated and discriminatory terms remain visible to our community while they search the main catalog and the library's online archival collections. These harmful descriptions can manifest in many ways; from out-of-date summaries and Library of Congress Subject Headings to Dewey classifications that no longer fit a subject. By acknowledging weaknesses and flaws in these cataloging standards and other areas of librarianship, we aim to support the library's commitment to an inclusive community through the following practices:

  • Informing users about the potential presence and origin of harmful content
  • Revising descriptions and standardized sets of descriptive terms, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings, supplementing description with more respectful terms, or creating new standardized terms to describe materials.
    • Specifically, we have replaced all permutations of the harmful Library of Congress Subject Headings “Illegal aliens” and “Noncitizens,” with variations of the local term “Undocumented immigrants.”
    • We are also working on an extensive project to remediate and expand the subject headings used in our records for LGBTQ+-related materials. We are adding terms from the Homosaurus (, an LGBTQ+-focused vocabulary. We use more specific and accurate Library of Congress Subject Headings when available and eliminate harmful, out-of-date Library of Congress subject headings when necessary.
  • Making an institutional commitment to DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) in our collection development, descriptive practices, public services and in our workplace culture and policies. 
  • Providing a means for feedback if you encounter materials in Digital Collections that need review.

For questions or concerns about sensitive content in QPL catalog records, please use the library’s general  Contact Us form and your inquiry will be directed to the correct team to respond to your inquiry.  

Adapted from the Digital Public Library of America’s Statement on Potentially Harmful Content and by researching statements on Cataloging Lab.