Details on our use of controlled vocabulary, reparative language efforts, descriptive terms, and content warnings in Special Collections

Records in our online special collections were migrated from an older system and may contain information from catalog cards from decades ago. Forbes Library uses controlled vocabulary from Library of Congress subject headings and the Art & Architecture Thesaurus as well as our own local terms.

For oral histories, content warnings for drugs or violence have been added and when possible, the narrators’ own language is used to identify these topics and their own experiences in the descriptions.

The library’s historical collections contain materials from the 1600s to the present. Some materials contain language no longer acceptable today. We have not censored or omitted this content. Forbes Library is committed to using inclusive and respectful language in descriptions, subject terms and keywords.

Recent reparative language efforts include:

  • In 2020, Forbes Library began a “first names project” to review descriptions where people were referred to by titles and researched over 300 people and edited over 1500 records to add first names to the record.  This also included adding maiden names or married names for greater findability by researchers. Forbes Library is grateful to Abbie Benfield, Smith College class of 2023, for leading this research.
  • In 2021 in anticipation of migrating our database to a new system, Forbes Library staff began a review of subject words, search terms and descriptions for use of racist, sexist, oppressive, offensive language. Forbes Library is committed to continually reviewing the past and current cataloging practices. Specific projects, grants, virtual exhibits, and collections have and will continue to use community members, other organizations, community partners, and archival professionals to advise library staff.
  • In 2023, we began adding detailed image descriptions in English and Spanish, also available in audio, for objects in the Fine Arts collection, to make it more accessible both online and in the building. This project was supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Forbes Library welcomes your feedback, corrections, and additions to our descriptions.  Email or look for “click here to contribute your information” in an item record.