Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln



Rachel L. Frick, OCLC Research

Merrilee Proffitt, OCLC Research

Date of this Version


Document Type



Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research, April 2022

ISBN: 978-1-55653-231-3

DOI: 10.25333/wd4b-bs51

OCLC Control Number: 1300235683


Copyright 2022, the authors. Open access material

License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International


Executive Summary

The Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project convened a group of experts, practitioners, and community members to determine ways of improving descriptive practices, tools, infrastructure, and workflows in libraries and archives. The result, this community agenda, is offered to the broad library and archives community of practice. The agenda draws together insights from the convening, related research, and operational work that is ongoing in the field. All institutions hold power to make meaningful changes in this space, and all share collective responsibility.

The agenda is not a “how-to guide,” but it is constructed to instruct and chart a path toward reparative and inclusive description. The agenda is divided into two distinct parts. The first part provides contextual information regarding the project, the convening, and the methods used to create this agenda. It also frames the historical, local, and workflow challenges and tensions to consider when approaching inclusive and reparative metadata work.

The second part, “A Framework of Guidance,” and the Appendix, suggest actions and exercises that can help frame local priorities and areas for change and also provides examples to inspire local work. Inclusive and reparative description work is highly dependent on local context, and therefore a specific course of action must be created that is unique to each institution’s readiness and position relative to communities.

We have endeavored to be respectful and accurate with the terms that we have used, but we recognize that some words carry regional and community-based differences. Readers are advised that this report does contain a handful of illustrative examples of descriptive language that can and does inflict harm or offense.

The urgency to address past harms and correct harmful behaviors and workflows must be tempered by proceeding at a speed that supports building trust, promotes continuous learning, and embraces iterative effort. The work of reparative and inclusive metadata will never be finished. Stewarding the data about library and archive collections for users today and into the future will require ongoing refinement to practice.

OCLC, as an organization that plays a significant role in the stewardship of library metadata, is very pleased to be able to facilitate the production of this community agenda. The agenda and its recommendations will also be an important guide for OCLC as it charts its own way forward.

The work of confronting and addressing harmful descriptive practices is not easy, and we are grateful for community contributions that have informed and shaped this project and publication.