The NAL Special Collections selects, preserves, describes, and provides access to items of enduring historical value, including rare books, manuscript collections, nursery and seed trade catalogs, photographs, posters, and other physical and digital content related to the history of agriculture. To ensure that our processes, collections, and services include and respect the diverse communities involved in agriculture, we will:
- Acknowledge existing biases and omissions in books and collections
- Examine our processes, policies, and practices related to access, description, collecting, and outreach
- Listen to the communities who use, create, and who are represented in our collections to reduce barriers in communication
- Promote collections in other institutions that reflect the diversity of issues represented in American food and agriculture and the communities affected by USDA policies and programs
- Change how we collect, describe, organize, and present our historical materials to meet the information needs of researchers and the public
The historical record reflects a series of decisions about what to include.
Selection decisions are influenced by the experiences and values of the people who produced them and often favor the histories and perspectives of the powerful.
To broaden the scope of what we collect to serve better the National Agricultural Library communities, we will:
- Identify gaps in materials available in our collections regarding the history of agriculture and USDA’s role in shaping agricultural communities and practices
- Seek input and guidance on how and what to include in our collections from stakeholders and experts with lived experience of marginalization or impacted by historic marginalization
- Diversify our collections by seeking out and acquiring contributions from historically underrepresented communities, focusing on, but not limited to diversity of:
- Culture of Origin and Nationality,
- Faith, Religious Identity, and Worldview,
- Gender, and Gender Identity,
- Race and Ethnicity,
- Sexual orientation, and
- Socioeconomic Status and Class
Historical materials reflect the period in which they were created and the views of their creators.
Users will encounter language, terms, titles, and images in our collections that express racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes and is discriminatory towards or excludes diverse views on sexuality, gender, religion, and more.
To balance preservation of original context with an awareness of the effect of this content on our users, we will:
- Preserve original unaltered materials as part of the historical record and as acknowledgement of past offenses
- Alert users to historical terminology used in these materials by including a Historical Terminology Note within collection guides
- Support discovery of and access to our content with warnings for offensive materials present in the materials
Descriptions of historical materials reflect the historical context and views of the people who produced them.
Our collection or item descriptions may include language that is outdated, offensive, or excludes diverse perspectives or community representations.
To describe collections in ways that respect the individuals and communities who create, contribute to, use, and are represented in our collections, we will:
- Continually review our collection guides and catalog entries for potentially hurtful words or statements
- Consult and collaborate with communities with first-hand knowledge of cultural practices, subject matter, and disparities represented in collections
- Update our collection guides and catalog entries to meet current library standards and department (government) goals and better reflect the language of the communities represented
Structural, geographic, and cultural inequities limit opportunities for discovery and research in our library collections. NAL is committed to removing barriers to access, fostering collections and spaces which reflect and enhance the experiences of all users. We will:
- Expand and enhance our online collections to make our materials freely available to all users
- Elevate stories that celebrate otherwise overlooked achievements and grapple with past injustices
- Showcase a wide range of diverse agricultural stories using an equity lens through our exhibits and displays
The historical record always reflects the bias of those who create, care for, and interpret it.
Therefore, collaboration among all communities involved in the historical process is key to creating more diverse and inclusive collections and services. As we examine and revise our practices, we also want, welcome, and need the feedback of those who have additional historical or cultural expertise, are misrepresented in our historical descriptions, or are underrepresented or absent from our collections.
USDA is committed to equity, civil rights, and inclusion, rooted in our dedication to justice and equal opportunity for our employees and those we serve. USDA is taking bold, historic action to reduce barriers to access, advance opportunity for underserved communities, and root out generations of systemic racism and discrimination.
We are working to increase access and participation for underserved communities, including but not limited to:
- Communities of color,
- People with disabilities,
- LGBTQ+ individuals,
- Tribal communities,
- Rural communities, and
- Small-scale and beginning farmers
NAL archivists strive to better select, preserve, and provide access for researchers to a wider range of subject matter.
Contact us at NALSpecialCollections@usda.gov or call the Special Collections reference desk at 301-504-5876 to:
- Report harmful, offensive, or outdated language in our collection guides, catalog records, descriptive metadata, or online exhibits
- Recommend language that better describes or enhances the experiences of specific communities
- Suggest additions to our collection that help tell the stories of underrepresented communities