Sorry! De informatie die je zoekt, is enkel beschikbaar in het Engels.
This programme is saved in My Study Choice.
Something went wrong with processing the request.
Something went wrong with processing the request.

University Library makes keywords more inclusive

17 April 2024
As the first university library in the Netherlands, VU Amsterdam’s University Library has systematically screened keywords and descriptions in the catalogue for terms that are now considered outdated and/or offensive. Wherever possible, the library catalogue shows respectful alternatives for these. It is one of several activities to create a more inclusive library in which all students and staff feel represented and at home.

By sharing examples and acknowledging challenges, the University Library hopes to create awareness around decolonization and invite students and staff to share their ideas and concerns with us. “This is truly a process of learning together”, says library director Hilde van Wijngaarden. “The input of new perspectives, both inside and outside the University Library, has made us look differently at issues such as decolonization and inclusiveness in recent years. Both the library and the university need broader perspectives.”

Example of a replaced keyword
The Dutch term ‘politionele acties’ has been replaced by the term ‘Nederlands-Indonesische oorlogen'. As explained in the Words Matter publication (p. 131), ‘politionele acties’ refers to the extensive military operations by the Dutch army from 1945 to 1949 to stop Indonesia from gaining independence. The Dutch government insisted it wasn't a war but a legitimate way to suppress a rebellion, calling it ‘politionele acties'. Many, including the descendants of victims, find this term misleading. The use of euphemistic language hides the actual violence and harm caused and diminishes the victims to mere rebels. While there is no consensus on alternative terms, in The Netherlands, the more historically correct term 'Dutch-Indonesian Wars’ has been suggested, which we therefore have chosen as alternative.

If you search in LibSearch for 'politionele acties', you will find books and articles with this term in their title. But you will also find materials that have 'politionele acties’ as subject heading, which will now appear as ‘Nederlands-Indonesische oorlogen'. By clicking on the subject heading, a message will appear saying “This subject heading has been altered by your library. By continuing with your search, the original subject heading will be searched for.” By clicking continue, you will continue searching for materials with the term 'politionele acties'. 

Refraining from removal
It is important to note that we consciously refrain from removing outdated and/or offensive subject headings from our metadata. Instead, we just don't show these anymore at first sight. It is still possible to search for these terms for research purposes. We believe in preserving an unaltered historical record that can inform research and discussion about our colonial past. For the same reason we will never alter the titles of books or other library materials, even if they contain language that might be deemed harmful.

Think along and share your input

Think along and share your input

Your input is valuable. We invite you to let us know if you come across outdated or offensive descriptions within LibSearch, such as subject headings. Your feedback is important in our ongoing efforts to provide a more inclusive and accurate representation of knowledge. So if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please contact us at or via the:

Feedback form (anonymous)

Would you like more information or do you have suggestions?

Please reach out to us!

+31 6 2569 4822

University Library
VU Main Building, 1st floor
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam


This is a picture of Esther Nijland. She is team member of Digital Services and Infrastructure.