The Waterloo Digital Library (WDL) is an online repository used for sharing select items from Special Collections & Archives (SCA) and the University of Waterloo Archives. The site is maintained by the University of Waterloo Library (Library) to improve access for reference and research purposes to on- and off-site researchers.

Descriptive information about the literary and historical all of the collections maintained by Special Collections & Archives is available via the Archives Database.

Problematic language in archival descriptions

Records in the WDL are historical in nature and contain language or depictions of people representative of their time. This includes problematic wording, cultural references, and stereotypes that are no longer used or appropriate today. Historical language has been maintained in its original form, in keeping with archival practice, to preserve the context in which the records were created. This approach, while potentially upsetting, allows for the critical assessment and questioning of historical material by contemporary researchers.

While the language of the record creators has been maintained, SCA staff understand the impact language and images have both on researchers accessing our collections and on the perpetuation of systemic and cultural bias. As a result, staff are actively working to:

  • replace inappropriate language introduced during legacy descriptive practices
  • identify and name instances of racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination
  • use current language that respects the people and events reflected in our collections during the (re)description of records

SCA staff view this manner of providing and expanding on the context of problematic records to be in keeping with the University of Waterloo’s Principles of Inclusivity and Policy 33 - Ethical Behaviour, as well as the Association of Canadian Archivists’ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.


The Library is committed to providing everyone with information and services in a manner that reflects their need and aligns with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Information about accessibility services offered by the Library is available on the Library Accessibility Services website.

AODA implications for special collections and archival materials

Special and archival collections present a unique set of accessibility challenges because of their condition, format and extent. This type of material has been granted an exemption within Section 18 of the Guide to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation: Part 2 - Information and Communications. Despite the exemption, the accessibility of WDL material by researchers of all abilities is a priority and proactive efforts by the Library are being made to address these challenges. They include the generation of full-text transcriptions and enhanced metadata for photographic materials. This work represents an on-going effort to improve and develop more accessible content as technological and administrative resources become available.

Please contact us for assistance with obtaining alternative formats.

Other digitized resources pertaining to the University of Waterloo

A variety of publications and photos related to the University of Waterloo have been digitized and made available online in platforms other than the WDL. They include: