Guidelines for Standardized Cataloging for Children*

by Joanna F. Fountain for the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, Cataloging and Classification Section, Cataloging of Children’s Materials Committee

*from the 5th edition of Cataloging Correctly for Kids, 2010

The library community has long recognized that children have their own unique characteristics and requirements as library users. They are considered a different enough audience, as users of both print and nonprint materials, that special bibliographic treatment of library materials is warranted to meet their developmental needs. Many adult users of libraries—especially parents, teachers, and other caregivers—will also benefit from this treatment when they are using catalogs created to provide simple and full information about the content of library materials for younger and less sophisticated readers.

Adults using catalogs created for adult or general use will already have discovered that such catalogs distinguish children’s materials in a library by such mechanisms as subject heading subdivisions indicating that a given work is “juvenile fiction” or “juvenile literature” (nonfiction) as well as through differences in location.


In recognition of the unique nature of juvenile library users and in response to their needs, the Library of Congress (LC) established the Annotated Card (AC) program in 1966. Currently administered by the Children’s Literature Section, U.S. and Publisher Liaison Division, the program has adapted the Library’s cataloging policies and practices to include annotations, modified subject heading use, and some special classification options. The headings LC developed for use with children’s materials are now known as Children’s Subject Headings (CSH). The AC program was originally accessed through catalog cards that included annotations from the Library of Congress; it is now available through MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) records and LC’s Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) program.

During the 1960s, as libraries found it cheaper or more convenient to rely on commercial or centralized processing services, it became apparent that standardization of cataloging practices was necessary. More recently, many libraries began contributing records to shared databases, lending further weight to the need for standardization. A study by the Cataloging of Children’s Materials Committee of the Resources and Technical Services Division (RTSD) of the American Library Association (ALA) found that the lack of a uniform standard meant that many libraries developed customized cataloging according to their own perceived needs or that they accepted nonstandard cataloging from other sources.

The cost of customized cataloging, however, cuts into other services, and if the source of cataloging changes, so do the style and standard of cataloging. The Cataloging of Children’s Materials Committee also foresaw that the development of MARC standards and widely used bibliographic utilities offered potential for the wider dissemination of standardized cataloging if guidelines for standardization could be developed and followed. In response, the committee recommended in 1969 that LC’s practices for cataloging children’s materials be adopted as a national standard. This recommendation was subsequently adopted by the Cataloging and Classification Section of the Resources and Technical Services Division (RTSD; in 1989 renamed Association for Library Collections and Technical Services [ALCTS]).

Since the original guidelines were developed, many more libraries have benefited from shared cataloging efforts, either through bibliographic utilities or commercial processors using MARC records, so that it is now even more advantageous in terms of cost and data compatibility to accept this standardization. The creation and exchange of bibliographic data at an international level, and access to these data by commercial processors as well as by libraries, have led the ALA to accept LC’s cataloging for children’s materials as a standard. In 1982, the Cataloging of Children’s Materials Committee, with the cooperation of the Children’s Literature Section (recently renamed the Children’s Literature Team, History and Literature Cataloging Division) at LC, developed the “Guidelines for Standardized Cataloging of Children’s Materials,” which were accepted by the RTSD board of directors on July 14, 1982.

Widespread use of MARC records has made it possible for many smaller libraries to automate their catalogs, converting retrospectively from card catalogs to online and World Wide Web (Web) catalogs and acquiring current machine-readable records from LC, materials vendors, and specialized vendors of cataloging data for use in online computer systems. International developments in content and MARC standards in turn suggest the need for again updating the guidelines for policies and practices for cataloging library materials for children, which were last revised in 2005.


The guidelines are intended for use in cataloging all materials deemed intellectually suitable for children and young people. Although the matter of deciding what materials are suitable for inclusion in a given juvenile collection may be difficult and subjective, these guidelines address the needs of catalog users through ninth grade, or approximately age 15; however, although application of these guidelines to materials for grades ten through twelve is optional, that choice may be convenient in high school libraries to provide uniformity. LC considers materials to be “juvenile” works when they are intended by the author or publisher, or deemed suitable by the cataloger, for use by children and young people in these age and grade ranges. Catalogers in libraries with juvenile collections are encouraged to consider implementing the LC standard for all grade levels and ages newborn through 18, if their collections include materials for teens at all levels.

Agencies that contribute cataloging to a shared database using the MARC format place an appropriate code in the fixed-field character position for target audience (Books field 008 position 22), indicating the intended level of the material. Code j indicates the item is intended for general use by children and young people through the age of 15 or the ninth grade. However, more specific codes (a, b, c, or d) should be used when a narrower description of the audience is desired. If an item is appropriate for more than one audience, the code for the principal target audience is assigned. The audience codes are defined as follows:

a    Preschool (up to, but not including, kindergarten)

b    Primary (kindergarten through grade 3)

c    Preadolescent (grades 4 through 8)

d    Adolescent (grades 9 through 12)

g    General (any audience level, including the general adult population)

j    Juvenile (all through age 15 or grade 9)

These guidelines are compatible with national cataloging tools and should be used in conjunction with them. Currently these tools include the following:

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, current edition (AACR2) with its latest revision and amendments, or finalized rules of Resource Description and Access (RDA) when that becomes available to the individual library

Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRI)—LC policies and interpretations of AACR2 if they are applied by the individual library

Cataloger’s Desktop—a CD-ROM and web subscription product that includes the most-used cataloging documentation resources in electronic form, if that product is used by the individual library in lieu of printed documentation

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), including AC/CSH modifications and principles for applying them, as issued annually and published daily on the Web at when AC/CSH modifications and principles differ from instructions published in Subject Headings Manual (intended for application of subject headings in non-juvenile catalogs)

Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index (current edition), or Library of Congress Classification schedules, if those are applied at the individual library

These guidelines are based on the practices of the Library of Congress for cataloging children’s material, and they note or expand on certain rules and options in AACR2 or RDA. Rules, options, and practices that are not touched on are not meant to be excluded. References within this text to individual rules are to rules in the current (second) edition of AACR2. Although some MARC 21 field numbers and subfield codes are identified in the guidelines, complete instructions and further information about MARC 21 may be found online at and in the printed documentation for MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data and some local system manuals. Some commonly used MARC 21 fields are listed in figure 1.1.

figure 1.1

Guidelines for Description and Access

These guidelines address the following:

  • Description of print and nonprint—including electronic—materials and resources
  • Name, title, and series access points for various types of materials
  • Subject heading use for juvenile catalogs
  • Classification of juvenile collections

Examples show MARC records following AACR2 content (figures 1.2 through 1.5).


Level of Description

The description of the material to be cataloged must follow the second level of description as found in rule 1.0D2 in AACR2 unless there is a special need for third-level (very detailed) description. Although many libraries have previously used abbreviated cataloging similar to the first level of description, the first level of description does not provide for elements that are considered important by many libraries and, therefore, are required by the guidelines. These elements include statements of responsibility (including subsequent statements of responsibility such as “illustrated by . . .”), dimensions, and series information. Elements that require clarification, or for which specific treatment is suggested, are discussed more fully in the following sections.

Ggeneral Material Designation

The general material designation (GMD), or general material designation (rule 1.1C; subfield h of MARC field 245), though optional in AACR2 and selectively applied in LCRI, is strongly recommended in these guidelines for all nonbook formats of materials in List 2. The GMD should appear in square brackets immediately following the title proper, because its purposes are to identify the broad class of material to which an item belongs and to distinguish between different forms of the same work early in the description. It precedes any other title information, such as a subtitle. Use of the GMD “text” is optional; however, most agencies do not use it for books.

figure 1.2


AACR2 provides for many optional elements. The note area of the catalog record has the widest range of options. Notes may be provided if the cataloger or cataloging agency deems them necessary; they may be accepted or revised as part of a record from a vendor, with special attention to appropriate language for the potential user of the material.

These guidelines strongly encourage use of the summary or annotation note (MARC field 520), which is part of most Annotated Card program records. It consists of an objective statement of the most important elements of the plot, theme, or topic of the work. A summary, or annotation, should describe the unique aspects of the work and generally justify, whenever possible, the assigned subject headings, but it should not praise or criticize the item’s content nor be so vague as to be useless in making a selection. Words in the summary should be chosen to facilitate keyword searching in online catalogs, using synonyms for words found in the title and subject headings, for example. Users of nonbook items are especially dependent on summary notes because of the greater difficulty of browsing such materials. However, a summary note is not required if a contents note (MARC field 505) that describes the nature and the scope of the work is used. A contents note is used to record the titles of individual selections contained in an item such as a book, sound recording, or videorecording. AACR2 specifies the order in which notes are to be given. If both the summary note (MARC 520) and the contents note (MARC 505) are present, the contents note will often be the last note in the record.

figure 1.3Information about system requirements (MARC field 538, System details note) should be provided for videorecordings, electronic resources, and some sound recordings. One may use or include such common terms as CD or DVD in notes.

The participant or performer note (MARC field 511) is used to list names of performers or cast members on sound recordings and videorecordings. The cataloger may optionally provide name added entries for any or all names in 511 notes.

Two other notes are especially applicable to juvenile materials. Target audience notes (MARC field 521) contain information about reading grade level, interest age level, or interest grade level of the intended audience of an item. Because more than one may be provided, and measures and opinions often do not agree, the source of the statement of level must be included. The awards note (MARC field 586) contains information about awards associated with an item, such as the Newbery Medal and Academy Awards, along with the date (year) of the award.


The International Standard Book Number (ISBN; MARC field 020) is required when available. If there are two or more ISBNs, they should all be included in separate 020 fields. In a MARC record, the ISBN is given near the beginning of the record, before the rest of the description. On cards, the area for standard number and terms of availability (price) follows the area for notes.

Name, Title, and Series Access Points

There is no variation from AACR2 in either choice or form of main entry for children’s materials. The form of added entries for names and titles also remains the same. However, for names used as subject access points, follow the guidelines in the section “Subject Headings.” The choice of added entries for names and titles and the choice and form of series added entries are discussed here.

figure 1.4Name Access Points

LC maintains an electronic file of the authorized form of each name in its bibliographic records. The authorized form is established according to the rules in AACR2 Part 2, along with various rule interpretations (LCRIs) and options that appear there. As part of the name authority component (NACO) of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC), many non-LC participants contribute records to the Name Authority File (NAF). The file is more broadly known as the LC/NACO Authority File, found at

Currently, the file contains over six million authority records. Of this total, names, series titles, uniform titles, and name/title combinations are found in the LC/NACO file. These include topical subjects as well as the names of fictitious characters. These authority records are freely available for consultation, copying and pasting, and downloading. Librarians developing catalogs for young and other readers should always verify and use the form of names and titles in the LC/NACO file so that searchers are not confused by multiple forms representing the same person or body.

In bibliographic records, added entries for individuals (MARC field 700) and groups (corporate bodies, MARC field 710) are provided to improve access to names other than those used as main entries, which are authorized forms of entry for the individual or first-named author of a work.

  1. Added name entries should be made for all authors if two or three individuals or bodies collaborated on the work. If four or more collaborated, an added entry (called a “tracing” in card catalogs) is made only for the first author named.
  2. Added entries for illustrators are required, as their contribution to a work may equal or overshadow that of a writer. Access to the record by illustrators’ names is important not only for the artistic content but also for collocating works of artists. If the illustrator is also the author of the work, a separate added entry is not made. For illustrators whose contribution consists only of the cover, frontispiece, or incidental or repeating chapter-head decorations, or for designers who are not also the illustrators, added entries are optional.
  3. Added entries should be made for principal performers on sound recordings and for producers, directors, and writers of videorecordings unless there are more than three of each. If there are four or more, make an added entry only under the one named first in each category. However, the cataloger may exercise judgment in the number of added entries, limiting these to those deemed useful for a young audience.
  4. Although AACR2 allows the optional use of function designations for editors, compilers, and the like (subfield e of MARC field 700), only the designation ill. (for illustrator) is required by these guidelines.

Title Access Points

Generally, make a title entry for all items in the library. Specifically:

  1. Make an added entry for the title even if the title proper (MARC field 245, subfield a) is the same as an assigned subject heading. Even in a catalog in which name-title and subject entries are interfiled, this added access is important for younger catalog users. It is also essential for divided card catalogs and online catalogs, as the title must appear as an entry in the title index itself, thus allowing for retrieval by title alone.
  2. 2.Make an added entry for the title even if the title proper is the same as the main entry heading for a personal or corporate name.

In MARC records, the first indicator setting will be 1 in field 245; this indicates that title entry is made for the title proper. Added title entries (MARC field 246) should be made for other versions of a title under which users are likely to search, whether these actually appear on the item or not. Varying forms of titles are recorded in MARC field 246 with the first indicator set to 3 so that these titles will be indexed and retrievable in a title search. The authorized forms of many names (personal, corporate, etc.) as well as series and uniform titles may be easily verified in the LC/NACO file.

Series Access Points

Series access is particularly important for children’s materials because the series title is a source of information about the content and approach of a work.

Make a series added entry for each work in the series that is cataloged if it provides a useful access point. Add the number of the individual work within the series if there is a number. The series added entry (MARC field 490) should use the title as it appears on the item. If the series title is deemed unimportant for searching purposes, as in the case of an imprint name used as a series title, the title is given in MARC field 490. The first indicator in the 490 field specifies whether there will be an added series entry and whether it will be indexed. A first indicator of 0 specifies that the series title will not be indexed. For example,

490 1_ ‡a Pelican books

If, as is most often the case, that title is useful in searching, it is then searched in the LC/NACO authority file; the authorized form of the series is then recorded in field 8XX of the MARC record, whether it is the same as or different from the title that appears on the item. The first indicator setting of 1 in field 490 specifies that the series will be indexed; the second indicator of 0 in field 830 specifies that the authorized form of the title has no nonfiling characters (initial articles or marks of punctuation). For example,

490 1_ ‡a Sports stars

830 _0 ‡a Sports stars


490 1_ ‡a A series of unfortunate events ; ‡v bk. 1

830 _0 ‡a Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events


490 1 ‡a Kids make a difference

830 _0 ‡a Reading expeditions series. ‡p Kids make a difference

When the authorized form of the series has a personal name as the first element, it is entered in an 800 field. The name in subfield a is used as in the LC/NACO authority file followed by a t subfield containing the series title. The entire name-title entry must be used. The first indicator is set to 1 when the first element of the author’s name is a surname. For example,

490 1 ‡a Alphabet books

800 1 ‡a Moncure, Jane Belk. ‡t Alphabet books

Series added entries can be uniform titles, including collective uniform titles, although few of this type are encountered in juvenile collections. For example,

800 1_ ‡a Shakespeare, William, ‡d 1564-1616. ‡t Works. ‡f 2008

Authorized forms of many series titles are freely available on LC’s website at Each title should be checked against that file to ensure accuracy and to prevent confusion in the catalog.

Subject Headings

Until the Library of Congress’s Subject Authority File was made available on the Web, the best print source for subject headings was the most recent edition of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) with its list of Children’s Subject Headings (CSH). The online version, which contains records contributed by participants in the Subject Authority Cooperative program (SACO), is now part of the LC/NACO authority file. Although the online version is more current, CSH terms are rarely changed, and the printed version is usually entirely satisfactory. The printed version includes the usage guidelines—including subdivision practice—in addition to the list, so this version is still invaluable. The list is also available on Classification Web, a subscription product.

The CSH list contains terms created as alternatives to terms in the main list; these replacement terms are designed to offer more appropriate subject headings for juvenile catalog users and to afford them easier subject access to materials. Each term includes references to the unused term(s)—that is, those found in the main list and which have been replaced by the bold-font terms.

Any heading chosen from a printed copy of the multivolume LCSH (“big red”) books should be checked against the exception list of CSH (in the front of the first volume or in the supplementary volume) or online to see if there is a replacement term.

Records created under the CSH program are updated online daily and are distributed weekly and daily via subscription on the MARC Distribution Service. Although record and card printing programs may be coded to delete or keep the bracketed information, CSH records may be identified easily by the presence of a subject heading with a second-indicator value of 1. For example,

600 11 ‡a Lincoln, Abraham, ‡d 1809-1865 ‡x Childhood and youth

650 _1 ‡a Holiday cooking

651 _1 ‡a Virginia ‡x History

CSH headings are identified in Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) data and on catalog cards by brackets. For example,

[1. Family life—Fiction. 2. Christmas—Fiction.]

Subject headings may also be added from the Sears List of Subject Headings, either by a vendor or local cataloging agency, with the second indicator set to 7 and the code “sears” provided in subfield 2 to identify the source of the term. For example,

650 _7 ‡a Glass manufacture. ‡2 sears

If the cataloger is using OCLC’s standards, the second indicator in the 6XX field should be set to 8 for Sears subject headings.

650 _8 ‡a Glass manufacture

Application of Children's Subject Headings and Subdivisions

Some CSH headings are simplified forms of standard LC headings, but the chief difference between CSH and LC heading use is in the rules for application of subject headings. Review the full details, found in the front matter in LCSH volume 1; only a brief summary is provided here.

  1. Omit the subdivision — Juvenile literature, and related subdivisions such as — Juvenile films and — Juvenile fiction.
  2. Avoid special juvenile form headings, such as Children’s poetry and Children’s plays.
  3. Avoid the term American and the subdivision — United States when the subject is universal in nature. Use other geographic terms normally, such as the names of states or provinces and other nations.
  4. Delete words in topical headings that would be superfluous in a juvenile catalog. For example, use Parties instead of Children’s parties.
  5. Assign subject headings to fiction as well as nonfiction to bring out the most important subject-oriented aspects of the work. For example, use the subdivision — Fiction for all fictional material.
  6. Assign both specific and broader, general headings (e.g., Turtles and Sea turtles) to a work if both provide useful subject access.
  7. Assign headings designating the literary form (e.g., Jokes; Stories in rhyme) whenever access by form of material appears helpful.
  8. Assign both popular and scientific terms (e.g., Cats and Felidae) for the same work if that appears helpful, especially for older children. Note, however, that the CSH list customarily substitutes common names of animals and plants for scientific ones in the LC standard list.
  9. Assign CSH replacement subdivisions, such as — Cartoons and comics, in juvenile catalogs.

Creation of New Subject Headings

If the CSH list and LCSH do not provide suitable terminology for the children’s materials at hand, the following steps may be taken:

  1. Contact LC to suggest new subject headings for the CSH list or LCSH at
  2. Create a term to be used locally, and give it in MARC fields 690 or 653 if your automated system allows searches on these fields.
  3. If using the Sears list, create a term to be used locally, and write the term at its alphabetical place in the book.

Use of MARC Field 658 for Curricular Objectives

If it is the policy of the local library or is deemed important to list index terms denoting curriculum or course-study objectives applicable to the materials being described, use terms found in published local or state sources in subfield a and identify the source in subfield 2 of the MARC 658 field. Other subfields in this field, such as subfield c (Curriculum code), are optional. For example,

658 _ _ ‡a Earth and space ‡c 1211(b)(7-8) ‡2 txac

658 _ _ ‡a Community history ‡2 local


The following guidelines require the choice of either the Dewey Decimal Classification (MARC field 082) or the Library of Congress Classification (MARC field 050).

Dewey Decimal Classification

  1. For fiction for preschool through second grade (K–2) or through age 8, assign the letter E.
  2. For fiction for third grade (age 9) and up, assign the classification Fic or F.
  3. For nonfiction materials, assign a number from the current abridged edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). Treatment of biography is described in item 4 of this list.
  4. For biography, assign the class number representing the subject of the person’s most noted contribution, as instructed in the current abridged edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification. The Cutter should be based on the subject entry for the individual. For collective biography, assign 920; the Cutter is based on the main entry. Other options included in the Abridged DDC are also appropriate, such as B for individual biographies. LC provides full and abridged DDC numbers for both individual and collective biographies, as well as the B option, in its MARC records.

Library of Congress Classification

  1. For fiction, assign numbers from the PZ schedule.
  2. For nonfiction materials, assign numbers from the appropriate nonfiction schedule.

Classification of Folklore

Under either Dewey or Library of Congress classification, use the following guidelines to determine whether an item is folklore:

  1. Folklore is defined as those items of culture that are learned orally, by imitation or by observation, including narratives (tales, legends, proverbs, etc.). A story about fairies is not folklore unless it meets the criterion of having been handed down orally from generation to generation. It might be a modern piece of fantasy instead.
  2. Regard relatively faithful retellings and adaptations of folk material as folklore.
  3. Do not consider religious mythology, stories from the Bible or other religious scriptures, modern fantasies, or drastic alterations of folk material as folklore, but class them elsewhere.

Local Implementation

Adopting this standard does not require libraries or catalogers to use records created by LC or to accept all elements of records available online or through commercial vendors. Data manipulation and design of local cataloging profiles are provided by most commercial vendors and utilities and are accommodated by most machine-readable formats. However, libraries that contribute to shared databases and vendors that supply MARC records are expected to conform to those database or union catalog standards. Libraries that do not use computer services now, or that are not currently involved in shared catalogs, may well do so in the future. It is thus to the advantage of all libraries to have and follow a recommended standard for cataloging juvenile materials. As a further benefit, by making children’s cataloging compatible with that for adult materials—without sacrificing its unique characteristics—this standard enables the young user to understand the adult catalog, whether it is in a public or academic setting.

These guidelines give sufficient latitude for the individual cataloger or library to meet local needs while remaining within the standard. The recommendations in these guidelines are intended to meet the requirements of young library users, in accordance with the purpose of the catalog record.


Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index. 14th (or more current) ed. Dublin, OH: OCLC. Summaries are available online at

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. 2nd ed. rev. and updates. Chicago: American Library Association, 2002.

Fountain, Joanna F. Subject Headings for School and Public Libraries: An LCSH/Sears Companion. 3rd (or more current) ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Furrie, Betty. Understanding MARC Bibliographic: Machine-Readable Cataloging. 7th (or more current) ed. Washington, DC: Library of Congress Cataloging Distribution Service. Also available online at

Gorman, Michael. The Concise AACR2. 4th (or more current) ed. Chicago: American Library Association.

Library of Congress. Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Library of Congress Classification Schedules. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. Outline available online at

––––––. Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Library of Congress Subject Headings. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. Authority file available online at Updated daily online and annually in print.

––––––. Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Subject Headings Manual. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. Updated online and in print as needed.

––––––. Network Development and MARC Standards Office. MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. Also available online at Updated online and in print as needed.