Chapter 1 - Guidelines for Standardized Cataloging for Children

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

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 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 Team, History and Literature Cataloging Division, the program has adapted the Library’s cataloging policies and practices to include annotations, modified subject heading usage, and some special classification options. The AC program was originally accessed through catalog cards from the Library of Congress and 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 accepted nonstandard cataloging from other sources.

The cost of customized cataloging, however, cuts into other services, and if the source of cataloging changes, so does 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 RTSD (RTSD was renamed Association for Library Collections & Technical Services in 1989 and is now known by the acronym 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 (more 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 1996.


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 juvenile collection may be difficult and subjective, these Guidelines address the needs of catalog users through ninth grade, or approximately age fifteen. Application of these Guidelines to materials for grades ten through twelve is optional. 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 to all PreK–12, or ages newborn through eighteen, 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 that the item is intended for general use by children and young people through the age of fifteen 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)
j Juvenile (all through age fifteen or grade 9)

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

  • Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition ( AACR2) with its latest revision and amendments;
  • Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRI) - LC policies and interpretations of AACR2;
  • Cataloger’s Desktop--a CD-ROM and Web subscription product that includes the most-used cataloging documentation resources in electronic form;
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), including AC modifications and principles for applying them, as issued annually and published daily on the Web when these differ from instructions published in Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings which are intended for application of subject headings in non-juvenile catalogs; and
  • Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index (14th or most current edition), or Library of Congress Classification schedules.

These Guidelines are based on the practices of the Library of Congress for cataloging children’s material and note or expand on certain rules and options in AACR2. 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 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, as well as in some local system manuals. Some commonly used MARC 21 fields are listed in figure 1-1.

Figure 1-1. MARC 21 Bibliographic Fields Commonly Used in Juvenile Records.

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 annotated catalog cards in AACR2 form and corresponding (although somewhat longer) MARC records (figures 1-2 through 1-5).


The description of the material to be cataloged must follow the second or third level of description as found in Rule 1.0D2 in AACR2. 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.


The GMD, or general material designation (Rule 1.1C) (subfield h of MARC field 245) is optional in AACR2 and selectively supplied in LCRI, but is strongly recommended in these Guidelines for all formats of materials in List 2 (other than the rarely used GMD “text”). The GMD should appear in square brackets immediately following the title proper, because its purpose is to identify the broad class of material to which an item belongs and to distinguish between different forms of the same work at an early stage in the description. It precedes any other title information, such as a subtitle. Use of the GMD text is optional. Most agencies do not use it for books, because library users normally assume that the record describes a book.


AACR2 provides for many optional elements. The note area of the catalog record has probably the widest range of options. Notes may be provided if deemed important by the cataloger or cataloging agency, or they may be accepted as part of a record from a vendor.

A note that is strongly encouraged by these Guidelines is the summary 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. 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 is descriptive of 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.

Information about system requirements (MARC field 538, System details note) should be provided for videorecordings, electronic resources and some sound recordings.

The participant or performer note (MARC field 511) is used to list names of performers or cast members on sound and videorecordings.

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, the source of the statement of level must always be included, as measures and opinions often do not agree. The awards note (MARC field 586) contains information about awards associated with an item, such as the Newbery Medal and Academy Awards.


The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) (MARC field 020) is required when available. The area for standard number and terms of availability (price) follows the area for notes on cards. In a MARC record, the ISBN is given near the beginning of the record, before the rest of the description.

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. (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.

Name 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 part 2 of AACR2, along with various rule interpretations (LCRIs) and options that appear there. LC staff also train other librarians to apply these rules and interpretations and to create MARC authority records for each type of name-personal, corporate, geographic, event-and titles (series and uniform titles) as part of the name authority component (NACO) of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging. Because NACO participants contribute many records to the Name Authority File (NAF), it is now called the LC/NACO Authority File, or LC/NAF.

Currently, about six million authority records exist. Of this total, names, series titles, uniform titles, and name/title combinations are found in the LC/NAF, while topical subjects-including the names of fictitious characters-are found in the LC/SACO Subject Authority File (see section “Subject Headings”). LC and NACO participants add thousands of records each year, and all are freely available for consultation, copying/pasting, and downloading at Librarians developing catalogs for young and less sophisticated readers should always verify and use the form of names and titles in the LC/NAF (or the LC/SACO Subject Authority File) so searchers are not confused by multiple forms for the same person or body.

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

  1. Added entries (access points) 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 (in card catalogs known as a tracing) 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 illustrator’s 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 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.
  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

Use the following rules from in making added title entries:

  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 added entry in the title index itself, thus allowing for retrieval by title alone.
  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, a first indicator setting of 1 in field 245 indicates that an added entry is to be made for the title proper. Added entries should also 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 1 or 3 so 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/NAF, found on the Web at

Series Access Points

Series access is particularly important for children’s materials because the series 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 should use the authorized form for the series found in the LC/NAF. If the authorized form of the series appears on the item, it is recorded in field 440 of the MARC record, for example,

440_0 |a Girltalk ; |v no. 10

However, if the series statement on the item differs from the authorized form, the series statement is recorded in 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 ) specifies that the series title will not be indexed, and a setting of 1 specifies that the series will be indexed but that the authorized form of the entry will be found in a subsequent 8XX field. In MARC bibliographic records a series that is entered the same is recorded in field 440. If the series is entered differently, the series statement is recorded in field 490 with a first indicator of “1” and the series added entry is recorded in an 8XX field. For example, when the authorized form of the series has a personal name as the first element, it is entered in an 800 field:

490 1 |a Alphabet books
800 1 |a Moncure, Jane Belk. |t Alphabet books

Series added entries may be uniform titles, such as:

800 1_ Shakespeare, William, |d 1564-1616. |t Works. |f 1999 ; |v v. 6

When a title is the first element in the authorized form of the series, it is entered in field 830:

490 1 |a Kids made a difference
830 _0 |a Reading expeditions series. |p Kids make a difference

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 the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and its list of Annotated Card (AC) program headings. The online version, which contains records contributed by participants in the Subject Authority Cooperative program, is called LC/SACO Subject Authority File (LC/SAF). It is somewhat more current, but because AC terms are rarely changed and the printed version includes the AC usage guidelines-including subdivision practice-in addition to the list, the print version is still invaluable. The list contains terms created as alternatives to terms in the main list of offer more appropriate subject headings for juvenile catalog users and to afford them easier subject access to materials.

Any heading chosen from a printed copy of LCSH should be checked against the list of AC headings or online to see if there is an AC exception to it. The list of AC headings appears in the front of the first volume of the printed edition, and in two Web versions-Classification Web and Library of Congress Authorities. Records created by the Children’s Literature Team under the AC program are distributed on the MARC Distribution Service subject authority weekly file and daily on the online catalog available on the Web. AC records may be identified by a value of b in field 008 position 11. Subject headings-both LC main and AC-used on records for juvenile materials created by LC staff are also listed in Subject Headings for Children (OCLC, 1993 or later) and in Subject Headings for School and Public Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2001 or later).

Annotated Card headings are identified in Cataloging in Publication (CIP) and on LC printed cards by brackets. Record and card printing programs may be programmed to delete or keep the bracketed information, as required by the individual library. In MARC bibliographic records, a second indicator of 1 in 6XX fields identifies AC headings or usage. 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. If the cataloger is using OCLC (online Computer Library Center) standards, the second indicator in the 6XX field should be set to 8 for Sears subject headings.

Application of AC Subject Headings and Subdivisions

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

  1. Omission of the subdivision -Juvenile literature and related subdivisions such as -Juvenile films, and -Juvenile fiction.
  2. Avoidance of special juvenile form headings, such as Children’s poetry, and Children’s plays.
  3. Avoidance of the term American and the subdivision -United States when the subject is universal in nature. Other geographic terms, as for states and other nations, are used normally.
  4. Deletion of words in topical headings that would be superfluous in a juvenile catalog. For example, Parties is used instead of Children’s parties.
  5. Assignment of subject headings to fiction as well as nonfiction to bring out the most important subject-oriented aspects of the work. The subdivision -Fiction is used when appropriate for subject headings applied to fictional material.
  6. Assignment of both general and specific headings (e.g., Turtles and Sea turtles) to a work if both provide useful subject access.
  7. Assignment of headings designating form (e.g., Jokes; Stories in rhyme) whenever access by form of material appears helpful.
  8. Assignment of both popular and scientific terms (e.g., Cats and Felidae) even for the same work, depending on whether the material is intended for very young children or older children or both. Note, however, that the AC list customarily substitutes common names of animals and plants for scientific ones in the LC standard list.
  9. Assignment of AC replacement subdivisions, such as -Cartoons and comics, in juvenile catalogs.

Creation of New Subject Headings

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

  1. Refer to other established subject heading lists, such as Sears List of Subject Headings, for headings not found in LCSH.
  2. Contact LC to suggest new subject headings for the AC list or LCSH at
  3. Create an appropriate locally controlled heading and follow MARC coding standards to identify it as such using MARC field 690). If the term will be an uncontrolled index term only, use field 653.

Use of the 658 Field for Curricular Objectives

If it 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 are optional.


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

Library of Congress Classification

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

Dewey Decimal Classification

  1. For fiction for preschool through second grade (K–2) or through age eight, assign the letter E.
  2. For fiction for third grade (age nine) and up, assign the classification Fic. (In the first edition of these Guidelines, grade three was included in Easy collections. The policy limiting the classification E to materials for users through grade two was implemented at the Library of Congress in August 1994.)
  3. For biography, any of the following practices is appropriate: the letter B for any individual biography;
    the number 92 for individual biography and 920 for collective biography; or
    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.
  4. For nonfiction materials, assign a number from the current abridged edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification. Options for treatment of biography are described in item 3 of this list.

Classification of Folklore

Under either Library of Congress or Dewey classification, use these 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 may be a modern piece of fantasy fiction instead.
  2. Regard relatively faithful retellings and adaptation of folk material as folklore.
  3. Do not consider religious mythology, stories from the Bible or other religious scriptures, modern fantasies, or drastic alternations 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 cataloging profiles are accommodated by most machine-readable formats and are provided by most commercial vendors and utilities. However, libraries that contribute to shared databases and vendors who supply MARC records are expected to conform to standards. Libraries that do not use computer services now may well do so in the future. It is thus to the advantage of all libraries to have 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.

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.

Sources for Consultation

Abridged Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index. [14th or more current ed.] Dublin, OH: OCLC.

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

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.

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.

———. Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Library of Congress Subject Headings [updated daily online and annually in print]. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

———. Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings. [updated online and in print as needed]. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

———. Network Development and MARC Standards Office. MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data [updated online and in print as needed]. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

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“Guidelines for Standardized Cataloging for Children,” from S. Intner, J. Fountain, and J. Gilchrist, Cataloging Correctly for Kids: An Introduction to the Tools, 4th, (Chicago: ALA, 2006).