Search the Catalog for Children's Materials


Searching for any materials by age generally relies on using specific fields within the title records. Unfortunately, these fields are not required elements of a bibliographic record and they can be difficult to assign, which means that using MARC fields for searching may exclude some number of relevant bibliographic records. Because of this, age-level searching can be an unpredictable combination of educated guesses and trial and error.

MARC fields and indicators

Assigning these codes is highly subjective, based on the inclusion of certain terms in a subject heading, classification numbers, or title words. Neither the Audience fixed field indicator or the 521 field are required elements of a MARC record.

The MARC "Target Audience" fixed field indicator, which is supposed to correspond to the "intellectual level of the audience for which the item is intended", is the primary age level marker. It is optional.

Values include:

  • Unknown or unspecified (default)
  • a - Preschool: intended for children approximately 0-5 years
  • b - Primary: intended for children approximately 6-8 years
  • c - Pre-adolescent: intended for children approximately 9-13 years
  • d - Adolescent: intended for children approximately 14-17 years
  • e - Adult: intended for adults
  • f - Specialized: generally used for technical materials aimed at a very specific audience, such as training films intended for special education
  • g - General: intended for a general audience, not covered by a more specific code
  • j - Juvenile: intended for children and young people, approximately 0-15; used when a more specific code is not desired
The 521 field is used in conjunction with or instead of the Audience fixed-field element. It is optional. Indicators and subfields work together to generate standard ("constant") textual statements - for example 521 0 3.1 displays as "The reading level is for the first month of the third grade". However, textual statement constants are not required, resulting in inconsistency.


  • Audience
  • 0 - Reading grade level
  • 1 - Interest age level
  • 2 - Interest grade level
  • 3 - Special audience characteristics (i.e. vision impaired, fine motor skills impaired)
  • 4 - Motivation/Interest (i.e. high interest / low reading ability)
  • 8 - No display constant generated (constant

Subject headings

Age level is often indicated in Subject Headings, such as "Juvenile fiction" and "Juvenile literature" (usually used for nonfiction).

Start general, then refine

A good rule of thumb for all catalog searching, is to start with a broad search first. You may get a lot of results, and many that are not relevant, but it will give you a general idea of what is there, without excluding too much right away. You can always refine your search.

Keyword terms

A basic keyword search can be very powerful. Keyword searches look for the entered SearchInput throughout the bibliographic record. For example the word "juvenile" could appear in the subject fields, or othere descriptive fields not just the age level.

  1. From Basic Search, or using a single keyword box in Advanced Search, enter: Keyword = juvenile shipwreck
  2. Try adding additional keywords to the search

Limit search using the Audience filter

This search uses the fixed field Target Audience data.

  1. Open Advanced Search
  2. Set Search Filter Audience = Juvenile
  3. Enter SearchInput = shipwreck
  4. Click Submit Search
This search returns fewer results than the keyword search, but many of the titles are the same. This filtered search is eliminating potential match because one point, usually the age level code, is missing. For example, e-book and audiobook records traditionally are not coded with age levels.

You can refine your search and add other keywords, or select other SearchFilters, such as Item Type or Literary Form. But note, the more filters you add, the more likely you are to eliminate matches. Anything that can be selected as a filter can also be typed into a keyword search.
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