ALA Council

Rating Systems: 3rd of Four Proposed Interpretations of the LIbrary Bill of Rights 

Apr 29, 2015 10:31 AM


As you may remember, in response to concerns expressed at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, the IFC has split the Labeling and Ratings Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights into three Interpretations, 1) Labeling, 2) Ratings, and 3) User Generated Content (UGC) and revised them in light of subsequent comments..

Here is the latest draft of the Ratings Interpretation.  Please "reply" or "comment" in ALA Connect with your suggestions and the IFC will do another round of revisions as needed before San Francisco.

Thanks very much,

Doug Archer

Chair, ALA IFC

New Rating Systems draft 5.1 April 23.docx

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Jun 12, 2015 06:24 AM

When I first began cataloging videos, I deleted the MPAA ratings from the catalog record.  However, I learned that if a rating is published as part of the item, i.e., on the jacket or in the leader to the film, it should be included in the catalog record.

Jun 11, 2015 11:58 PM

I think overall the committee has done an excellent job though I have a point of clarification owing to the special case for bibliographic records produced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (Library of Congress) and its regional  network libraries. Books are recorded (narrated) as talking books or produced as braille books, a transformative process that generates modified MARC records of these alternate format items. Since 1931, as a courtesy to its readers, the rating of "Contains Strong Language," Contains Violence," or "Contains graphic or Explicit sex" is written as part of a record's annotation and also populates accordingly into the record's subject headings. First of all, is this type of description considered a form of rating? If so, is this considered a form of rating that requires a disclaimer for every single record, despite the fact that integrated library systems allow  NLSBPH patrons to opt in or out of filtering for these "ratings" in both automatic and request generated book selections?    I wonder if the suggestion that a library's collection development or better yet cataloging policy  best addresses this concern, and because of this special situation I am reluctant to endorse the contention that ratings can only be transcribed from text found in the original monograph. I welcome feedback from fellow councilors.

May 13, 2015 10:28 AM

I'm currently speaking only for myself but I'm gathering some information from others. But I have some questions about the passage below. 

  Libraries are not required by cataloging codes to provide this information.  However, if they choose do so, whatever the reason, they should add a disclaimer to their catalog or discovery tool displays indicating that the library does not endorse any external rating system.


The inclusion of ratings on bibliographic records in library catalogs or discovery tools may be interpreted as an endorsement by the library.  Therefore, without a disclaimer, inclusion of such ratings is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights.


Does this mean that a disclaimer IN SO MANY WORDS should be included in every MARC record? Why is the Collection Policy not sufficient?


Actually, here is how a neighboring system handles this question. Would this work?

The catalogers take the item in hand DVD- and describe what they have in hand (title, subject, actors, etc.) This includes the rating, which is part of the item. They indicate that the rating is from an external source (MPAA). It is put in the 521 tag which is “audience”. They put Accelerated Reading or Lexile Levels here too, if they are part of the published item. It is considered “descriptive”-to help the describe the item so the customer can decide if they want to check it out, etc. It is not considered judgmental, as WE the library did not assign the rating, we are just describing what is on the physical item.


May 05, 2015 09:01 AM

I appreciate the work done on this statement. 

I do wonder if the final two words "professional behavior" are necessary. The final sentence could read "In fact, providing access to sources containing information on rating systems in order to meet the specific information seeking needs of individual users is perfectly appropriate." I believe that this would be slightly stronger. Clearly that suggestion is a very small one.

May 03, 2015 08:06 AM

I am quite comfortable with the compromise language that permits a remote catalog user to view the same information that someone in the building has access to. I think including a disclaimer note along with any rating taken from the piece in hand is sensible.

While I don’t think we have to include it in the draft, I want everyone to be crystal clear that when I talk about allowing a rating to appear in a bibliographic record, I only refer to anything that appears on the packaging. If a rating doesn’t appear on the packaging, it should not go into the bibliographic record.

Thanks again for your work on this issue. 

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