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One of the key elements of the CYAC Program is the provision of a brief, non-critical, one-sentence annotation (commonly referred to as the summary) that describes the content of the work being cataloged without making any judgmental statements.
The following guidelines are the foundation for catalogers writing the 520 MARC21 field summary.
- Style should follow the University of Chicago's A Manual of Style (commonly referred to as the Chicago style manual).
- Present tense and active voice are favored.
- Catalogers try to mention the name and age of the main character, where appropriate, as well as the setting, time period, and key elements of plot or theme. "Eight-year-old Alice" is more effective than "a very young girl."
- Effort is usually made not to give away too much of the story, particularly the ending, although there are no ironclad rules regarding this.
- A sentence of twenty-five to thirty words in length is preferred. Catalogers do not normally count words and retain the right of flexibility, using as many words necessary to describe the work adequately and accurately.
- Language that suggests the flavor of the work is considered to be a benefit in the summary.
- No special effort is made to avoid big words or make the language of the summary match the reading level of the work in hand because the intended audience for these summaries includes both children and the adults who work with them (parents, teachers, librarians, etc.).
- When the need arises, a second sentence is added to reflect special features of the work ("Includes related activities" or "Features movable flaps").
An example is the summary assigned for the E.C. Spykman classic Terrible, horrible Edie:
520 ## $a The exploits of mischievous ten-year-old Edie spending the summer on the Massachusetts seashore in the 1910s with her sibling and step-siblings while their parents are in Europe.
Additional information on writing annotations is available in the book, Cataloging Correctly for Kids edited by Sheila S. Intner, Joanna F. Fountain, and Jean Weihs (Chicago: American Library Association, 2011).