Audience level

audiencelevelkorman.pngWe have updated the audience level experimental service pages.

In this initiative we are using the pattern of holdings across different types of libraries (school, research, etc) to give a 'hint' about the level of interest of an item (juvenile, research/specialist, ...). You can read more about how we calculate the levels on the project page:

Recognizing that different types of libraries typically serve different populations, OCLC researchers considered whether library types could be related to audience levels. They decided to explore whether the pattern of holdings of materials in WorldCat might be leveraged to provide an audience-level indicator. [Audience Level [OCLC - Projects]]

We have used the audience level on internal projects where materials need to be filtered in a particular way. In Worldcat identities we show an average audience level for an author (Gordon Korman gets 0.17). In this service we roll things up to the work level, and we show a list of manifestations (editions, etc) for each work.

My colleagues constructed an experiment to compare the results we got with this approach with cataloguer assessments. The audience level 'hint' compared reasonably well with the human assignments. A paper on this work will be published in due course.

'Audience level' may not be quite the right name for this. Classics for example will get lower level than you might expect if you just think about 'difficulty'. Thus spake Zarathustra, for example, has a level of 0.38: because of its 'classic' status it is widely available through public libraries.

The experimental service pages have a nice slider feature to show different audience levels in a collection of Zoology books (which were used in the experiment). (And we link all titles through to

Comments: 0

Mar 14, 2008
Eric Lease Morgan


For quite a while I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate audience levels into the description of library information resources. About a year ago I was heartened to discover a placeholder in MARC records for such values and I endeavored to create a catalog that exploited this information, but alas, I soon discovered the values in these placeholders were usually empty.

For a long time now Notre Dame's MyLibrary software has supported the integration of information resources, facet/term combinations, and people into its system. [1] Through the facet/term combinations is possible to create relationships between information resources and people -- the heart of public service, IMHO. Facet/term combinations can include Audience/Freshman, Audience/Sophomore, etc. Additionally, facet/term combinations could be Reading Level/Grade school, Reading Level/High school, Reading Level/College. By "cataloging" information resources as well as people with these sorts of qualities and combining them with traditional subject classifications it is possible to narrow or broaden lists of suggested resources and making our systems appear smarter.

Finally, the use of the slider illustrated above is another thing I've advocated for a while. I first articulated it in a "next generation" library catalog essay, and I called it a Suggestion Widget. [2] What is really interesting is the slider can be used for all sorts of the things. Spelling suggestions. Thesaurus suggestions. More like this one. More details. Etc. Sliders are graphic examples of what is implied in our textual lists.

[1] MyLibrary facet/term combinations -
[2] Suggestion Widget -

Eric Lease Morgan
University Libraries of Notre Dame

Mar 15, 2008


Nice idea. I suppose, in time, as bandwidth in the 'clouds' grows, we'll be seeing more audio/videos, so perhaps there should be some type of viewer rating above the slider (e.g. G,MA, R, etc).

Would you also give some consideration to Eric's idea about subjects, but with a spin. And this goes to your ideas about getting librarians "in the flow". We're starting to see an increasing demand for ways that people, after they find a doc (of any format) might be directed to an online place where "clusters of interest" can ask questions, discuss a subject and be sociable. It kinda makes a bit more sense if you think Wikipedia, Citizendium, etc (or any fully digital library). This slide illustrates the (not so) virtuous cycle (at the moment).

Any way we could use (a cut down version of) the DDC as a way tag both the docs, the 'audience level' AND their related community discussion spaces?