Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Library of Congress Control Numbers

If you copyright your book, a copy of it will reside forever in the Library of Congress (“LOC” or “LC”).

Actually it will reside there until it rots or until a future librarian decides to clear it out to make space for something newer or more important.

Most authors have other relationships with the LOC. It issues copyrights and is the source of an important number that goes on the copyright page of many books.

Until recently, books displayed a Library of Congress catalog number. Now it’s called a control number (Library of Congress Control Number, or LCCN), and it’s important to have one for two reasons:

 It will be very difficult to get libraries to buy your book if it does not have an LCCN.

 It makes your book seem more professional, even if you don’t care about selling to libraries.

Books can get control numbers either before or after they are published.

The Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program enables the Library of Congress to assign control numbers in advance of publication to those titles that are theoretically-most likely to be acquired by the LOC as well as to some other categories of books.

The publisher prints the control number in the book to aid cataloging. The PCN links the book to any record that the LOC, other libraries, bibliographic services, or book vendors may create. Only U.S. book publishers are eligible to participate in the PCN program.

This program is not for books that have already been published, books for which Cataloging in Publication data (more later) has been or will be requested, or eBooks.

Publishers must complete and submit an Application to Participate. When the application has been approved, an ac-count number and password will be emailed to the publisher. Then, the publisher logs on to the PCN system and completes a PCN Application Form for each title that needs a PCN. Based on the information provided by the publisher, LOC staff pre-assigns a control number and the publisher prints it on the copyright page in the following manner:
Library of Congress Control Number: 2007012345.

You can apply at You should get an email confirmation of your application within a few minutes. If additional information is required, a PCN Publisher Liaison person will contact you. Application processing can take about a week, and varies with the volume of requests. I received a control number in a few hours.

If you need to revise the information on your application, don’t submit another application. This will slow processing. After you are assigned an account number, you will be able to update book information by clicking the “Publisher Information Change Request” button on the PCN web page.

There is no charge for a PCN. However, publishers that receive PCNs are obligated to send a complimentary copy of each book to the LOC (address below). The books are not returnable.

The Cataloging in Publication (CIP) service is generally not suitable for self-publishers. Almost any American publisher can use the previously discussed PCN program. But, to be eligible for the CIP program, a publisher must have published books by at least three authors.

If you’ve formed your own company to publish your books but have not also published the work or two other authors, you are ineligible. Publishers ineligible for the CIP program should be eligible for the PCN program.

The CIP program creates bibliographic records for forthcoming books. The bibliographic record (also known as CIP data) is sent to the publisher and then printed on the copy-right page. A machine-readable version of the record is also distributed to libraries, booksellers, and bibliographic net-works worldwide.

What follows is CIP data for a great book about humor writing. The last line shows the LCCN
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sacks, Mike
And here’s the kicker : conversations with 21 top humor writers on their craft / by Mike Sacks
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-58297-505-4 (pbk : alk. paper)

1. Wit and humor—Authorship. 2. Comedy—Authorship. 3. Humorists, American—Interviews. I. Title
PNG149.A88S23 2009

Published works are assigned an LCCN during the cataloging process if they are selected for addition to the LOC’s collections. Since there is no guarantee that the LOC will select your book, if you want an LCCN, apply before publication.

Complete information about the LCCN process is at

A publisher may try to tell you that there is a fee for an LCCN or that it has to charge you a fee because it needs to obtain an LCCN for each edition of your book. Don’t believe either claim! Unlike an ISBN, the LCCN is assigned to the work itself and doesn’t change with each new edition or version.

The CIP program and PCN program are mutually exclusive. Titles processed in one program are not processed in the other.

There is no charge for registering for CIP or PCN, but, immediately upon publication, the publisher must send a copy of the “best edition” of the book to which the LCCN was assigned. The “best edition” is the version of the book printed on paper expected to last the longest. Here’s where to send your book:

Library of Congress
US Publisher Liaison Division
Preassigned Control Number Program
(or Cataloging in Publication Program)
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20540-4280

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