Self-Publishers May Want to Try For Library of Congress Cataloging

Library of CongressYou’re a self-published author, and someone has suggested you get yourself an LCCN. You’ve never heard of an LCCN and are wondering if maybe you need to find out more. Well, this is your stop. We’re talking LCCNs today.

First off, what are they? LCCN stands for Library of Congress Control Number. It’s a unique identifier issued by the Library of Congress (LOC) to books that get included in their collection. Some people desire this number because librarians across the nation and the world tend to catalog their books using the LCCN number. There is only one LCCN per book, whereas each edition of a book requires a new ISBN (eBook, paperback, hardback, special editions), and will likely have multiple ISBNs.

If it sounds appealing, how do you get one? Well, the LOC has two programs which issue LCCNs: The Catalog in Publication (CIP) Program and the Pre-Assigned Control Number (PCN) Program. The CIP Program is open to big publishers who are pre-approved to submit books to the LOC. The LOC produces a set of information called the “CIP Data Block” that is printed in the front of each book (it includes the LCCN, Dewey decimal system subject headings, author name, and other types of information librarians use to catalog books).

The PCN program is open to self-publishers and small presses. The LCCN must be applied for prior to the book being published. Some Print-on-Demand Publishers, such as CreateSpace, will request an LCCN for you. The main difference between the PCN-assigned LCCNs and the CIP LCCNs is whether the book receiving it is accepted into the Library of Congress collection.

Almost all CIP books are accepted by LOC. PCN books must be sent to the LOC staff, who review them and determine if the LOC will accept them into the collection. However, the percentage of books accepted through the PCN Program might surprise you. IU caught up with Caroline Saccucci, Dewey Section Head and Program Manager and Acting CIP Program Manager, to discuss some changes made to the CIP Data Block. During our conversation, she noted that odds are better than 50-50 for self-published books being taken into the LOC collection.

“We add 60 percent to our collection,” said Saccucci, who took a quick peek at acceptance rates for PCN books.

Specifically, she noted that the LOC is trying to get a wide range of material. “There’s a whole gamut of stuff that we accept,” Saccucci said. “There are a lot of things we collect for scope: local history, genealogical stuff, stuff that small presses would produce. Wiley isn’t going to do a local history of a small town.”

The LOC is the nation’s library, tasked with preserving an account of the nation, and they take that part of the job seriously. “We have two selection officers that go through and decide what we can keep. They try to think holistically in every subject area.”

So, depending on the subject matter, a self-published or small-press book could fall into just the niche the library is looking for. Back in October, the LOC made a few changes to the CIP Data Block to improve the process, and has been trying to get the word out. “The biggest change is we streamlined it for publishers,” Saccucci said. “Those applying for print and eBook can get one data block, so that was a huge improvement.” She noted that previously publishers received different data blocks for print and eBooks, but because most use the same file for publishing (sound familiar?), eBooks often ended up getting published with the print data block or vice versa. That won’t happen under the new system.

The changes, however, don’t affect the PCN program, which does not deal with eBooks. “Right now, eBooks are not part of the PCN program,” Saccucci said.

The one thing to note with the PCN program is that when you apply for an LCCN through that program, you are assigned a number. You may even place that number in your book when it’s published. However, that number will only appear in the official LOC catalog (the one librarians get), if the LOC decides to accept your book for deposit. Unfortunately, if they reject your book, you might as well not have an LCCN number.

“Once the book comes in and the selection officer says we want to keep it, it will become fully catalogued. You will be able to search it anywhere,” Saccucci said. “If it is not selected, it goes to the surplus book program. The bibliographic record is maintained, but suppressed.”

What does suppressed mean? Well, the internal system for employees can find it, but it won’t show up in the catalog available to librarians nationwide. If, for some reason, the library changes its mind (perhaps your work blows up and you become this generation’s Mark Twain) and they want the book for the main catalog, they could simply move the record from suppressed to the active list. But, I suspect the odds on that are incredibly slim.

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

25 thoughts on “Self-Publishers May Want to Try For Library of Congress Cataloging”

    1. The program applies to US Publishers. So, if your “publisher” is CreateSpace, and you have a CreateSpace ISBN, you would be eligible. If you self-published in Canada, the UK or Australia using an ISBN from one of those countries, you would be ineligible.

      I put “publisher” in quotes, because CreateSpace is technically a publisher, however, most self-publishers use primarily its printing services (to print their book), rather than their publishing services (editing, cover design, etc). CreateSpace is a publisher as far as the Library of Congress is concerned in terms of issuing LCCNs. And you have to use a CreateSpace Assigned ISBN if you’re in another country, because the program is open to US publishers only.

    1. Sounds like Canada is different than the US. Here, we’re not required to send anything and they’re not obliged to take anything we do send. Though, here in the US, it sounds like they take most of the stuff published by the big publishers.

  1. This is a very interesting and useful article. In fact, I wish I’d read it before I published my latest book. Thank you on behalf of my future books and me.

    1. I was really surprised myself at the percentage of PCN books they accept for deposit. As authors, we perhaps tend to downplay the importance of our work. But, when Saccucci put their work into perspective –discussing the LOCs goal to preserve the nation’s work– it made it clear that some books that seem insignificant nationwide, may actually be important collectively. Those small stories can be a unique glimpse at sections of our nation.

  2. Nice article RJ.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the main reasons I didn’t accept CreateSpaces offer to request an LCCN for me, was that by doing so they also required that I sell my paperback at a higher price. I priced my book at 7.99 and I believe they set the minimum to 10.99 for Library of Congress submission.

    Is this correct or am I having a memory lapse? 🙂

    1. I don’t actually know if there is a minimum price that CreateSpace makes you set when you apply for an LCCN. It seems like an odd requirement to me, but I’ve never used CreateSpace to get an LCCN, so I don’t know. Would CreateSpace permanently prohibit you from changing the price if you sought an LCCN through them? Since it has to be done before publication, seems like you could easily change the price once you published, unless there’s a permanent prohibition on it, in which case, that’s something people would have to consider.

    1. Australia’s National Library does seem to want all authors to deposit a copy of the books they publish with them. So, they actually keep a record of them (which the US doesn’t do; it only keeps records via LCCNs if you get one). I don’t know if the deposit makes it easier to catalog your book at local libraries.

      Here’s the link to the Australian National Library site.

  3. Thank you for this important information! With the exception of one brief sojourn in the Big 5, all my fiction is small-press-published, and until my last book, all of them have received full CIP cataloging. To my dismay, my most recent novel only received the PCN, and as a result, the book was deemed ineligible for certain reviews and awards in the library field. (The novel is listed in WorldCat, so I assume the Library of Congress added it to the collection. I certainly hope so, as it’s a companion to a novel–from a different, now-defunct small press–that five years ago received an award co-sponsored by LOC.) One of the things this piece is telling me is that LOC has gotten a lot stricter in what it gives small presses and in terms of library sales there may be no advantage of going with a small press as opposed to going it alone.

    1. I hope I didn’t give the impression that the LOC is giving fewer LCCNs to small presses. That’s not true. First up, whether you get your number through the PCN program or the CIP program, you get an LCCN number. The only difference is internal. PCNs start with a different prefix than CIP LCNs. But, they all show in the database.

      As to the concern about fewer LCCNs for small publishers, I don’t believe that’s true. While I didn’t include the information in the article (because I didn’t have data for all the years), Ms. Saccucci, while we were on the phone, went and looked at the end of year CIP and PCN data for the past decade. One of the things I’d specifically asked her, was whether the influx of self-published titles had made it harder to get LCCNs through the PCN program. Based on the data she looked at PCN and LCCN acceptance rate has remained stable at 60 percent and at 95 percent for the CIP program. So, the rate hasn’t changed. However, more titles are requesting LCCNs.

      1. Yes, but as a former librarian and a writer of books for young readers, I would much prefer full CIP cataloging to PCN, and so would many reviewers. I don’t know why a small press would go for PCN rather than CIP. Maybe it’s cheaper, or maybe the small press is too new or otherwise not eligible for full CIP. But there are huge advantages to full CIP (especially Children’s Cataloging in Publication, which includes a short summary and detailed subject categories) and not having it, while far from a deal-breaker for libraries as you point out, significantly hampers a small press that wishes to gain mainstream acceptance.

        1. I see what you’re saying.

          I don’t know if they’ve changed the standards for which publishers are accepted in the CIP program. So, if they have, that might affect small publishers. Certainly, I agree with your contention that it’s advantageous to automatically get a CIP data block, rather than getting just the number in the PCN program. Though, there are several cataloging companies that will create a data block for PCN recipients.

  4. Great article. So is the LC just looking for non-fiction stuff? Or will they take fiction? Also, I was not aware that CS can request an LCCN- I have never seen a place on their site to get one. I have a client that is interested in getting his children’s book and LCCN and he’s publishing through CS. Can ya help a girl out? Where would I look?

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