There is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding about what Cataloging in Publication (CIP) entails, what is or is not conferred by a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), the nature of the Library of Congress’s Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN), and the for-profit Publisher Cataloging in Publication (PCIP) services offered by freelance cataloguers. Worse still is the myth that the author whose book does not contain CIP data or a coveted LCCN cannot sell their books to libraries. This is simply untrue: all that a CIP data block does is reduce the workload of a cataloging librarian; the absence of a CIP block or an LCCN in no way prevents a library from buying your book and putting it into circulation. And in the United States, self-published authors are barred from the Library of Congress’s CIP program anyway, rendering an LCCN essentially useless. In this four-part series on CIP, LCCNs, PCNs, and PCIPs, I take you through each program and debunk the myths that surround them.
Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
The Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) is the Library of Congress’s number for their CIP record, what we referred to in Part I as the national control number (“#12”). When a librarian wants to call up the CIP record for a book in a national library’s database, the librarian inputs the control number. The control number is not a number that identifies your book; the control number identifies the CIP record for your book. The LCCN is assigned at the same time as the CIP record, and forms part of the data block. An LCCN is only applied to works catalogued by the Library of Congress; no other country’s national library will produce an LCCN, and publishers outside the United States cannot apply for an LCCN.
The resources of the Library of Congress are finite, and for years they have relied on the volunteer work of various university librarians to produce CIP data for works by affiliated university presses, select independent publishers, or works of a specific subject area; the program is called the ECIP Cataloging Partnership Program. The Library’s resources simply cannot meet the demands of all publishers, and as a consequence
self-published works, works by small presses that publish fewer than three authors, and vanity press publications are all ineligible for the CIP program.
That is not to say your book cannot or will never be catalogued by the Library of Congress, only that you are not eligible for the CIP program, which takes it on faith that the books for which a record is requested will likely be acquired by the Library of Congress and by American libraries in general.
Those publishers who are ineligible for the CIP program can instead apply for an LCCN through the Preassigned Control Number program.
Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN)
While the CIP program takes it on faith that a book is likely to be acquired by the Library of Congress and American libraries, the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program requires a publisher to submit a draft of their book to the Library for review prior to publication. If after reviewing your book the Library believes it likely that they will put a copy into the national collection and/or that American libraries in general will acquire the book, the Library will then produce a CIP data block for the book.
One can view the PCN program as a compromise between the Library and small presses and self-publishers: rather than completely bar these books from the national collection, which would be unfair and contrary to the nation’s interest, the PCN program prevents a strain on the Library’s resources because most of the books submitted to the PCN program will never be catalogued by the Library, yet the Library cannot be accused of ignoring books by small presses, self-publishers, and vanity publishers, and of refusing to consider these books for cataloguing. For the self-publisher anxious to have their book seen by the Library’s acquisition librarians, the PCN program is one way to do so. The other way is to write a successful book, and then the Library will look at it and likely catalogue it without any prompting on your part.
To apply for a PCN, publishers must be able to list a U.S. place of publication on the title or copyright page of their books and maintain “an editorial office in the U.S. capable of answering substantive bibliographic questions.”
There are other criteria; visit the Library’s website for the list. If you believe yourself to be eligible, you first apply to the Library for a publisher’s account. If an account is granted, you then apply for a PCN for your book. A number will be assigned, and you print it on your copyright page using the statement “Library of Congress Control Number: [number].” You then submit a proof or galley copy of your book to the Library for review.
The PCN is indistinguishable from an LCCN on face value, but while the LCCN acquired through the CIP program will point to a full bibliographic record, the LCCN acquired through the PCN program may not: if no CIP data is produced, the LCCN will point to an empty record.
Sometimes the Library, after reviewing your initial application, will deem your book likely to be acquired by them and will produce a partial CIP record.
However, this still does not guarantee the Library will produce an official CIP record: if after receiving your book they decide they do not want it after all, no full CIP record will be produced. The partial record will list the creator(s), title, ISBN, publication date, publisher, copyright year and any other dates associated with the book, which is less information than you can input into the Bowker Books in Print catalogue.
The only advantage I can see to acquiring an LCCN through the PCN program is if at a later date the Library decides to acquire your book and produce a record, then all those copies of your book already in circulation will have the LCCN in it and it will then point to a proper Library of Congress bibliographic record. It is a long shot, but it does happen.
The question, then, for the indie author, particularly an American one, is do I need an LCCN and/or a CIP data block? I answer that next in Part III.