CIP, LCCN, PCN, PCIP – what are they and does the indie author really need them? (Part IV)

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.

PCIPPublisher’s Cataloguing in Publication (PCIP)

Authors who cannot acquire a CIP record from their national agency can opt to have one produced by freelance cataloguers. In this case the CIP data block in your book is headlined “Publisher’s Cataloguing [or Cataloging] in Publication”. Fees range from $60.00 to over $100.00.

There are several companies and individual freelancers who offer this service, but before you hire one there are a few things you need to consider. The first is that most of these freelance cataloguers are in the United States and have learned the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Most other national agencies use subject headings compatible with those of the Library of Congress, but do not necessarily adhere to them; Canada, for example, uses Library of Congress Subject Headings but with some modifications and additions to include specifically Canadian content or a Canadian perspective. Similarly, if you are a UK author and you hire an American cataloguer to produce CIP data for your UK publication, the subject headings may or may not be correct for UK libraries.

The second issue is that many of these freelancers will require that American clients apply to the PCN program for an LCCN that the cataloguer will add to the data block to make it look more official, but an LCCN in a CIP data block not issued by the Library of Congress is somewhat nonsensical: as has already been stressed in Part II, the Library of Congress only inputs into their catalogue data they produce themselves; a librarian who looks in the Library of Congress’s database for the LCCN in a PCIP record will find nothing of use.

Some freelance cataloguers offer a service to upload the data record they produce for you to the OCLC WorldCat (worldwide catalogue) database, which is another reason why the freelancer wants you to apply for an LCCN. But you can just as easily search by ISBN in the OCLC, so I really do not see how acquiring an LCCN for a PCIP is essential for anything but optics.

The third and most important issue is that Publisher’s Cataloguing in Publication is considered suspect by cataloguing librarians.

As one put it to me, publishers often try to influence subject headings to meet their marketing agendas, and one freelancer’s comment that she possesses “a willingness to revise and compromise … after all, no one knows a book better than its author (or publisher!)” seems to echo that concern. Another freelancer states that “[u]nless you are experienced with choosing subject headings you may misunderstand the intricacies of cataloging or inadvertently choose a heading that has fallen out of favor.” Although librarians concede that a certain amount of subjectivity is inherent in cataloguing, it is expected to be done in a clinical, scientific fashion without publisher or author input, or marketing concerns.

On their websites, these cataloguers usually give examples of PCIPs they have done for clients. When I checked one LCCN in the Library of Congress database, the self-published author’s book had been later catalogued by the Library—an encouraging sign—but the Library record does not match that created earlier by the freelancer: a notation is now added to the Main title, a subheading is added to the first subject heading, the second subject heading is completely different, the Library deleted the freelancer’s third subject heading, and the Library of Congress classification number is different. Since the PCIP was included in the author’s book, the author would have had to redo her copyright page to remove the PCIP and replace it with the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data block. Had she just had the LCCN on her copyright page, or nothing at all, there would have been no need to redo the print file.

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