Library of Congress 101
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A few notes concerning the 2011 update
Title: Library of Congress 101
Author: Clea Saal
Summary: A quick overview of what an LCCN is.

One of the necessary elements as you publish your book is obtaining a LCCN. This stands for Library of Congress Control Number. This LCCN can take two different forms CIP and PCN. These stand for Cataloging In Publication and Preassigned Control Number respectively. Virtually all POD published books are assigned a PCN. So, what are the basic characteristics of these numbers?


CIP numbers are assigned to those books that are expected to be acquired by libraries, and there are numerous restrictions as to who can qualify. To obtain a CIP number, the following restrictions apply:

Previously published books, books published outside the United States, subsidized books, books published on demand, those books that have already been assigned a LCCN, E-Books, serials, gift books, the vast majority of travel guides, mass market paperbacks, music scores, microforms (though some may be considered), some text books, vest pocket editions, audio visual and multimedia materials, some multiple parts sets, instructional materials, ephemeral materials, translations (with the exception of Spanish), individual articles reprinted from periodicals and books that include diacritics in the title pages.


The PCN program is available for some of the books that are not eligible for the CIP program, and this program does welcome POD books, if they are published in the United States. They still have some limitations however. These are:

Previously published books, books from publishers that don't have an office in the United States, books that have been assigned a CIP number, E-Books, serials, government documents, items with less than 50 pages (there are a couple of exceptions here though, namely genealogies and children's literature), textbooks below college level, items not intended for wide distribution to libraries, religious instructional materials, expendable educational materials, transitory materials, translations (Spanish is an exception here), mass market paperbacks, individual articles reprinted from periodicals and other serials, audio visual and multimedia materials, music scores and most microforms.

Differences between CIP and PCN

The Cataloging in Publication creates a record for those books that are likely to be acquired by libraries in the United States before those books are released. This catalog record (CIP data) is then sent to the publisher and printed in the verso of the title page (the page in which the copyright notice is included). In addition to this, a machine readable version of this record is distributed to libraries and book dealers using the MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) network.

The Preassigned Control Number also assigns a LCCN to titles that are likely to be acquired by the Library of Congress, and to some other books as well. Here to the publisher must print the number in the verso of the title page. This is meant to simplify the cataloging process of the book, as well as other processing activities for libraries and book dealers. An initial bibliographic record may be created, but unlike what happens with a CIP record, this is not distributed, nor is it printed in the book.

The CIP and PCN programs are mutually exclusive.


Broadly, the CIP data refers to the bibliographic record created by the Library of Congress prior to the book's publication. Strictly speaking it is the record that appears printed on the verso of the title page. This is an abbreviated version of a more complete machine readable record (also known as a MARC record) which is part of the Library of Congress's database, and is distributed to several external sources, such as libraries and book dealers. This MARC version contains additional information such as codes to indicate the book's original language, cataloging date and so on.

Mandatory deposit

When it comes to published books and recordings, by law copyright holders are supposed to deposit two copies of the best edition within three months of publication. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, in those instance in which the nature of the publication would turn those two copies into a significant financial burden (such as a numbered edition). Failing to comply with this regulation does not have an effect on copyright protection but it may result in a fine under certain circumstances.

Even though the mandatory deposit is stipulated within Copyright Law, it is intended for the Library of Congress, so it is worth mentioning it here.

Complying with all current regulations is obviously the best way to go, however there are some aspects that are worth mentioning under these circumstances: A few authors claim that they have found some of those mandatory deposit copies surfacing as "used books" offered through some online retailers. This is perfectly legal, and pretty reasonable considering the fact that even the Library of Congress may eventually run out of storage space, and that most POD books have a limited demand so they are likely to be sold as surplus. The problem is that, as an author, you are not getting paid for those copies when you make the mandatory deposit, and then you end up losing an additional sale if that copy of your book ever comes into the market. This may create a somewhat unfair situation, even if the volume represented is minimum.

An author who fails to comply with this requirement may be fined $250.00 per work, plus the retail cost of the respective copies, if he/she fails to comply with this requirement within three months of receiving a request from the acquisitions department. A repeated, willful refusal to comply may cause an additional fine of $2,500.00. It is a gamble, but some self published authors do choose not to comply unless they get a specific request. While there are some exceptions, self published books are rarely requested, and when they are, they are not usually meant for the surplus pile.

LCCN, copyright and ISBN

It is important to remember that both copyright registration, and obtaining an ISBN are separate processes, independent from the procurement of a LCCN. In fact, technically speaking, obtaining an LCCN is not a legal requirement, though it is certainly preferable. This becomes apparent when you consider that there are certain materials that are excluded from both the CIP and PCN programs, such as E-Books.

If you are working with a publisher, you will be assigned an ISBN for your book. If you are going the solo route, then you need to obtain ten ISBN numbers from Bowker. For further information please check the following resource:

Copyright is intended to protect intellectual property. It comes into effect automatically as soon as a work is fixed in a tangible form. In other words, it comes into effect as soon as you write your book, record your music, paint a picture or shoot a movie. You don't have to do anything special in order to be protected by copyright law. That is the theory, however, should a question arise, you may find yourself in a position of having to demonstrate *when* a particular work was created. To this end, registering for copyright is certainly a good idea.

Obtaining a copyright certificate is not as painful as you may fear. For unpublished works you have to fill out an application, send in your fee, a copy of the work you want to register (two copies if it is a published work), and wait for a few months. Eventually you will get a certificate in your mailbox. That is it.

OK, I hope this helps you gain a basic understanding of the workings of the Library of Congress

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