Library of Congress Catalog Number (LCCN)—what it is and where you get it

Posted By on April 13, 2013

After going completely off-topic yesterday, let’s get back to all things publishing. Today is for “L” in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, so let’s get right to it.

The acronym LCCN originally stood for Library of Congress Card Number in 1898 when the numbering system first went into use. Back then, the Library of Congress prepared cards of bibliographic information for its library and would then make the same cards available for sale to other libraries. Each set of cards had a serial number. This was known as “centralized cataloging.”

Of course, most bibliographic information is now electronically created and shared with other libraries, but each unique record still needs to be identified, and that’s what the LCCN does. In February 2008, the Library of Congress created the LCCN Permalink service, providing a URL for all Library of Congress Control Numbers.

All requests for Preassigned Control Numbers (PCNs) must be made online. First complete the Application to Participate http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ to obtain an account number and password. Then follow email instructions to submit your title information and receive your LCCN within a week (often it’s just a day or so). The LCCN should go on the copyright page of your book, usually under the ISBN.

Your book needs one, and you can obtain one as a self-publisher (as long as you are actually self-publishing under your own publishing company name, not using a vanity press). If you hope to sell to libraries—and it can be a great market—you must have an LCCN.

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