This week I promised to write about one of the most often overlooked items in the publishing business – the Library of Congress Control Number, or LCCN. I’m going to write about it a bit today, but my thinking on the LCCN has changed to some degree over time.

According to the Library of Congress website, “A Library of Congress catalog control number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its catalogued collections.” You may wonder how necessary it is to have one of these, and whether it’s worth spending the money.

The answer: yes and no. Or, even worse, “It depends.”

Now, my own journey in self-publishing was fairly difficult and complex, since I published my first three novels on the same date. I also created my own publishing company as an LLC. In other words, I did not become a CreateSpace, or Amazon-only author. However, I made a few mistakes along the way. For one, after copyright registration, I paid the Library of Congress for LCCNs for all of my books. I felt that there were a couple good reasons to do this:

a) These numbers would supposedly give my books the legitimacy needed to get into libraries.

b) They would also supposedly give my books the legitimacy needed to get into bookstores.

Once my books were available, I paid to ship copies of each of them to the Library of Congress to show that I had published them. With over 164-million titles on hand, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, and I knew that librarians can search the database and find my titles that way.

But Here’s the Problem

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee the Library of Congress will actually keep your titles in their system indefinitely, as I know from experience. Fortunately, I also know that, once accepted into local libraries, your books are likely to remain there. A quick search of worldcat.org reveals one of my titles in several Florida library systems, and another continues to appear in a New York system. Those represent actual sales to libraries, unlike the copies “gifted” to the Library of Congress.

The other complication: when I purchased my LCCNs, no one bothered to tell me I should have a CIP Data block on each copyright page. So I had to revise my copyright pages after the fact by purchasing CIP Data blocks, created by The Donohue Group.

According to the Library of Congress website, they have just launched a program for CIP Data that “limits eligibility to titles…most likely to be widely acquired by the nation’s libraries.” Does that mean I wouldn’t qualify? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I obtained those LCCNs for each of my books, and now the Library of Congress website doesn’t list them. So librarians searching the worldcat.org site can find info on my titles, but those searching the old LOC database won’t find them.

If this all sounds like sour grapes, it’s because I’ve been a big proponent of libraries for many years. And it’s more than a little disappointing to see the nation’s largest library not helping out all the local libraries by providing them with my info! On the other hand, you learn not to take everything personally in this business.

What do you think about the LCCN debate, or the new CIP program, if you’ve had experience with it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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