You may already know that I am a librarian, but I am also a certain type of librarian. I spend most of my day cataloging state publications for the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. I went into, what we in the biz call, Technical Services, because I like organizing information. A big part of that is assigning and using numbers. Readers and writers are already familiar with ISBN, ISSN and library call numbers but in addition there are other numbers that catalogers use in the library to identify books.
Once such number is provided by the Library of Congress, (LOC) and called, you guessed it, the Library of Congress Control Number, (LCCN). A cataloger at the LOC assigns this 6 digit number to each book added to the library. This begins with the filing of copyright. All books submitted for copyright are passed on to LOC selection librarians for possible addition to one of the library’s collections. Notice I said possible. Not all books submitted for copyright are then selected for inclusion in the library. As someone who has browsed the piles of books in the LOC basement for the surplus book program I can tell you many books are not included in the collections and for good reason. One key criteria for selection is if the book would be something that multiple libraries would have in their collections. If it is then the book is passed on to a cataloger and a new number is born. Depending on the pile of books preceding it, however this wiat could be quite long. Publishers have the option of obtaining a Preassigned Control Number, (PCN). You can read about that program here. Another program, unrelated to the previous is the Cataloging in Publication Program (CIP). This is the creation of a bibliographic record for a book that has not been published yet. The publishers can then take the information from this record and place it on the back of the title page to assist libraries and vendors with cataloging the book once it is available. You can read about this program here. In both cases these programs are for publishers (3 or more published titles from different authors) and e-books need not apply. Lacking any of these numbers does not doom your work to library exclusion, nor are these numbers indications of a more, “Professional,” work. They are simply a means to ease cataloging of materials for libraries. For even more information check out the FAQs for the PCN and CIP programs.
While we are on the subject and toss around the acronyms, (it’s what librarians do), we should talk about an OCLC Number. The Online Computer Library Center, originally known as the Ohio College Library Consortium, maintains a huge catalog of works. This catalog called, Worldcat, is accessible by anyone at www.worldcat.org and is often searched by Google queries. Member libraries can add to this database and use records contained in it for their own catalogs. You can view this catalog here. When a cataloger adds a record to this catalog the system assigns a unique 8 digit number to identify it. This number then becomes a part of the record for that item and can be used by other catalogers to look up this item. The good news is any item can be added to this catalog by any member library. The tricky part is not all public libraries are members and there are other multi-library catalogs to consider. The easiest way to get your works in the OCLC Worldcat catalog is to have them cataloged and included in an academic library, almost all of which are members.
Now, if all a painting needed was a frame and a spot in a museum to be art, then one could assume that a book isn’t a book until it is cataloged in a library’s collection. That assumption would be wrong. Still in the drive to have our works out there for the reading public getting them in the hands of catalogers for inclusion in their collections is just another option. Here are some tips from the Savvy Book Marketer. By the way, none of my works have made it to the Worldcat or Library of congress catalogs, if only i knew a cataloger.