One of the questions we are frequently asked is, “What is a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) and how do I get one?” A LCCN is distributed for free by the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and corresponds to a created record in their system that libraries across the country can look at if they want information on how to catalogue your book.
If you open up any mainstream book to the copyright page, you’ll find several lines of information on the bottom starting with the words, “Library of Congress Catalogue-in-Publication Data.” In addition to the usual information such as author and title, you can also find the LCCN, appropriate subjects, and a Dewey Decimal number. While each different format of your book requires a different ISBN, you use one LCCN for every format available (ebooks are not eligible). For self-published and small press books, a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) is assigned instead of a LCCN. A PCN is a number assigned to a book before it’s published. According to the Library of Congress’s website, “First, the book is reviewed by Library of Congress selection librarians. If the book is selected for retention in the Library's collections, then a bibliographic record will be created and this record will appear in the Library's online catalog. If the book is not selected for retention, the Library of Congress will not create a catalog record for the book.”
Having a PCN for your book, even if it’s not accepted into the Library of Congress’s regular collection, is still important. As a unique identification number, it holds a place for book processing by libraries, book vendors, and the Library of Congress.
Obtaining a PCN as a small press or self-published author is a quick and easy process with two parts.
Registering as a Publisher:
- If you haven’t already, come up with your own publishing imprint/name. You will need this to register with the Library of Congress.
- Go to Bowker.com and buy your ISBN(s) as a publisher. You will need part of the number for the Library of Congress application.
- Go to http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ and click on “Open an Account” under the words “Electronic PCN.”
- Read the information provided then click “Application to Participate.”
- Fill in all the required information and click “submit” at the bottom.
- The Library of Congress will send you an e-mail within a few days to let you know whether you have been accepted into the program. (The answer will likely be a yes.)
Registering Your Book
- Once you’re approved, you are given a login and password with which you can then go back to http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ and apply for a PCN.
- Click on “PCN Application” in the top left-hand corner.
- Fill in all the required information for the book you’re publishing.