A Library of Congress Control Number provides an important cataloguing option for print books published in the United States. Discover why it is important and how you can get one for your book.
What is a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)?
This free number is a unique identification of your work. It is assigned by the Library of Congress and creates a catalogue record for each book in its catalogued collections.
Unlike an ISBN, which you will have more than one number if you have multiple formats or editions of your book, with an LCCN you only need one number. In other words, your LCCN identifies the book itself and the ISBN identifies each format or edition of the book.
When authors talk about registering their book, this is done through the Library of Congress Number in the United States.
Why do I need a Library of Congress Control Number?
A Library of Congress Number (LCCN) is tool used by librarians in schools, libraries and other educational institutions. Librarians use the LCCN to locate a specific Library of Congress catalogue record in the national database and to order catalogue cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers.
This assists them to add your book to their library collections, easing their workload and lowering their barrier to stocking your title. Without a LCCN you can still be added to libraries, but given it’s easy and low cost, it’s worth doing.
Get your Library of Congress Number before you publish
The whole application process for a LCCN for self-publishers is automated and completed online before your book is published. The process generally takes one to two weeks.
The Library of Congress uses a system called a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) to assign your book an LCCN before publication. This allows you to include the information in your copyright page.
There is a different process for authors who have already published their book and are now looking to get a Library of Congress Number. We’ll cover that in a separate article.
Getting your metadata ready for your Library of Congress Number application
You will need your book metadata ready to go as the system does not save your application mid way through. If you don’t have your book metadata in hand, our easy system will help.
You will need:
- General Information - Include the audience, age and grade levels, number of pages, language and your estimated publication date
- Contributor Information - Here you can list contributors. Including birth dates allows libraries to distinguish authors with the same name
- Title Page - This section replicates the information on your title page and includes title, publisher name, U.S. City of Publication (listed on the title or copyright page), and contributors names. You can also include subtitle and edition information.
- Series & Volume Info - Here you will put the title of the series if it applies, volume information and 13 digit ISBNs.
Two steps to get your Library of Congress Number
Once you have all your metadata together, there are two easy steps to get your LCCN.
- Create a PrePub Book Link This is the system used by the Library of Congress
- In the PrePub Book Portal select Request LCCN and follow the prompts to enter the information we’ve gone through. The Library of Congress provides a fantastic resource with detailed instructions and step by step screenshots. You can download that here.
Send a copy of your book to the Library of Congress
Once published, as your final step, you need to send a copy of your print book to the Library of Congress using the details provided during the application process.
This article talks through the registration process for US-based authors. To learn more about legal deposits we have written a full guide covering legal deposits. We also have articles covering the process if you're publishing your book in Canada, Australia and the UK. This is just one of our many indie author guides available on our website. Don’t forget to sign up for our author newsletter or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn for more great publishing news and tips.