If you're thinking of publishing a book, you may be required to submit a legal deposit to your national library. Find out what a legal deposit is and if it applies to you in this guide.
What is a legal deposit?
When you publish a book, you have the option of providing a copy of it to your national library so that it can be registered and preserved in the library’s archives. This is known as a legal deposit. In some countries, this process is a requirement and a legal obligation of all books published in that country. In others is not compulsory, but still a worthwhile process to take part in.
What is the purpose of a legal deposit?
If you are asked to provide a legal deposit by your national library of your newly published book, you might be wondering why they want a copy of your book and what will they do with it? Well, there’s a couple of reasons for a legal deposit. When you publish a book, you will most likely start to think about how you will get your book in front of people? What stores will you distribute in? What marketing channels will you promote your book through?
These are all valid questions, but another question is how will readers be able to find your book in a library? This is the first purpose of a legal deposit. Upon providing a legal deposit of your publication, it will be registered and put in the national library’s system that is shared with all libraries in the country. The registration will allow any library to locate and identify your book in the national library database. This is essential if you want your book to be carried in any library. The second purpose of a legal deposit is that your book will be added to your country’s national literary archives. Your book will then be absorbed into your country’s cultural heritage and be accessible to future generations.
Now like I said before, in some countries a legal deposit is optional and in others, it's required, so it’s best that you become familiar with the laws in your country before publishing your book. Regardless, most authors would like their books to be made available in libraries so even if it’s not required of you, it’s certainly a good idea to register your book through a legal deposit.
Below I will provide some details on the process in some countries that offer legal deposits.
Legal Deposit in the USA
In the USA, registering your book requires you to apply for 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.
Legal Deposit in Australia
In Australia, registration is done before publication through the National Library of Australia. The service is called the Prepublication Data Service (recently renamed from Cataloguing-in-Publication (CiP)). This is a free service available for all authors.
When books are registered for Prepublication Data Service, book’s details are made available to Australian libraries, library suppliers, and other members of the book industry for acquisition purposes.
Legal Deposit in the UK
If you're an author publishing in the UK, you are legally required to submit your book to the British Library. Furthermore if requested, you are required to also submit your book to five other main libraries in the UK. These libraries include the Bodleian Library (Oxford University), Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.
The request may be made before publication and may include all future numbers, or parts, of an encyclopaedia, newspaper, magazine, journal, or any other work.
Legal Deposit in Canada
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) keep records and copies of all Canadian books. They call themselves the custodians of both distant past and recent history. They produce standardized bibliographic descriptions for Canadian publications for libraries and cataloguing.
Under the Library and Archives of Canada Act, Canadian Publishers are required to provide 1 to 2 copies of their book to the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This means all published materials in Canada, intended for sale or public distributions are collected and held by the LAC to contribute to Canada’s literary heritage.
Self-published authors can make a legal deposit to the LAC in order to register your book in Canada and create a record for libraries.
For more information on legal deposits in other countries please see the links below.
This guide runs through legal deposits. For the process in specific countries, make sure to follow the links for more info. If your country hasn't been listed, you still might need to perform a legal deposit. Visit your national library's website for more info. We have full guides covering the process if you're publishing your book in Australia, the USA, Canada and the UK. Remember this is of course just one of our Indie Author Guides. Pop your email in the box to the right to sign up for our newsletter and stay in touch with our latest tips, info and specials for our author friends.