It’s only necessarily to register your book with the Library of Congress if you plan for your physical book to appear in libraries. However, it is free to obtain the number so you may want to go ahead and get one just in case.
I confess that I wanted one for my book because it makes it look more official….
The Library of Congress is the National Library of the United States. It is actually the world’s largest library. The Library of Congress does not house every single book published in the United States, but it has an awful lot of them. According to their website, they add over 12,000 new items per day and have 838 miles of shelves! You can take a tour of the three buildings that comprise the Library of Congress and you can look at the books while there but you are not permitted to check out any materials.
The Library of Congress website states it priorities as follows:
First, to make knowledge and creativity available to the U.S. Congress on a continuing basis. Second, to acquire, organize, preserve, secure and sustain for the present and future use of Congress and the nation a comprehensive record of American history and creativity and a universal collection of human knowledge. The library’s third priority is to make its collections maximally accessible to Congress, the government and the public through such means as its website. Its fourth priority is to add interpretive and educational value to the basic resources of the library to highlight the importance of the library to the nation’s well-being and future progress.
The Library of Congress catalog number (LCCN) is the unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book its collection. Technically, the number is for the bibliographic record and not the actual book. Librarians use the number to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from other suppliers. There are two different types of control numbers: Cataloging in Publication (CIP) and Preassigned Control Number (PCN). The PCN is simply a LCCN that is assigned pre-publication. The CIP is for books that expected to be widely purchased by and circulated in libraries throughout the nation. The CIP and PCN programs are mutually exclusive. You cannot have both, and most self-published books will fall under the PCN category. Self-published authors and publishing companies who have published fewer than three authors are not eligible for the CIP.
You can apply for one at http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/.your book must be at least 50 pages long to qualify, so many children’s books may not be applicable. The application itself is a two-step process. First, you fill out the online form with the publisher name, contact information, and your ISBN. Second, they will email you a username and password so you can complete the application. It usually takes about 1-2 weeks for the process, depending on their current workload. There is no charge for an LCCN, but you must submit a physical copy of the finished work once it is published. Failure to do so may result in suspension from the program. The books will not be returned.
Send a copy of the book for which a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) to:
Library of Congress
US & Publisher Liaison Division
Cataloging in Publication Program
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
It is important to note that a Library of Congress catalog number is not a copyright. The U.S. Copyright Office is located on the fourth floor of the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, but obtaining an LCCN does not mean your work has been copyrighted. The copyright can be used as proof of ownership. The LCCN is simply a number assigned to a work that may be included in the collection of books at the library of congress. In order to obtain a copyright, you must contact the copyright office, fill out the appropriate paperwork, and pay the fee.
Inclusion in the Library of Congress Catalog is not automatic following submission, and the library does not provide status updates. However, you can view the database at http://catalog.loc.gov most PCNs are processed within 1-2 weeks.
– Linda Fausnet
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