What is an LCCN and Why Do Authors Want It?

When your book is released, you hope to sell copies to get it into the hands of readers. But will readers be able to check your book out of a library?

If you want your book to be carried at a library, you’ll need an LCCN. (Yes, it’s time for more publishing alphabet soup!)

LCCN stands for Library of Congress Control Number. An LCCN is an identification number assigned by the Library of Congress for books in its cataloged collections. The number is used by librarians to locate a specific book in the national databases.

The Library first began printing catalog cards for titles in 1898. The number was called a Library of Congress Card Number, but with the development of machine-readable records technology in the late 1960s, the term was changed to Library of Congress Control Number.

An LCCN is assigned to a book while the book is being cataloged by the Library of Congress, if it has been selected for addition to the Library’s collections. In some cases, a number can be pre-assigned to the book through the Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN). Some books are not eligible for submission for the PCN program, such as eBooks, custom editions, or books under 50 pages (with the exception of genealogies and children’s books, and catalog exhibitions submitted by museums and art galleries). It’s important to note that even if a number is pre-assigned to the book, the book may not be kept in the Library of Congress’ permanent collection. Self-Publishers can apply for an account with the PCN program.

When a number has been assigned, it should be placed on the book’s Copyright page. It can also be included in other registrations/information for your book, such as the ISBN registration.

Now you’re ready to approach libraries about carrying your book, and don’t forget to ask about doing a book reading or signing event!