CIP Databy featured BCW guest blogger, Glenna Collett

I used to think that a copyright page didn’t really need cataloging-in-publication (CIP) data in order to be complete. But I was wrong.

But wait—what is CIP data? It’s the block of information on a book’s copyright page that resembles a library catalog entry, like the one shown here. If the Library of Congress created it, it’s called CIP data. If a private cataloging service created it, it’s called PCIP (Publisher’s CIP) data. Since they look basically the same on the page, I’ll simply refer to both as CIP data for our purposes.

Back in the old days, the Library of Congress (LC) provided CIP data for any book that was submitted to them. And the Library and Archives Canada did the same before 2016. But now that about 15,000 new items are sent to the LC every day, they’ve limited their cataloging services generally to publishers that produce 5+ titles a year. For the rest of us, including all self-publishers, the LC now provides a Preassigned Control Number (PCN), which on the copyright page looks something like this:

Library of Congress Control Number 2019123456

The PCN is quick and easy to obtain online, and a boon to any self-publisher. It’s free, and it’s official. The number is not related to any cataloging data, but simply serves as a placeholder for possible future LC cataloging.

(By the way, the LC is about to streamline its PCN and CIP programs into a new, unified system. It should be online in spring of 2019. Look for updates at the PrePub Book Link).

But, alas, it’s not enough for many of us. And here’s why.

Most libraries these days are strapped for funds. Even if they can afford to buy books, they may not have enough librarians to catalog them before shelving them.
Information sharing

Librarians love to share—books, movies, magazines, music, musical instruments (have you tried any lately?), household tools (yes, in some places), research materials, and especially information. And that includes what they consider to be the most important piece of information found on copyright pages: the cataloging data.

With CIP data on the copyright page, all the librarian has to do is copy it into their computer, and then the book can go right onto the shelf. But if they don’t see any data, and they can’t find it online (see below), they must create it themselves, and that can take days, weeks, or even months.

When a librarian creates CIP data for a book, he or she (with the proper training) can simultaneously enter the info using a format called MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) records. The entry for each book includes the title, author(s), description, and subject categories. It also includes call numbers in both Dewey Decimal format and LC format so the book can be shelved in its proper place in practically any library. This is information sharing at its best. For a short tutorial on the importance—or not—of MARC records for your book, read this article from Linda Carlson of IBPA.

The nonprofit called OCLC is one place where librarians can find this data. It’s a global library cooperative that shares information, research, and cataloging. However, it requires membership, and not all libraries have the means to join.

Other groups with similar missions exist, too. Sky River, for instance, is doing the same kind of work.
So what’s the point for you?

Here it is: We suggest that you spend the money and a bit of extra time to get PCIP data onto your book’s copyright page if you want your book in libraries. It will reduce the time it takes to place it on the shelves, and make a lot of librarians happy, too.
How to obtain CIP data

Private providers can create PCIP data for you. Some of them include MARC records and some do not, so if this is important to you, inquire ahead of time. Here’s a list:

Cassidy Cataloging Services (U.S.) (U.S.)
The Donohue Group (U.S.)
Five Rainbows Cataloging Services (U.S)

Be sure to research each group. What you’re looking for is a reputable firm with professional catalogers who have experience in preparing PCIP data (and MARC records if that’s important to you).

Unfortunately, we were not able to find any providers in Canada. But if you are one or know of one, please get in touch.


Book Design Made Simple

Many thanks to Glenna Collett of Book Design Made Easy for permission to reshare this important information! Glenna is the coauthor of Book Design Made Simple. Please visit her website at