The Library of Freakin’ Congress


If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere… it’s up to you LOC, LOC! Photo by Mr. Gray

When I was a kid I held the Library of Congress in awe. With over 100 million total items, it’s a book nerd’s dream. And when I opened a book and saw that it had a LOC Control Number, I thought to myself, “Well, this author has made the big time. (S)he is in the Library of Freakin’ Congress.”

So when I started my career as an independent author, self-published and rarin’ to go, I thought it might be neat to find out how to go about obtaining a Library of Congress Control Number for my books.


My books are not clearly visible from this altitude. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith. 

Turns out, it’s not all that crazy difficult. You can do it all online. (Thank you once again, Al Gore, for your miraculous invention: the interweb.)

The first step is to go to the LOC Website dealing with Preassigned Control Numbers. This will give you all the information you need, and allow you to open an account.

Here’s the tricky part. In order to start getting LOC numbers for your books, you need to be a publisher. This threw me a little at the outset, because I publish my books using CreateSpace, which is an awesome service for the indie writer. And so I was thinking, “Well, aren’t they the publisher?”

In a lot of ways you could consider them to in fact be your publisher, but they are really just a service that prints the book for you. You are your publisher. Once I got that figured out, I realized that all I had to do to get my LOC account going was to give my little publishing house a name and and address. Since I already live somewhere, I was able to use my home address, and I struggled for about ten seconds deciding on a name, settling on Littlewing Publishing, Littlewing being both an amazing Jimi Hendrix song, and my wife’s nickname.


The first few lines of the PCN Application. It’s not bad at all.

Once you complete the form establishing your account, you can then begin applying for your PCN (Preassigned Control Number). This consists of a number of questions about the book. Key in this is already having an ISBN number, which if you go through CreateSpace they will provide for you. There are a number of other methods for obtaining an ISBN, but I’ve always used CreatSpace for mine.

When you’ve completed and submitted your form, the website hedges its bets considerably by telling you that you can normally expect to wait for a week before receiving your PCN, but if they’re experiencing a high volume of requests the turn-around could be longer.


“Well, I guess THIS guy’s made it…”

I got mine the day after I requested them. I got an email, which, coming so quickly after I’d submitted my request, I naturally assumed meant there was some sort of problem. I opened the message expecting to read, “Dear Mr. So-Called Varengo, if that is your real name. We’ve determined you’re no more a publishing house than we are a front yard lemon aide stand.”

That is not what it said. It said, “Here ya go, bub!” Or words to that effect. It even gave me instructions on how and where to place the number in the book, so that all the world can know it’s registered with them.

So, for the five of you who didn’t already know all of this way before I did, I hope this is of some small help in getting you to the point where someone will someday open your book, look at the copyright page, and say to themselves, “Well, this author has made the big time. (S)he is in the Library of Freakin’ Congress.”


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