It’s in (almost) every book you read, but you’ve probably paid little attention to it. The Library’s Cataloging in Publication (CIP) information — that copy-block on the reverse side of the book’s title page spelling out the author, title, subject, its International Standard Book Number, and other information — is an essential beginning to a book’s publication.
The Cataloging information provided by the Library allows publishers to get the book’s information relayed to libraries and booksellers months in advance of publication — ask any author how important that is — and keeps the publication process rolling. (It’s different from copyrights, although the Library does that, too.)
And now, for the first time in 16 years, the Library is rolling out an all-new CIP database. It’s called PrePub Book Link (PPBL), and it overhauls the sturdy-but-outdated 2003 system. Book buyers won’t notice any changes, but publishers and Library staff certainly will. The overhaul took more than one and a half years, involves more than 3,000 major scholarly and trade publishers and more than 50,000 books each year. The Library’s system for smaller publishing houses, the Preassigned Control Number Program, will be merged into PPBL, too.
“It’s a very significant milestone,” says Karl Debus-López, chief of the U.S. Programs, Law, and Literature Division, which oversees the program. “It’s a success story of collaborative work.”
The CIP program has been around since 1971. It began as a way for the Library to find out about forthcoming publications to catalog and add to its collections. The records created for those titles were sent to libraries nationwide. Those libraries then knew about new titles to add to their collections and had records to use for their catalogs. The publishers also benefitted in that the program helped to promote, market, and sell upcoming titles. The program quickly became an industry standard.
In the beginning, it was all done manually, by mail, and was, let us say, very analog.
“Publishers would mail us a galley, or maybe the entire book, with a CIP application and it would literally be hand-carried from place to place,” says Caroline Saccucci, the Library’s CIP and Dewey program manager.
In 2003, the Library established an internal database that allowed publishers to take care of the process online, with electronic galleys attached. The system was clunky but reliable and, in the digital age, held on for 16 years.
Overhauling that system was complicated, as it had dozens of moving parts. More than 200 Library employees catalog CIP books. Thirty-one partner institutions – mostly academic institutions with university presses — also use the system to catalog their titles. Publishing houses, independent authors and small presses use it every day. At any one time, 4,000 or more books are in the pipeline.
Creating the new program took the efforts of more than 30 staffers, plus contractors, working across four departments. The new system is faster, allows publishers to log-in by multiple accounts and attach a PDF file for the book, and provides auto-filled data boxes to streamline the process.
“Everyone involved with the design, development, testing, and training of staff should be very proud,” Debus-López said.
So, the next time you look inside a book? You’ll feel smarter for knowing how complicated just one part of it is to pull together.
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