Why CIP Data Is Important
As of fiscal year 2014, American public libraries logged over 1.4 billion visits, according to the Public Library Survey conducted by the Institute of Museum & Library Services. That’s 1.4 billion chances for someone to see your book, read it, and become a fan. The snag? Your book has to be in the library to start with. Your book can get on the shelves in just one way — if a librarian catalogs it.
What is cataloging? According to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, to catalog means to “describe the physical format of and classify (books or other library material).” A book cannot make it into a library catalog unless someone enters the appropriate information in the appropriate format into the appropriate software. Each book has a bibliographic record, a file that contains the vital statistics on your book such as title, author, and publisher. Most importantly, the bibliographic record includes subject headings and call numbers.
Subject headings are brief, standardized phrases that summarize the content of the book. In library catalogs, the subject headings are searchable and help patrons find books on the topics that interest them. Call numbers identify individual books on the shelves and help organize a library’s collection. The most commonly used subject headings are the Library of Congress Subject Headings; the most commonly used system for forming call numbers is the Dewey Decimal Classification. Both subject headings and call numbers are selected during cataloging.
Librarians perform either copy cataloging or original cataloging. Copy cataloging means selecting and downloading an existing bibliographic record from a provider like OCLC. This is the easiest and quickest type of cataloging. In original cataloging, the librarian must create the bibliographic record from scratch. Think of copy cataloging as using a cake mix and original cataloging as baking a cake from scratch. Cataloging-in-publication (CIP) data is the cake mix. Why should you include CIP data in your book?
Cataloging takes time and expertise. Librarians have the expertise; time, however, is a precious commodity to public library catalogers. Few public libraries have dedicated catalogers, meaning someone who spends all day basking in the bliss of uninterrupted cataloging. The average public library cataloger spends most of the day helping patrons. In between fielding questions, wrangling rowdy teenagers, and checking books in or out, they will squeeze in cataloging — which they usually do at the circulation desk among a pile of papers and books and other clutter. Then the phone will ring…
Translation: Librarians are busy. Your book may be the most important thing in your life, but to a librarian it’s just another item in need of cataloging. How do you ensure your book gets cataloged? Provide CIP data. In the United States alone over 9,300 public libraries circulated over 2.3 billion items in 2014. Don’t you want your book to be one of them?