A service of the US Library of Congress which provides major publishers with a bibliographic record to print in their new books.

When a library puts a book on its shelves, it must first ensure that the book can be found. Good cataloging makes the book accessible not only by its call number (such as its Dewey number), but also by its title, its author(s), its subject(s), and sometimes by its table of contents.

Original cataloging -- creating a bibliographic record where none existed before -- takes time and skill. Libraries are therefore happy to use copy cataloging if they can find a bibliographic record created by a reputable authority. This gives an advantage to books with a bibliographic record printed in a predictable place.

Because major publishers' books are likely to be bought by thousands of libraries across the US, the Library of Congress saves their time (and creates an expertly crafted bibliographic record) by providing a Cataloging in Publication record for books that have yet to be published. This service provides an economy of scale to stretch public library budgets as far as possible. (Forget the ethnic jokes -- take it from me, the best way to create copper wire is to put a penny between two library directors.)

So: CIP benefits the libraries, the publishers, and ultimately the taxpayers and patrons. Whom doesn't it help? Unfortunately, the CIP program does not directly benefit small and independent publishers. The alternative press that exists in all corners of political beliefs is at a distinct disadvantage; if they can't prove they have a nationwide promotions plan, LC will not provide Cataloging in Publication for them. This gives pablum with the corporate imprimatur the edge over independent thought from lesser-known sources.

Fortunately, once a work has been cataloged once, its bibliographic record can be shared in MARC format with anyone else who's interested. This means that while Cataloging in Publication is a visible advantage, it is usually offset by the availability of a bibliographic record from other sources.

Cataloging in Publication data is printed on the back of the title page, and looks like this:

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