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Putting CIP in Perspective

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The Library of Congress’s
Cataloging in Publication (CIP) program seems to be causing independent
publishers a lot of unnecessary anguish. Established in 1971 to create
bibliographic records for books not yet published, the program is supposed to
streamline processing for libraries. With that in mind, publishers who don’t
meet CIP criteria often assume that their library sales will suffer or even
disappear.

 

Whether the CIP criteria make
sense is a subject for another time (see “The Untouchables” below for a list of
materials that CIP tries to screen out). Whether they matter is a topic
librarians recently discussed in response to a question I posted.

 

“CIP has no influence on whether
we buy a book or not,” says Christopher Albertson, a librarian at the Tyler
Public Library in Texas. “It only affects our cataloging processing, and then
only if we do not get the information from some other source. Sometimes it can
speed up the processing and get the book out faster, but that’s about it.”

 

Albertson’s response is typical of
librarians contacted for this report. When a query went out to acquisitions
librarians who participate in an email list, only 2 of the 21 who replied said
that the CIP program influenced purchasing.

 

Librarians find CIP data
relatively unimportant because it is “flawed and incomplete,” says Ned Kraft,
an acquisitions librarian at the Bunche Library at the U.S. Department of
State. “They take CIP records with a grain of salt.”

 

Judy Osier, an assistant librarian
at the Neenah Public Library in Wisconsin, doesn’t use CIP data as part of her
acquisition decision-making and thinks it’s “kind of silly to base a selective
purchase decision on CIP. It gives you what the Library of Congress gives you—their
interpretation of how a book should be cataloged. Sometimes they blow it.”

 

Book distributors who specialize
in library sales also don’t believe that CIP makes much of a difference. “The
Harry Potter books never had a CIP. In most cases CIP is not that big a sales
tool,” says Mike Tribby, head cataloger at Quality Books.

 

Choices for Cataloging

 

Still, publishers worry. “Over the
past 10 years, I have had a number of conversations with acquisition
librarians, and the message is the same,” says Leonard Flachman, publisher of
Kirk House Publishers in Minneapolis. “They do not have the staff or time to
determine how to catalog each book. If the book does not have CIP data, they
will not consider it.” And although our sample of librarians is far too small
to be statistically significant, the fact that CIP influences purchases by
roughly 10 percent of the respondents is worth noting.

 

Alternatives do exist. Quality
Books provides PCIP (Publishers CIP) numbers for $150 a title. OCLC—the
huge not-for-profit Online Computer Library Center “dedicated to the public
purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing
information costs”—offers similar services. And at least one independent
publisher has suggested that the Library of Congress set up a for-fee CIP
program for publishers who are barred from the current CIP, which is free,
although this obviously substitutes one kind of uneven playing field for
another.

 

The View from the Library
of Congress

 

Any expansion of the CIP program
seems unlikely in view of comments from Eacher Wiggins, director of
acquisitions and bibliographic access at the Library of Congress. Even now, he
says, the CIP catalogers are having trouble keeping up with the explosion of
new titles each year. “We simply have to craft a framework that we can sustain
when providing cataloging data to the public,” Wiggins explains. To keep the
number of books that get CIP numbers at a manageable level, staff members
strive to select the titles that libraries will be most interested in acquiring.

 

The CIP program was never meant to
be a marketing device for publishers, Wiggins points out. It was designed to
help librarians catalog books.

 

When asked whether the Library of
Congress has changed either its CIP eligibility requirements or the way it
enforces its rules about which publishers can participate, Wiggins said, “I see
no changes in terms of criteria or enforcement.” If more publishers are
protesting exclusion from CIP, he believes, it’s probably because “there are
more and more self-publishers” rather than because of “any changes in our
policy.”

 

More Important Influences

 

In an era when the number of books
published is exploding and library acquisition budgets are tight, how can
independent publishers get librarians to buy their books?

 

Librarians who don’t depend on CIP
data as an acquisition tool say they are most influenced by book reviews,
patrons’ suggestions and requests, online vendor databases, new-title lists,
flyers, and catalogs. “Whether an item has CIP is not a factor,” says Marsha
Hamilton, associate professor and head of the Monographs Department at the main
library at Ohio State University in Columbus.

 

For those who do care about CIP,
Wiggins notes that the Library of Congress is currently surveying publishers
and librarians about what to include as well as exclude from the program. It’s
unlikely that librarians—who already have trouble screening
titles—will advocate broadening the list of what’s eligible, but it could
happen. In any event, there’s a comforting thought for publishers whose titles
fall afoul of the rules for inclusion: “Philosophically, yes, there is not a
level playing field with CIP,” says Tribby of Quality Books. “But it’s a moot
point. CIP is not that helpful.”

 

Jenny McCune, a business
writer, reports regularly about publishing and publishers and is reachable via
email at jennymccune@imt.net. An upcoming issue of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>PMA Independent
will feature her article
on factors other than CIP that stimulate acquisition librarians to purchase
particular books.

 

 

 

The Untouchables

 

Titles that are ineligible
for the CIP program include:

 

·      books that are already published

·      books without a U.S. city as a
place of publication on the title page

·      books paid for or subsidized by
individual authors

·      books published on demand

·      books published by firms that have
published books by fewer than three different authors

·      books for which a Library of
Congress control number has been preassigned

·      e-books (books published in
electronic format)

·      computer files

·      serials

·      gift books

·      most travel guides

·      mass market paperbacks

·      music scores

·      most microforms

·      certain textbooks

·      vest-pocket editions

·      audiovisual materials, including
mixed media

·      some volumes of some multipart
sets

·      instructional materials

·      ephemeral and/or consumable
materials

·      translations, except Spanish

·      single articles reprinted from
periodicals and other serials

·      books whose title pages include
words with diacritics

 

Source: Library of Congress
Web site.

 

 

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