A book was copyrighted; why isn't it in the Library of Congress online catalog?

Generally speaking, the Copyright Office creates a public record for each work copyrighted. Federal copyright law specifies requirements for claimants to supply copies of their works to the Copyright Office at the time of publication or registration: see chapter 4, articles 407 and 408 of the US Copyright Right law. 

The Library of Congress does select items from these deposit materials for its collections, though only about 45 to 50 percent of the items received are selected. Published deposits not selected by the Library are retained by the Copyright Office for a period of time considered practicable--about 30 years; see Chapter 7, article 704.

Unpublished materials are retained for the term of copyright, which is the life of the author plus 70 years. So, that's why items may appear in the Copyright catalog of registrations but not in the Library's general catalog of items within its collections. Essentially if the material was submitted for copyright but is not found in our catalog then the Library has decided not to retain that material.

One way that you can find if any other library has the material is by using Worldcat. Worldcat is the world’s largest international bibliographic database. More than 71,000 libraries report their holdings to Worldcat. After searching for your item, under the ‘borrow or obtain a copy’ there is an indication of how many libraries are reporting holdings. Along with this information is which institutions are reporting having the material which you seek. Unfortunately sometimes there is some confusion and more than one record for a book is created so you may need to look at two or more records to get the total number of holdings for a title. Please keep in mind that Worldcat only tracks books in public and institutional libraries. Private libraries (libraries held by individuals, including collectors) do not report to Worldcat. If you think that the title that you are looking for is not available in a library yet may be available for sale then please contact the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.  

We hope that this is helpful; If not, please feel free to submit your question to begin a conversation with a Reference Librarian. 

Last Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Views: 2407

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Rare Book and Special Collections Division
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Washington, D.C. 20540-4740