Canadian library symbols are important resource-sharing tools. They are assigned by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and present a standardized key to the identification of Canadian libraries, information centres, archives, and other related institutions, many of which participate in a wide range of information activities (e.g., networks) or are listed in databases, bibliographies, union lists, etc.
Library symbols are precise, standardized, shorthand identifiers that are useful for automated interlending communications and processing, as well as union lists, bibliographies and local and regional networks.
Canadian library symbols are composed of three groups of letters. The first group identifies the province or territory, the second group identifies the city, and the third group identifies the institution. The following groups of letters represent the provinces and territories:
A = Alberta
B = British Columbia
M = Manitoba
NB = New Brunswick
NF = Newfoundland
NS = Nova Scotia
NU = Nunavut
NW = Northwest Territories
O = Ontario
P = Prince Edward Island
Q = Quebec
S = Saskatchewan
Y = Yukon
A typical example of a Canadian library symbol is AEU, which stands for University of Alberta Cameron Library in Edmonton, Alberta.
Symbols can contain up to eight characters in length.
Federal government libraries located in the National Capital Region all have symbols beginning with “OO.”
About the Directory
LAC maintains the Directory of Library Symbols and Interlibrary Loan Policies in Canada. The Directory may be used as a resource-sharing tool for finding Canadian libraries, their contact information and interlibrary loan (ILL) policies.
The Directory includes:
- bilingual names of Canadian institutions
- Canadian library symbols
- links to Canadian library websites and catalogues
- postal addresses
- telephone numbers, FAX numbers, etc.
- email addresses, Ariel numbers
- delivery services, including SOLS
- equivalent library symbols, such as OCLC symbols and DOCLINE
- interlibrary loan policies, such as information on the loan of monographs and serials, charges for ILL services, payment methods used, not-for-loan categories, and renewals information
Register for a Library Symbol
To obtain an internationally recognized Canadian library symbol, contact:
National Union Catalogue
There is no charge for this service.
National Union Catalogue
Library and Archives Canada
550, boulevard de la Cité
Gatineau, QC K1A 0N4
International Standard Identifier for Libraries
The International Standard Identifier for Libraries and related organizations (ISIL) is comprised of a set of standard identifiers used for the unique identification of libraries, archives, museums and related organizations with a minimum impact on already existing systems. This International Standard allows the use of existing Canadian library symbols (unit identifier, ISO/FDIS 15511) assigned by LAC to be incorporated into the ISIL.
When used in an international holdings context, Canadian library symbols (unit identifiers) assigned by LAC require the addition of the two uppercase letters of the respective country code (e.g. CA = Canada) followed by a hyphen character. A typical example of an international Canadian library symbol is CA-AEU, which stands for University of Alberta Cameron Library in Edmonton, Alberta. The “CA-” prefix is not generally included when used within Canada as a holdings symbol or interlibrary loan symbol.
More information about the management and usage of the ISIL is found on the site of the ISIL International Agency in Denmark.
MARC Organization Codes
When used in a MARC record exchange context, Canadian library symbols assigned by Library and Archives Canada will ideally include the country code (ISO 3166-1) as the first sub-unit, followed by a hyphen.
More information about the development and usage of MARC Organization Codes is found on the Library of Congress website.
The Canadian Library Gateway (archived) continues to provide a centralized window to Canadian libraries of all types and sizes.
The Directory of Special Collections of Research Value in Canadian Libraries (archived) assists in locating specialized resources in Canadian libraries with searches by subject, name of collection, and institution in the webpages of selected Canadian special collections.