Library symbols are precise, standardized, shorthand identifiers used in cooperative library activities such as interlibrary loans, shared cataloguing, and international, national and local networks.
Canadian Library Symbols have been assigned—first by the National Library of Canada and later by Library and Archives Canada (LAC)—since the 1950s. They are a standardized key to the identification of Canadian libraries, information centres, archives, and other related institutions.
There are also other systems of library symbols used by the Canadian library community in various contexts. For instance, many Canadian libraries belong to the international library consortium OCLC, which supports Canada’s National Union Catalogue, Voilà, and has its own system of identifiers.
Symbols and Interlibrary Loan Policies in Canada shows the OCLC symbols of Canadian libraries as well as their Canadian Library Symbols. It can also be used to find the policies and contact information of libraries in Canada using either identifier as a starting point.
Canadian Library Symbols
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, Rutherford Library, in Edmonton, Alberta.
Symbols can be up to eight characters long.
Federal government libraries located in the National Capital Region all have symbols beginning with “OO.”
About the directory
LAC maintains 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
- OCLC symbols
- links to Canadian library websites and catalogues
- postal addresses
- telephone and FAX numbers
- email addresses
- DOCLINE symbols and Ariel numbers
- 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
To obtain an internationally recognized Canadian Library Symbol, contact:
Canadian Library Symbols
Published Heritage Branch
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
There is no charge for this service.
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. A typical example of an international Canadian library symbol is CA-AEU, which stands for University of Alberta Rutherford 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.