Ordering documents: what numbers do I need?

Trying to find the right reference number when you want to request documents from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection can be a little daunting to a newcomer and sometimes even to the seasoned researcher. With titles such as MIKAN number, archival reference no., former archival reference no., related control no., and other system control no., it can be difficult to know which number is required to place your request.

In general, the complete archival reference information that you need to request documents for consultation (or reproduction) can be found in the “Conditions of access” section of the online description for files, items and accessions, and should be read from bottom to top.

A sample record description in the Library and Archives Canada Archives Search database.

A sample record description in the Library and Archives Canada Archives Search database. Note the conditions of access in the right column.

You will need to make note of the following information (if available), in the order indicated (1 to 6), in addition to the document title (located at the top of the description page):

  1. Archival Reference number – e.g., R112
  2. Former archival reference no. – e.g., RG, MG, LMS, MUS. It is also important to transcribe all of the information that follows the letter identification.
  3. An accession or BAN number – e.g., 2003-00459-9
  4. A volume or box number—without a volume or box number, nothing can be ordered.
  5. File no. (creator) or Item no. (creator)
  6. File title

For the preceding example the following information would be needed for document retrieval:

RG45, Volume 209, File no. 1147

Here are other examples of reference numbers organized by media type.

Please note that the “Conditions of access” section also contains important information on access restrictions (identified by an access code) that apply to the records described and that indicate whether documents may or may not be freely consulted for research and reproduction purposes. For more information about access codes, please consult the following blog posts: Introduction and Part II.

Important considerations:

  • Retrieval times for archival documents are between 36 and 48 hours as the documents are kept offsite and must be brought to 395 Wellington for viewing.
  • Pay close attention to the restriction codes on the documents, which may require you to provide additional information if the files happen to be restricted.
  • Some documents have already been microfilmed and are available for immediate viewing in the consultation room. If you see a record with a microfilm reel number, you can go directly to the microfilm room and pull the reel from the shelf for viewing.
  • In addition, some microfilmed documents have been digitized through our collaboration with Canadiana and are available on the Héritage website.

If all else fails, feel free to ask the Orientation or Consultation staff for help to find the correct reference number, or complete the Ask Us a Question form.

How to read AMICUS records—Part 2

Our previous article on this topic explained how to decode an AMICUS record for books, documents and reports (monographs). Today’s article provides you with tips on decoding an AMICUS record for journals, magazines, newspapers or any type of ongoing publication (serials).

To help you better understand, the numbers on the image correspond to the fields described in the article.

Screen capture of the AMICUS full record with corresponding fields (source: AN1538070)

1. AMICUS No.: Keep track of this number! You will need it to request issues of the serial, whether you place a request for retrieval before visiting Library and Archives Canada (LAC) or once you are on site.

2. NLC (National Library Collection) Copies: Provides key information on which issues of the serial record are available in our collection. It is essential to distinguish between the LAC holdings for the serial found in NLC Copies (No. 2) and the description of the publishing history of the serial found in the Description (No. 3). The complete run of a serial is sometimes unavailable at LAC or may be available in a microform version. If a microform version exists, it will be included as a link in Relationships (No. 6).

The following punctuation marks are used to describe serial holdings:
Punctuation Mark Meaning Example
Hyphen   An unbroken range of holdings v. 1-30 means the library has each issue of the serial from volumes 1 to 30 in its holdings.
Square brackets  [ ] Incomplete holdings [1950] means that holdings include some issues published in 1950.
Question mark  ? Uncertain holdings information v. 18-42? means that holdings may include volumes 18 to 42.
Slash  / A single physical item with two connected volumes v. 12/13 indicates that volumes 12 and 13 are contained in a single physical item.
Comma  , A gap in the holdings v. 1-3, 5 means the library has volumes 1 to 3 and 5 but not volume 4.
Semicolon  ; A publication break (not a gap) in the holdings v. 1-3; 5- indicates that after volume 3 the publisher jumped to 5 without publishing volume 4.

3. Description: Indicates when the serial began publication.

4. Frequency: Specifies how frequently the serial has been published over the years.

5. Notes: Offers additional information about the serial, such as where it has been indexed and its alternate titles.

6. Relationships: Provides links to related versions, for example, in other languages or in other formats, such as a journal available online or on microfilm. In this case, you will find a link to the online version of this journal held in our electronic collection.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

How to read AMICUS records—Part 1

Have you ever used our AMICUS library catalogue to try to find a book and were unsure about how to decode the information?

Here are tips on decoding an AMICUS record for books, reports or documents (monographs). To help you better understand, the numbers on the image correspond to the fields in the article.

Screen capture of the AMICUS full record with corresponding fields (source: AN 3041155)

1. AMICUS No.: Keep track of this number! You will need the AMICUS No., the name(s) of the author(s) and the title of the work to place a request for retrieval before visiting Library and Archives Canada (LAC) or once you are on site. Immediately below the AMICUS No., the type of record is specified; this tells you if the record is for a book, a report or a document (monograph), or a journal, a magazine, a newspaper or any type of ongoing publication (serial).

2. NLC (National Library Collection) Copies: Indicates the number of copies available at LAC. If you do not find NLC copies in the record, start your search over and make sure that you are searching the LAC catalogue only, not the entire database. As we are a closed stack library, the shelf location information is for internal purposes only and is not useful to you. Please note that preservation copies are presently unavailable.

3. Description: Tells you the number of pages and if the work contains illustrations or maps.

4: Notes: Provides additional information about the work, for example, other title information, additional information on the contents, whether it contains bibliographic references.

5. Relationships: Provides links to related versions of the work, for example, in other languages or in other formats, such as online or on microfiche.

6. Numbers and Classification: Generally of interest to other libraries only. The call numbers are suggestions for other libraries and are not LAC call numbers.

7. Subjects: Provides the standardized subject headings assigned to the work. Click on any subject heading to find additional materials on that topic.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article on how to read AMICUS records for journals, magazines, newspapers or any other type of ongoing publication (serials).

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!