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Finding Music Materials

A guide to searching for and distinguishing between different musical formats using the library catalog.


The Music & Performing Arts Library has materials in many formats, including books, music scores, recordings (CDs, LPs, cassettes), videos (DVDs, VHS, and laserdisc), journals, microfilms, and online resources. This guide will walk you through the process of finding these materials in the library and searching for them using the Library catalog.

  • If you need help searching for music material in the library catalog - choosing the best keywords, knowing which edition of a work is right for your needs - use the tabs to the left to learn about searching for different musical formats.
  • If you already know what you're looking for and you just want help locating it in the library, check out the rest of this page.
  • If you are looking exclusively for online content, check out our page on streaming media for the performing arts.
  • If you know what you're looking for but the library doesn't have it, you still have options! See the last page of this guide to learn about requesting materials from beyond UIUC!

Locating an Item: Reading a Catalog Record

Once you find something in the results list that looks promising, open the full record for the item and take a look. Is the book available in more than one library? Is it on the shelf or has someone else checked it out? Make sure to note this before you make the trip over to the library. 

A catalog record for an item with multiple copies in different libraries. The location section of an item record (listed under "Get It") has this information.

Locating an Item: Finding the Physical Material

If an item is available, you'll see a line of text underneath the name of the library that reads: On Shelf, [a location, e.g. Stacks]; call number. To figure out where to go in the library, see the list of locations at MPAL listed below. To figure out how to find the book on the shelf, see the next tab that explains how call numbers work or check out our slide tutorial at the bottom of this page.

Locations within the Music and Performing Arts Library

Location: Music & Performing Arts Library Stacks

  • Books: First floor, east side
  • Scores and Miniature Scores: Second floor
  • Scores with "F." preceding the call number: Oversized materials, second floor along the wall
  • Items with "Q." preceding the call number: Ignore the Q, these are interfiled with other items

Location: Music & Performing Arts Library Media Collection

  • CDs, DVDs, Games, Tech, etc.: Take the call number to the first floor service desk and someone will retrieve the item for you

Location: Music & Performing Arts Library Plays Collection

  • Play scripts: First floor in the computer area, arranged alphabetically by author last name and then title

Location: Music & Performing Arts Library Reference Non-circulating

  • Books and scores (M1s-M3s): First floor, center section near the stairs

Location: Music & Performing Arts Library Periodicals 

  • Journals: First floor, west side by the reading room

Location: Music & Performing Arts Library Special Collection

  • Books, scores, LPs, microfilms, other materials: Take the call number to the first floor service desk and someone will retrieve the item for you

Once you've identified the book's location, the next step is finding the item on the shelf - this is where the call number comes in.

Two Classification Systems

The Music and Performing Arts Library uses both the Dewey Decimal Classification system and the Library of Congress Classification system for our call numbers. New items get LC numbers (GV: dance; M, ML, MT: music; PL, PN, etc: theatre) while older items have Dewey numbers, and you'll need to go to a different section of the library to find your book depending on which system it is classified with.

If you're just hoping to browse a section for a particular topic, this means you may need to look in more than one place for items on one subject.

Reading a Call Number (quick version)

Library of Congress:

  1. Go in alphabetical order (L comes before LA)
  2. Numbers follow letters (774.5 comes before 774.59)


  1. Search numerically for the first number (973 comes before 974)
  2. Search numerically for the first number after the decimal point, and so on
  3. If letters occur in the call number (973 C375), search for the letters alphabetically
  4. Remember that "nothing" comes before "something" (for instance, 973 C375 comes before 973 C375a)

Still Confused?

See the next box for a step by step slide tutorial that will both explain LC Classification and help you find a book classified with an LC number.

How to Find Items at the Music & Performing Arts Library: Understanding Call Numbers Tutorial

Check out this brief slide tutorial to learn how to identify an item's call number in the catalog, how to decipher a Library of Congress call number, and how to locate the item at MPAL using its call number.

This tutorial was created in Fall 2020 by MPAL GA, David Floyd.