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MUS 390: European Art Music I: Making Sense of Call Numbers

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque Music

Making Sense of Call Numbers

Each item in the Music Library has a unique Call Number, which has 2 functions:

  • An address or location code that tells you where the item lives in the library
  • The parts tell you something about the item itself, since similar items are shelved together, e.g., horn scores by Mozart, CDs of Puccini operas, books on electroacoustic music

library of congress call numbers


In the Library of Congress Classification System, “M” designates music as subject. But when we have a whole library full of “M” items, we need to make it more specific! Print materials will have one of 3 broad subjects: M=sheet music/scores, ML= literature about music, MT=music instruction & study

Line 2 is for the general topic and is always a whole number. 410 means it’s a biography.

Line 3 gets more specific and tells us the book is about Benjamin Britten, since .B853 is his code. In this line, the number is a decimal, so .B853 (Britten) would come before .B88 (Bruckner).

Line 4 is based on the author of the book, Neil Powell, and is also treated as a decimal number.

Line 5 is the year of publication. Sometimes this is in the 4th line, while other times it’s just left out.

With each line of the call number, you get closer to the book itself. There are 210 shelves of music literature (ML),  64 shelves of biographies (410),  20 of them about Benjamin Britten, and only 1 written by Neil Powell. If he’d written more than one, then the year of publication would narrow it to the correct one.

Call numbers for recordings work very much the same way.

MCD   tells you the format:  MCD means a CD, MDV means a DVD, MD means an LP, etc.
1704   tells you this is vocal music
.P75    is for Vilém Přibyl (the singer)
E94     is for Evening Songs, the title of the CD
2019   tells you when it was produced.



Call Number Legend

  • = sheet music/scores

  • ML = literature about music

  • MT = music instruction & study

  • MCD = CD

  • MDV = DVD

  • MD = LP

Library of Congress Classification Outline

UMich Libguide on LoC Call Numbers

University System of Georgia