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This is a research guide to support undergraduate Music research

Music Books

While the largest collection of books on music is at Columbia's Gabe M. Wiener Music & Arts Library, Barnard and Butler both have collections of music books.

Music Call Numbers

In the Library of Congress Classification system that the Barnard and Columbia libraries use, the majority of music books and sheet music fall within three areas:

  • M      Music (scores and sheet music, divided between instrumental and vocal)
  • ML    Literature on music, history & criticism
  • MT    Instruction and study, music theory, instrumental techniques, vocal techniques, and musical theater


While many sound recordings and videos are available online, the majority of classical, jazz, folk, pre-21st century popular music, and video recordings are still only available in hard-copy, most often due to licensing and rights issues. In addition, streaming quality is often lower-quality more compressed.

Finding CDs, LPs, VHS, & DVDs


Sound recordings can come in four formats in CLIO:

  • Music - Recording
  • Audio Recording (Non-muscial)
  • Online
  • Video

It's not always obvious what format a recording is in. The collection contains some LPs, LaserDisc, and VHS. LPs will include in their description the phrase "analog, 33 1/3 rpm" while CDs will be listed as being 4 3/4 in. The call numbers for recordings will also normally include their format. See screenshots below for examples.

Screenshot of CLIO record of an LP


screenshot of CLIO showing a record of a CD


Like a bibliography but for CDs, discographies are often the best place to find if and where recorded music has been published.

Playing CDs, DVDs, or VHS tapes

The Barnard Library lends out portable optical drives to play CDs or DVDs. These do not need any software installation and can work on both Macs and PCs with USB connections. They can be used on library computers or personal computers, and can be checked out for four hours at a time by asking at the Barnard Library circulation desk.

The Barnard Library has four media viewing stations on the south side of the Milstein Center second floor (see floorplan) - these are both able to play VHS and DVD


At Columbia
Butler Media Collections

Viewing stations are located in Butler 401 (the Periodicals & Microform Reading Room) and support the playback of multiple visual and audio formats. Equipment includes multi-standard VCRs, multi-standard and multi-code DVD players, audiocassette players, and a laserdisc/DVD/CD player. Two viewing stations are equipped with Blu-ray players.

Priority is given to patrons viewing course-related films.

Media Collections


The Barnard Media Collection houses an extensive collection of CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes. Loan periods for Barnard media available on this page.

All media items are located in the Barnard Library in the Milstein Center for Teaching & Learning, and can be found on the 2nd floor (see map for exact location).

The Barnard Library has four media viewing stations on the south side of the Milstein Center second floor (see floorplan) - these are both able to play VHS and DVD.

Search tips for finding media materials using CLIO:
  • If you know the title of the item, enter the full title or the first word(s) in the title. If you are unsure about  the title, try a keyword search.
  • For visual materials select Limit to: Films/Videos
  • For audio materials select Limit to: Music Sound Recordings
  • If you only want to find those media items that are at Barnard, limit the results list to Location Barnard
  • If you know the director of a video recording, but not the title, do an author search and enter the director's name, last name first

To request purchase of a video for the permanent collection, please use the Request for Library Materials form

Faculty Reserves

To place a personal copy of a media title on reserve, send an email to or bring the item to the Circulation/Reserves desk. 
Faculty reserves are listed under the name of the faculty member. They are not searchable in CLIO.

At Columbia

Butler Media circulating and non-circulating research film collections support Columbia University instruction and research. All titles in the collection are cataloged in CLIO. Request and pick up films at the Butler Circulation & Reserves desk on the 3rd floor.

Butler Media Circulating Collection

Collection consists of popular feature films and documentaries on DVD format.

Circulate to current faculty, students, and staff with valid borrowing privileges (Columbia University, Barnard College, Teacher's College, and Union Theological Seminary). For loan policies, see this page.

CLIO Location:  Butler Media, Circulating (208 Butler Library)

Butler Media Research Collection

Collection consists of U.S. and foreign feature films, early cinema, avant-garde cinema, video art, and a wide range of documentary film content on DVD, VHS, and LaserDisc formats.

In-library use only for students and staff.

May be placed on course reserve by faculty/instructors or borrowed for class screenings.

DVDs are located in Butler Media Services behind the Reserves Desk, 208 Butler Library. VHS tapes, LaserDiscs, and 16mm films are located in our offsite storage facility in Princeton, New Jersey. Use the "Request from Offsite" link located on the film's CLIO record to request a title on VHS, LaserDisc, or 16mm format.

CLIO Locations:

  • Butler Media, Res (208 Butler Library)
  • Offsite <Butler Media Reserves> (Non-circulating)
Sound Recordings

Columbia's Gabe M. Wiener Music & Arts Library has a collection of over 20,000 sound and video recordings that Barnard students, faculty and staff have access to. Look for CLIO location "Music Sound Recordings."

Borrow Direct and Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

There are benefits to using both Borrow Direct and Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Which service you should use largely depends on your research needs and the item you are trying to obtain.  Most people use a mix of both services.

The following table outlines some specifics of Borrow Direct vs. ILL.

  Borrow Direct ILL
Articles/book chapter scans (.pdf)  
Music scores
Music CDs
Non-book loans (DVDs, microfilm, dissertations, maps, etc.)
Delivery in 3-5 business days  
16-week loan period  
Renewal option  
Subject to recall by lender
International loans and articles  
Loans from a library other than the Borrow Direct partners (including public, law, medical, special collections, etc.)  

Here are some sample scenarios that might help you decide which service to use.

I need to borrow a book that is checked out at Columbia.  It is for a class assignment due in two weeks.

When speed is the issue for a loan, try Borrow Direct first.  If the book is unavailable through Borrow Direct, try ILL.  Keep in mind that ILL loans generally arrive within two weeks, which may be too late for your assignment.  Adjust the "Not Wanted After Date" on the ILL form to reflect your actual deadline.

I need to borrow a multi-volume set or one volume from a multi-volume set.

Although both services can accommodate multiple-volume-set requests, Borrow Direct is the better choice for ordering several volumes at once.  Indicate in the "Notes" field which volumes you need.  Typically, partner libraries will send no more than 5 volumes at a time of larger sets.  Please contact Borrow Direct staff if you need assistance (

I tried to place a Borrow Direct request for a book that Columbia does not own.  Even though I find the book through a Borrow Direct catalog search, the system will not let me place a request. What are my options?

Place an ILL request for the item if it is unavailable in Borrow Direct.

I need to borrow a book for the semester.  I know that a Borrow Direct library owns it. Should I use Borrow Direct or ILL?

Use Borrow Direct because the standardized loan period is 16 weeks, no renewals.  ILL does offer a renewal option but both the loan period and ability to renew are at the lender's discretion.  All loans are subject to recall.

(The content of this page comes from Columbia's page on BorrowDirect vs ILL)