Conducting Research in the Library's Recorded Sound Collections
The Library of Congress maintains two online databases containing
bibliographic descriptions of recordings: the Library of Congress
online catalog and SONIC.
are subject files, catalogs and in-house databases that are only
available to researchers in the reading room. If you are looking
for a specific recording, you may need to contact the reference
staff in the Recorded Sound Reference Center to locate the recording.
A chart listing the type of recordings to be found in each database
Some Basic Guidelines on Locating Recordings
When searching for recorded sound materials, the most specific information
will yield the best search results. For commercially released
albums, it is best to search by an artist, an album title, or a
composer. Because some of the bibliographic records for commercially
released albums do not include song titles, researchers should
not rely on song title searches to retrieve information
about an album. Many performers are not listed in our records for
radio broadcasts, and while it
is always worth trying to search a performer's name, the specific
program title and a date are often more useful for locating broadcasts.
Often news broadcasts have very generic titles and our cataloging rarely
includes information about the specfic stories covered on a broadcast
for a given day.
While both of the catalogs below offer some subject access, it is
usually more effective to search the catalogs by title, date,
or performer. A list of radio form and genre terms used in SONIC
and the Library of Congress online catalog can be found at
It is always worth using a variety of search strategies before
concluding that an item is not held by the Library.
Locating Recordings in the Library of Congress Online Catalog
To locate sound recordings in the Library's collections, start
by accessing the Library of Congress's online catalog on the web
To enter the catalog from this page, click the tab marked "Guided
Search." You will then be presented with a screen containing
two search boxes and two pulldown menus for each search box. In
the first search box you should enter the title of the recording,
the name of a composer or performer, or a song title. To ensure
that your search only retrieves sound recordings, you will wish
to enter the term "recording" in the second box. Because
our catalogers include the phrase "sound recording" in
the title of all recordings, searching for the word "recording" is
the most reliable way to filter out all other formats.
The Library of Congress Online Catalog includes holdings of commercial
LPs, CDs, taped lectures, and performances from the Library of
Note that by clicking the green button marked "Search History," you
can edit your search and obtain additional search boxes to enter
Locating Recordings of Music Division Concerts in the Library's
The Library of Congress holds recordings of concerts performed
in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium and produced by the
Music Division dating from the 1930's. This collection has been
fully cataloged in the Library of Congress online catalog. Because
our catalogers include the location of the performances, a search
on the phrase "Coolidge Auditorium" combined with the
will yield a near complete listing of the performances. On the
results page, a pulldown menu marked "resort results by" allows
researchers to list the results in chronological order.
Locating Recordings in the Sound Online Inventory and Catalog
Recorded Sound materials have also been cataloged in a second
database known as SONIC which is available on the web at http://catalog.loc.gov.
SONIC includes information about many of our 45-rpm discs,
instantaneous broadcast recordings, approximately half of our 78-rpm
collections, cassette tapes from the Copyright Office, and many
other archival recordings. Because many of these formats would
also be cataloged in the Library of Congress online catalog, you
will need to search both catalogs to be thorough. No new records
are currently being added to SONIC and the Library plans to migrate
the data to the Library of Congress online catalog in the future.
Sonic includes many specialized search screens, but researcher's
will most often be able to locate recordings using the screen labeled
"Keyword (Anywhere)." An example of typical search limited by date
is listed below.
Note: You must click the button marked "search" to start the search.
Hitting the "enter" key on your keyboard will not work.
If you are interested in field recordings collected
by the Library's Archive of Folk Culture, contact the Folklife