How can I find sound recordings held by the Library of Congress

Please note when searching for audio materials in the Library of Congress that subject is not our primary point of access. Most CDs, LPs, digital files and tapes in our collection have not been fully cataloged, therefore TITLE is our primary mode of access. In addition, there is no comprehensive catalog for our holdings. Searching for recorded sound material in the Library of Congress may involve the use of one or more of the following resources:

  • Online Catalogs
  • Card Catalogs
  • Published Catalog, Finding Aids, Guides, and Collection Inventories
  • Merged Audiovisual Information System (MAVIS)

Online Catalogs

The Library of Congress maintains two online public catalogs with sound recordings: the Library of Congress online catalog and SONIC. In addition, we have subject files, catalogs, in-house databases and extensive print resources available to researchers in the reading room for immediate access. A limited but growing number of recordings are available for walk-in listening. If you have questions about a specific recording, contact the Recorded Sound Reference Center.

Library of Congress Online Catalog

  • Go to the Library of Congress's online catalog at http://catalog.loc.gov.
  • To enter the catalog from this page, click the tab marked Guided Search.
  • In the first search box enter the title of the recording, the name of a composer or performer, or song title.
  • To ensure your search only retrieves sound recordings, enter the term "recording" in the second search box.

SONIC (Sound Online Inventory & Catalog)

  • Go to http://catalog.loc.gov
  • Click on SONIC (Sound Online Inventory & Catalog)
  • Click on Keyword or any other Special Search screens
  • Enter title, composer or other keyword in search box
  • Click Search

Card Catalogs

Yes! We still utilize card catalogs in our research room. The cards are organized by title. The production of new catalog cards ended in the late 1980s with the evolution of the online catalog. If you are unable to locate a title in the online catalog or see the phrase ‘holdings information not available”, please contact the Recorded Sound Research Center and we will search the card catalogs for you.

Published Catalogs, Finding Aids, Guides, and Collection Inventories

Our collection of published catalogs, finding aids and collection inventories cover numerous subjects. Several of these finding aids can be found on our website at http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/rsfind.html .

In addition, we have a number of finding aids and collection inventories that are not currently available online, but may be requested by contacting the reference staff. Subjects include World War II, Martin Luther King, Jr., ??Civil Rights , Women’s Suffrage, among others. For additional information, please contact the Recorded Sound Research Center.

Merged Audiovisual Information System (MAVIS)

MAVIS is an internal database that can only be accessed in the Recorded Sound Research Center at the Library of Congress; it does not have an online public interface. MAVIS was designed for the processing and management of audiovisual collections. This means that the database contains more physical information about an object than bibliographic information. 

There is no definable difference between the items contained in the online catalog and the items contained in MAVIS. If you are unable to locate a title in the online catalog, contact the Recorded Sound Research Center and we will search MAVIS for you.


Last Updated: Sep 03, 2020   Views: 2

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Send written correspondence to:

Recorded Sound Reference Center
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20540-4690

Please Note

We cannot provide lists of recordings in the public domain, perform copyright searches, provide extensive research including compiling discographies, provide language instruction tapes or books on tape for the visually disabled (see NLS), and/or offer appraisals.

Copyright Note: due to copyright restrictions the vast majority of sound recordings are not available online nor will they enter the public domain until the year 2067.