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How to Read Call Numbers

Library of Congress (LOC) call numbers can look a little intimidating, but once you understand what all those letters and numbers mean, you should be able to find library items with ease.

  1. LOC call numbers are read one element (letter/letter combination or number) at a time, beginning to end (or top to bottom if printed vertically). When you're looking for an item, start with the initial letter (or pair of letters) and find each element in the order in which they appear.
  2. FIRST LETTERS: The first letter or set of letters tells you in what section of the library your item is found, and is arranged alphabetically. This means M comes first, then ML, then MT.
  3. FIRST NUMBERS: The number that follows is read as a whole number, so ML1 comes first, then ML 410, then ML2075.
  4. LETTERS AFTER THE DECIMAL: Like the first letter, these letters are also arranged alphabetically. ML410.C, therefore, comes before ML410.M.
  5. NUMBERS AFTER THE DECIMAL: As these numbers follow a decimal, they should be read as a decimal. This means .123 comes before .45, which comes before .6.
  6. Another letter/number combination can follow, which should be read the same way as the preceding one (remember: it's still after a decimal point!).
  7. YEAR (optional): The entire number can be followed by a four-digit number, which is a year, and which is read like a whole number.

Practice on this example call number:

Call number reading: ML410.E44 L33 1999


Tips for searching using call numbers:

  • Learn the call number for the subject you are interested in researching, or the genre of music you commonly look for. If you are studying Mahler, know that his biographies can be found under ML410 .M23. If you're interested in film music, be familiar with ML2075. If you need opera vocal scores, memorize M1503. This way you can browse those sections of the stacks without having to look up specific call numbers. Be aware, though, that books in these areas might also be located in other sections of the library, so don't rely solely on this method!
  • HOWEVER, not all of our collection is browsable! What about books in the BookBot, ebooks, or books that are checked out? Use the library's advanced search function to browse call number ranges.

Screenshot of the library homepage featuring the main search field, with a red arrow pointing to the blue button immediately to the right of the search box.

        1. From the library homepage, click on the blue box with the magnifying glass next to the search box.


Library search page showing tabs reading "Everything," "Books & Media," "Articles," Databases," "Journals," and "Library Website." To the right of the search box, there is a red circle around "Advanced Search."

        2. Select "advanced search"


The lower part of the "Advanced Search" page, showing filters for "Availability," "Library," "Resource Type," "Language," "Newly Added," "Publication Year," and "Library of Congress Classification Range." The fields for Library of Congress Classification Range are filled in with "ML410.M23" to "ML410.M23.Z99."

        3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and enter a call number range in the "Library of Congress Classification Range" fields. Make sure you choose an end number that will encompass any possible item within that range.


Browse the Shelves!

Music materials at Charles Library, Temple University's main library, can be found on the fourth floor under the call numbers M, ML, and MT. Find and learn the call number for your favorite type of book. (My personal favorite is ML2075, books on film music.) Enjoy the vast resources available for you at Temple University Libraries!

M – Music Scores (see the "Find Scores" tab for more information about M call numbers)
ML – Books, information about music
MT – Music Education and Theory

More details about the Library of Congress classification for music.


  • ML1-5: Periodicals, serials
  • ML12-21: Directories, Almanacs
  • ML25-28: Societies and other organizations
  • ML35-38: Festivals, Congresses
  • ML47-54.8: Librettos, Texts, Scenarios
  • ML55-89: Aspects of the field of music as a whole
  • ML93-96.5: Manuscript studies and manuscripts (96.5 is non-circulating)
  • ML100-109: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias
  • ML110-111.5: Music librarianship
  • ML112-112.5: Music printing and publishing
  • ML112.8-158.8: Bibliography
    • ML134: Bibliography by composer (Research guides, Non-circulating)
  • ML159-3785: History and criticism
    • ML162-197: By period
    • ML198-360.6: By region or country
    • ML385-429: Biography (410 is composer biographies)
    • ML430-458: Composition and performance
    • ML459-1380: Instruments and instrumental music
    • ML1400-3275:
      • ML2075: Film music
      • ML2080: Television music
    • ML3300-3351: Program music
    • ML3400-3465: Dance music
    • ML3469-3541: Popular music
    • ML3544-3776: Folk, national, and ethnic music
    • ML3780: Music on particular topics
    • ML3785: Musical journalism
  • ML3790-3792: Music trade
  • ML3795: Music as a profession, vocational guidance
  • ML3797-3799.5: Musical research
  • ML3800-3923: Philosophical and societal aspects of music, Physics and acoustics of music, Physiological aspects of music
    • ML3805-3817: Physics and acoustics
    • ML3820: Physiological aspects of music
    • ML3830-3840: Psychological
    • ML3845-3877: Aesthetics
    • ML3880-3915: Criticism
    • ML3916-3918: Social and political aspects of music
    • ML3919-3920: Moral influence of music, Therapeutic use of music
    • ML3921: Religious aspects of music
    • ML3922: Music in the workplace
  • ML3928-3930: Literature for children


  • MT3-5: History
  • MT5.5-7: Music theory
  • MT9-15: Printed pedagogical aids
  • MT35-39: Notation
  • MT40-67: Composition, Elements and techniques of music
  • MT70-74: Instrumentation and orchestration
  • MT90-146: Analysis and appreciation of musical works
  • MT170-810: Instrumental techniques
    • MT179-258: Keyboard instruments
    • MT259-338: Bowed stringed instruments
    • MT339-533: Wind instruments
    • MT539-654: Plucked instruments
    • MT655-725: Percussion and other instruments
    • MT728-735: Ensembles
    • MT740-810: Instrumental techniques for children
  • MT820-915: Singing and vocal technique
    • MT898-915: Vocal techniques for children
  • MT918-948: School music
  • MT955-956: Musical theater