Using the Archives of Recorded Sound: Avenues of Access

The Archives of Recorded Sound is housed on the third floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Library, along with the dance, music, and theatre research collections. Staff members, knowledgeable in all aspects of recorded sound, are available to assist users in their research. All materials are noncirculating and must be studied on the premises.

Begin your work at the 2nd floor reference desks. Materials from the Research Collections are accessed on the 3rd floor

Inquiries may also be directed to the Archives via email:

Listening to Recordings

Users never directly handle sound recordings; this helps to protect rare and fragile items. Upon receipt of a call slip, the reference librarian communicates by computer with a playback technician located in the basement storage area. Selections are piped into specially designed listening and viewing booths; subsequent communications take place directly between the listener and audio technician through computer terminals stationed in each booth. Record jackets and CD liner notes can be delivered to the user during listening sessions upon request.

Advance Notification for Auditioning

Many of the recordings in the collection require preservation reformatting prior to auditioning. Reference librarians can assist in making this determination. In order to request that an item be prepared for auditioning, users should email and provide the item's call number and title. Archives staff members will confirm the request and provide a time estimate. This process normally takes two weeks, so users with large numbers of requests, or who are traveling from locations outside of the New York City metro area are encouraged to contact the Archives in advance.

Locating Materials

Strategies for access depend on the type of material sought and its cataloging date.

Recordings Cataloged Through 1979: The Card Catalog

LPs and tapes cataloged through 1979 are accessed through the free-standing card catalog. A bound version of this catalog published by G. K. Hall and Company is located on-site and in reference libraries throughout the world.

Printed Materials and Recordings Cataloged after 1979: The Catalog

Information on books, periodicals, and some recordings is obtained through the online Catalog of The New York Public Library. Terminals are located at the Archives and at other research libraries throughout the city. For additional recordings, including access to in-house legacy databases, please see a reference librarian.

Unpublished Archival Recordings: Find Archival Materials Tool

Finding aids for some of the Archives' unpublished archival recordings can be obtained through the Find Archival Materials Tool of The New York Public Library. Terminals are located at the Archives and at other research libraries throughout the city. For additional archival recordings information, including print finding aids, please see a reference librarian.

78rpm Recordings: The Rigler Deutsch Index

The Rigler Deutsch Index to 78rpm discs, available on-site as a microfiche index, provides easy access to materials housed not only at the Archives of Recorded Sound, but also at four other major American sound archives (Library of Congress and Yale, Stanford, and Syracuse universities). Information on some of the Archives' 78rpm recordings can also be found in the card catalog.

Special Collections

Many special collections donated to the Archives came with their own preexisting catalogs; they include radio station WNEWs gift of popular music on 78 and 45rpm recordings from the 1930s to the 1960s, and radio station WNYCs collection of selected broadcast tapes from 1938 to 1970. Finding lists also exist for many noncommercial collections donated to the Library in recent decades.

Record Label Issue Numbers

The recording industry has consistently applied a record label and issue number system since its inception. Therefore, it is possible for the Archives librarians, when provided with a label and issue number, to ascertain the availability of any commercial recording in the collection. Uncataloged material, which is arranged numerically, can also be accessed in this manner.

Email Service

The Archives accepts reference questions by email. Please supply us with your full name and mailing address. The email address is

Telephone Reference

The Archives professional staff answer brief reference queries from around the world by phone. Information provided ranges from sources of out-of-print records to the hit song of a specific year. Please call (212) 870-1663.

Letter Reference Services

Questions that cannot be answered quickly by phone may sometimes be handled by letter. Knowledgeable staff members can respond to mail queries from outside New York City and can forward photocopies of material upon prepayment of a search and copying fee.


Within copyright restrictions and under special conditions, the Archives sound studio will prepare phonoduplicates. The material must no longer be available from commercial distributors, out-of-print dealers, or circulating library record collections and must be used for study purposes only. Duplicates are made on compact disc, although other delivery formats are available. Costs are based on an hourly fee for work time plus the cost of materials, with a half-hour minimum. For additional information and forms, contact the Archives. Written permission from the record company is required if any commercial use is intended. No copying of private, noncommercial material is allowed without the written permission of the proprietary rights holder.

Copy Service

Within copyright restrictions, a copy service on the premises duplicates print materials for a fee. For conservation reasons, photocopying of rare and fragile material is not permitted. Such items may sometimes be reproduced by other reprographic methods.

Requests for copy service by mail may be addressed to Copy Services, The New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York, New York, 10018. If the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives has the material and it is unrestricted, a cost estimate will be returned by mail. The order will be initiated upon receipt of full payment. VISA, MasterCard, and American Express credit cards may be used to pay for onsite or mail orders of $12 or more.