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Music Services for Individuals Who Are Blind or Have a Physical Disability

In 1962 a special music collection for blind persons was authorized by Congress as part of its free national library program. The collection is the basis for the music program administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, administers through its Music Section. These services, extended to individuals with disabilities in 1966, are provided directly to NLS patrons from Washington, D.C.

Patrons may access a collection of braille, large-print, and recorded instructional materials about music and musicians. They may also obtain free subscriptions to magazines produced in audio, braille, and large print. All materials are circulated postage free, and some digital audio and e-braille materials are available for download over the Internet. Machines needed to use the audio cartridges are provided to eligible users without charge. Musical recordings intended solely for listening are not included in the music collection as they are readily available commercially and from public libraries.

Eligibility and Application for Service

To be eligible for music services, an individual must:

  1. Reside in the United States or its territories or be a U.S. citizen living abroad.
  2. Be unable to read regular print because of a temporary or permanent visual or physical disability.

Anyone currently registered with an NLS cooperating library that serves individuals who are blind or have a physical disability qualifies to receive music services and should contact the NLS Music Section directly. Other eligible individuals may sign up for service by completing the Application for Library Service: Individuals (available at www.loc.gov/nls/) and returning it to their cooperating library or to the NLS Music Section. Once an application is approved, patrons will be contacted by their library and may contact the Music Section to begin receiving service.

The Collection

The special-format music collection consists of more than thirty thousand audio, braille, and large‑print music scores, texts, and other instructional materials. Some materials are purchased from national and international commercial sources. Other items are selected and produced in audio and braille formats by NLS with the permission of composers, authors, and publishers. Some titles are developed solely for the NLS program.

The collection materials range in levels from beginning to advanced. Holdings are searchable online at http://nlscatalog.loc.gov. Additional books about music and musicians are available from the local cooperating library.


Six music magazines are available by direct-mail subscription to registered users. Subscriptions may be obtained through the local cooperating library or the NLS Music Section. The magazines are:

NLS Music Notes

The Music Section has a blog on the Library of Congress website called NLS Music Notes (http://blogs.loc.gov/nls-music-notes/). The blog posts highlight the music collection, present newly added titles, profiles of musicians who are blind or visually impaired, and feature braille music transcribers and their work, along with a variety of related music topics and activities.  

Music Section on the Web

Please visit the Music Section’s page on the NLS website at www.loc.gov/nls/music for updates, to view the Metropolitan Opera broadcast schedule, and to access music publications available on the Internet, some of which are noted below.

Materials Available from the Music Section: A Selection



Instructional Audio

Large Print

Magazine Samples

Publications on Reading Braille Music

Publications on Special Topics and Materials

To request any of the above materials or more information contact:

Music Section
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542

Note: Telephone or e-mail is the most efficient means of contact as a result of required security procedures for postal deliveries.

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Posted on 2015-02-04