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A Tale of Two Resources: The Text-only Online Catalog and BARD

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This post was co-written with John Hanson.

This post addresses what we have heard are occasional problems or misunderstandings of our online resources, what they are, and how to access and/or download wanted scores and books.


The Text-only version of our catalog (accessible as the second link at, is the only complete and up-to-date catalog for all NLS materials, including all music.

Then there is BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download). It, too, is an accessible online catalog containing NLS books and music materials. But it contains only part of total NLS holdings, especially for music. For example, only about 10 per cent of our braille music collection is available on BARD. You’ll find about 90 per cent of music audio titles, but no large print music, of course.

So, if you are searching for something particular in music, you will get the best results by using the Text-only catalog. Browsing in the Text-only catalog will also be the most successful, because you will be dealing with our complete holdings.

Searching and browsing in BARD is also possible, of course, but not only is the database (contents) much smaller, the search capabilities of BARD are also limited, compared to the Text-only catalog.

The Text-only catalog is available to anyone, anywhere. Any teacher, parent, transcriber, or other interested person can access this catalog. BARD, however, is a resource only for registered, eligible patrons of a library for the blind and physically handicapped, who have a login or BARD ID and password. If you are eligible, but not yet registered for BARD, here is a link to an application. Some institutions are also eligible to have a BARD ID and able to download files for the patrons they serve. This link will take you to an institutional application.

Visually impaired searchers can use just about any screen reader and browser combination. Common screen readers include JAWS, Window-Eyes, and the browser on an Android or iOS device.

If using the Text-only catalog is the easiest way to search the best catalog, how do you get there?

One way is from the NLS web site (, where the main page has a link at the top called “Search the Catalog.”

A second way is also from the NLS web site, down toward the bottom of the main page, where you can click on the link “Quick search of the online catalog.”

A third way is from the BARD main page; click on the link “NLS Catalog Quick Search.” The link is toward the bottom of that page.

A fourth way is from the “Text” link on the main page of the “NLS Online Catalog” at

All of these “ways” will take you to the same place: the easy-to-search Text-only catalog, which we recommend.


When it comes to actually downloading music scores and books, there is another difference between the Text-only catalog and BARD. Knowing it could spare you needless work.

In the Text-only catalog, when a digital version of the title is available there will be a link or links at the bottom of the record. Clicking on those links will immediately take you to BARD where the file may be downloaded. In the case of multi-volume works, and there are many, you can choose which volume you want and download it only.

But if you are in BARD, looking at the same title, and wishing to download a single volume from a multi-volume work, you are out of luck. In BARD, all the volumes are in a zipped file, which you must download and unzip, and then choose the particular volume of interest. For titles like the Norton Anthology of Western Music, you are looking at twenty plus volumes. So, downloader beware!

We hope the above has been of some help. We expect to address related matters in a future post.

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