The commitment to music manifested itself in the University Library before 1850, by which time the Library had already begun acquiring important European publications of music scores and periodicals. The bequest of Lowell Mason's private library in 1873 increased the University's holdings in music by an additional 10,000 items and added to the Library numerous manuscript scores and early printed writings about music.
In 1902 a small music collection was created in the Department of Music, where it was housed in a single room. In 1917, with the construction of Sprague Memorial Hall, the Department's music collection was moved to a well-appointed room in the new building. At the same time, music materials were collected from the University Library and combined with the Department's holdings to form one large music collection. The Music Library continued to grow, and when the Yale School of Music obtained new quarters in the early 1950s, the Music Library expanded to fill the first floor, basement, and portions of the upper floors of Sprague Hall. Once again too large for its surroundings, the Music Library moved in 1998 to a new facility constructed in a courtyard of Sterling Memorial Library and named for Irving S. Gilmore (Yale '23). At the same time the Historical Sound Recordings and American Musical Theatre collections moved into the Music Library.