The Music Department was established in 1971 and quickly built up a scientific collection of European stature. Apart from large collections of printed sheet music and sound recordings, the Music Department currently owns one of the largest collections of Wagner memorabilia in the world. It has also become an important place for storing handwritten Swiss sheet music produced in the past 200 years. Its collection includes the estates of around 180 composers, musicians and musicologists, including Hans Georg Nägeli, Othmar Schoeck, Heinrich Sutermeister, Wladimir Vogel, Paul Burkhard and Wilhelm Furtwängler. The library also houses the corporate archives and historical library collections of important Zurich music institutions such as the Opera House, the Tonhalle, the Conservatory and the Allgemeine Musik-Gesellschaft (AMG).
The Music Department enjoys many benefits from the materials entrusted to its care. For some years now it has at irregular intervals published CDs of the music in its collection, from the religious music of Zwingli to music of the late 20th century (Music from the Zentralbibliothek Zürich). Every programme presented as part of the concert series Lunchtime Concerts at Predigerchor also includes at least one work available in the Zentralbibliothek as a handwritten manuscript, first edition or early edition. The Exhibition at the Zurich Opera House managed by the Music Department also presents works from the collections of the ZB. This exhibition is shown in the foyer of the Opera House for one season and then in the Predigerchor Music Gallery for the following season.