The M. William Karlins Papers fill 12 boxes, including 7 dropfronts holding oversized materials, and consist almost exclusively of his musical works. The material spans the period 1953 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating between 1957 and 1994. Non-musical material includes biographical materials and correspondence; musical materials are grouped into sketches, manuscripts, and scores. Within each category the files are arranged alphabetically unless stated otherwise.
The biographical materials include a curriculum vita, news clippings, press releases, an obituary, and teaching materials. The correspondence deals entirely with partial copies of his works sent to others, with notes on certain passages.
Sketches are full or partial versions of Karlins' musical works in various stages in the composing/writing process. There are numerous examples of versions of the same works in different stages of composing or of variations upon the same theme. At the end of the sketches are included numerous sketchbooks from the mid-to-late 1950's, in which some of Karlins' notes for classes can be found.
The manuscripts are final versions of Karlins' works, either on standard musical lined paper, or written in freehand on onionskin paper.
The scores are published copies of his works.