Harold Spivacke, 72, retired chief of the music division of the Library of Congress who earned a worldwide reputation as a musicologist and music librarian, died Monday at George Washington University Medical Center after a brief illness.

Mr. Spivacke, a friend of countless composers, musicians and collectors, played a key role in nearly tripling the music division's holdings of manuscripts, scores, recordings, personal papers and memorabilia during his 38 years on the library's staff.

He commissioned works such as Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring," planned chamber music concert series that made Washington a noted center for such performances, supervised establishment of the music division's recording laboratory and initiated important steps to preserve recordings and orginal documents in the division's collections.

Born in New York City in 1904, Mr. Spivacke earned bachelor's and master's degrees at New York University and later a doctorate at the University of Berlin where he studied musicology, piano and composition.

He was a research assistant to Olin Downes, music critic of the New York Times, in 1933-34, before joining the Library of Congress as assistant chief of the music division in 1934. He became chief of the division in 1937, and held that post nearly 35 years until his retirement in 1972.

During his tenure, the library acquired music-related materials that spanned a broad spectrum of composers and performers, from George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers to Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker to Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg.

Aside from his many accomplishments on the library's behalf, Mr. Spivacke brought new experiences and pleasure to music lovers everywhere through concerts, recording and broadcasts under library auspices.

When Mr. Spivacke retired in 1972, Paul Hume, music critic of The Washington Post, wrote, "Harold SPivacke will always be remembered as a vibrant person, standing in the corridor that approaches the Coolidge Auditorium each week to greet many who come to hear the music."

Mr. Spivacke was active in many national and international groups, including the National Music Council, Music Library Association, International Association of Music Libraries, American Musicological Society, American Council of Learned Societies, Music Teachers National Association and Society for Ethnomusicology.

He served on the Joint Army and Navy Committee's subcommittee on music during World War II, was a member of the Fulbright Advisory Selection Committee on Music from 1949 to 1955, and chaired the U.S. Joint Committee on the International Inventory of Musical Sources for more than a decade.

An author of articles on music and music librarianship for professional journals, Mr. Spivacke received honorary degrees from Baldwin-Wallace College, the University of Rochester and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

He received the Library of Congress's Distinguished Service Award in 1965, and was cited by the National Music Council in 1972 for "his unique and unusual service to music." He also was awarded citations in 1965 and 1971 by the Organization of American States for helping advance "mutual understanding, solidarity, and cooperation among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere."

Shortly after retiring as chief of the music division, Mr. Spivacke was named an honorary consultant in musicology for the Library of Congress.

Survivors include his wife, known professionally as Rose Marie Grentzer, of the home in the District of Columbia, and two sons by a previous marriage, Joseph L., of Bladensburg, and Robert C. of San Bernanrdino, Calif.

The family suggests contributions to the Harold Spivacke Memorial Fund at the Library of Congress music division.