Academic journal article Notes

Survey of Music-Library Personnel Characteristics, 2009

Academic journal article Notes

Survey of Music-Library Personnel Characteristics, 2009

Article excerpt


Results from the 2009 MLA Survey of Personnel Characteristics are presented and analyzed. Areas covered include education and training, status and salaries, professional activities, and demographics of MLA members. In each area, comparisons are made to results from the study of the same name conducted in 1997.


Music librarians regularly meet a number of challenges in explaining the specific needs of their materials and their users to those not familiar with the field, and are often meeting these challenges in isolation, with few or no local colleagues who understand how music is used in libraries. Issues relating to providing access to collections of many different formats and technologies, as well as the need for in-depth knowledge of music and foreign languages to help users find these materials, often put music librarians into a position of justifying basic needs that might seem extravagant to librarians in other disciplines. As a result, music librarians often request data from peers at other institutions, and are forced to make their case with information gathered informally and quickly. Data about music librarians, their education and training, and details about their professional activities are rarely collected systematically, though the collection of such data would aid others beyond individual librarians. Libraries, for instance, are often put in the position of hiring music librarians after an incumbent has vacated a position, and would benefit from a broad picture of current librarians at other institutions to aid them in seeing what to expect for the training and qualifications of a music librarian. Further, the Music Library Association (MLA) as an organization rarely has an up-to-date profile of its members, something that would facilitate strategic planning, create an ongoing history of the profession, and improve how we represent ourselves to others, including those considering joining the profession.

In 1997, the Working Group Surveying Music Library Personnel Characteristics of MLA conducted a study with the broad objective of gathering these data. The results were summarized by David Lesniaski and published in Notes in 2000, (1) with a comprehensive report and data summary posted in the MLA Clearinghouse. (2) The report and article highlighted some interesting facts about the profession and the composition of MLA's membership at that time, but there had been no further data gathered on this topic in the intervening years.

In 2007, with endorsements from the MLA board of directors and MLA's Career Development and Services Committee, we began planning a new iteration of the survey to determine if there had been any significant changes to the data gathered in that first study, or to the conclusions reached. Additionally, the diversity of the organization--that is, the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups--as it compares to similar organizations and to the constituencies served by MLA members were points of curiosity. With these issues as the starting point, we replicated the 1997 survey in early 2009 with some revisions to the original instrument to address the needs for clarification and additional study as articulated in the Lesniaski article.


The new survey mirrored the structure of the 1997 instrument, and posed questions in several broad categories including: education; workplace environment; scholarly, creative, and service activities; and demographic data. Starting from this framework, many questions or lines of questions from the 1997 survey were eliminated out of concern for the length of the survey instrument or because the analysis of those data did not provide a compelling case for continued inclusion. Additionally, many questions about outside activities were eliminated since they are beyond the scope of employment conditions for music librarians in particular. …

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