Academic journal article Notes

A Profile of the Music Library Association Membership

Academic journal article Notes

A Profile of the Music Library Association Membership

Article excerpt


This article summarizes some of the significant findings about the Music Library Association garnered through the analysis of responses to a questionnaire distributed by the Working Group Surveying Music Library Personnel Characteristics in 1997. The original focus of our work was on new members and placement activities. We discovered, however, that the association had little solid information on the membership as a whole, which led us to expand the scope of our study. We had several objectives in mind: to create a "statistical portrait" of the organization in the late 1990s; to use the power of standard statistical analysis to test the veracity of certain commonly held assumptions about the organization and its members' activities; and, finally, to learn why individuals let their memberships lapse or chose not to join MLA at all even though their interests seemed to coincide with those of members.

The full report of the working group is available through the MIA Clearinghouse, and interested readers are encouraged to consult this report for a fuller presentation of survey methodology, results, and data. [1] I refer throughout this article to "significant" or "statistically significant" results. Statistical significance attempts to assess whether results could have occurred only by chance. The working group calculated statistical significance of our survey results at a 95% confidence level, meaning there is one chance in twenty that the findings are due only to chance.


The working group focused on four major areas when designing the questionnaire: demographics, education and professional achievement, work, and participation in MLA. The questionnaire was revised many times and pretested on a small group at the 1997 annual meeting. In late spring 1997, 380 questionnaires were distributed: 300 to MLA members selected at random from the master MLA member mailing list and 80 to nonmembers who either had attended a recent conference or who were chapter members but not national members. We received 246 responses (a 65% response rate); of those, 245 were usable. Among the 300 MLA members, 213 (70%) replied. These response rates are far higher than is customary for this type of survey. (One researcher remarked that this response rate was "phenomenal.") A random number scheme was used for tracking, making it impossible to tell who was associated with any particular response. We entered the responses into a Microsoft Access database and ran extensive tests to ensure the data was clea n and consistent. We then analyzed the data using SPSS statistical software.


Three significant trends emerge from the data. First, MLA is a diverse organization of highly educated professionals; second, for the most part there is equality in opportunity and in achievement among subgroups within the organization; third, among MLA members, there is remarkable equality in professional accomplishment. Although the majority of MLA members are academic librarians, it is not an overwhelming majority. There are many other types of librarians in the organization, and many MLA members are not librarians or have primary responsibilities outside librarianship. Despite the diversity of subgroups (defined by type of library, type of job, gender, etc.) studied in the analyses, most measures of activity indicate equality among the subgroups in MLA participation and in professional and educational achievements. Men and women, for example, serve on the MLA board of directors in equal proportion to their numbers in the membership and have the same degrees and the same average salary. This consistency h olds for many other subgroups as well.

In the four major areas covered by the survey there were many points of contact and overlap. We consistently studied gender, type of library, and type of job. The latter two categories are discussed more fully under "Work, Salary, and Professional Concerns" below. …

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