Academic journal article Notes

MLA Personnel Characteristics, 2016: Continuity, Change, and Concerns

Academic journal article Notes

MLA Personnel Characteristics, 2016: Continuity, Change, and Concerns

Article excerpt

Few issues are more important to any organization than understanding its constituents. It is thus perhaps unsurprising that efforts to assess the qualities of the membership of the Music Library Association (MLA) go back at least half a century.1 Several other assessments-including the survey this article is based upon (see /?page=mlapublications)-have measured personnel characteristics and opinions to determine member needs and desires for the future of the association.2 Past studies have informed MLA on the planning of meetings, expansion of educational offerings, and the development of strategic initiatives, such as increasing minority representation. Further, MLA groups including the Membership Committee, Career Advisory Committee, and Diversity Committee have relied on these findings to shape their agendas.

Given the decline in membership over the past decades, the data from studies like the present one are all the more valuable, as the organization considers current needs, trends in the field, and directions for the future.3 This article builds on personnel studies from 1997 and 2009, and references findings from a 1969 survey.4 In addition to employing past questions, the 2016 instrument makes new inquiries about professional development, changes in organizational size and staffing levels, current library trends, and strategies for addressing the ongoing transformation of the information landscape. A summary and analysis of those results follow.


The authors distributed the questionnaire electronically via Qualtrics to 953 unique e-mail addresses of current or recent (since 2013) MLA members.5 The survey ran from 8 August through 4 October 2016, and amassed 391 respondents. When analyzing data, the investigators included only completed questionnaires (n=267). This survey updated previous queries regarding scholarship, creative activities, sexual orientation, and gender; it also posed new ones concerning library trends and strategies. The authors used Qualtrics, Excel, and SPSS for data analysis. An Excel file with the data has been uploaded to the MLA Web site, minus some free responses due to privacy concerns.6 All percentages were rounded.


MLA members remain highly educated, with the vast majority holding multiple degrees. Library science and music degrees are by far the most common degrees held by recent and current members. The majority of music bachelor's degrees are in instrumental fields, followed by music education and general music. Musicology bachelors make up the next largest segment (thirty-eight individuals) but this is a decrease from 2009 when most members within the undergraduate category (seventy-six) held a musicology degree. Perhaps more successful MLA outreach to performance and education majors is responsible for the proportional growth in those members. Music departments may also have experienced a decrease in undergraduate enrollment in liberal arts areas, thereby impacting the pipeline for music librarians.

The number of members holding master's degrees in music has held reasonably steady since 1997, with the greatest number in musicology. Those holding doctorates increased from a low in 2009, yet were still below the one-in-five mark from 1997 (and, again, most were in musicology). The number of doctoral degrees differs considerably from the Filter and Marco study of 1969, when approximately one-third of MLA members had Ph.D.s, and nearly all were in music.7 The change may be part of a nationwide trend toward library science professionalization rather than subject specialization. Among those with a library science master's, two-third hold the M.L.S. or equivalent without any music coursework or specialization. The remaining third indicated that their M.L.S. work included a music concentration. A minority of respondents are in the process of securing another degree-primarily an M. …

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