The Music Library Association is the professional association for music libraries and librarianship in the United States. Founded in 1931, it has an international membership of librarians, musicians, scholars, educators, and members of the book and music trades. Complementing the Association’s national and international activities are ten regional chapters that carry out its programs on the local level.
MLA publishes the journal Notes, the world’s leading journal in its field.
MLA’s development program attracts individual and corporate donors whose financial support further the purposes of the Association —
- to promote the establishment, growth, and use of music libraries
- to encourage the collection of music and music literature in libraries
- to increase efficiency in music library service and administration
- to promote the profession of music librarianship
MLA achieves its objectives through the activities of its members. We formulate and promote standards for music materials in the field of librarianship, working in collaboration with the American Library Association, the National Information Standards Organization, the Music Publishers Association, the Library Binding Institute, and other organizations. We sponsor numerous activities for the continuing education of our members and of others in our field. MLA’s annual conference offers a broad range of sessions on librarianship and music. Preconference workshops treat a single subject at length, such as copyright law, archives managements, and space and equipment planning for new and renovated facilities. Regional workshops conducted by MLA committees and chapters offer continuing education for librarians who are not music specialists but who include music among their responsibilities.
In addition to our quarterly journal, Notes, MLA publishes a series of Technical Reports, an Index & Bibliography Series, a Basic Manual Series, the monthly Music Cataloging Bulletin, and a quarterly newsletter that contains national and chapter reports, columns on automation in music libraries, citations to recent publications by our members, and news.
Recognition Of Excellence
MLA recognizes outstanding publications by awarding three annual prizes, and encourages research by offering two annual awards, one to experienced scholars working in the field of American music, and one to an MLA member who has been a music librarian for fewer than five years. Additionally, members in mid-career who have made exceptional contributions to the profession are honored with a special achievement award.
MLA is a major sponsor of the U.S. office of RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, an international journal of current bibliography. The US-RILM office compiles and edits 2,500 citations and abstracts annually, representing books and articles published in the United States and dissertations from American universities. MLA shares with the American Musicological Society the responsibility for organizing and implementing the U.S. contributions to the International Inventory of Musical Sources, a bibliography of music manuscripts and publications from earliest times through the early nineteenth century. This monumental project, which has been under way for forty years, identifies and specifies the locations in North America, Europe, and the Middle East of music librettos, theoretical treatises, and histories of music.
View our list of past MLA presidents.
MLA and IAML
IAML--the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres--encourages and promotes the activities of music libraries, archives and documentation centers in supporting and facilitating the realization of projects in music bibliography, music documentation and music library and information science at national and international levels. Official languages for communications are English, French, and German.
Music librarians from the United States have been involved in IAML from its inception in 1951, though the actual date of the organization of a IAML-US branch is apparently not documented. IAML's first Bulletin d'Information (October 1952) observed that numerically the US had by far the largest of the national groups. Indeed, the first published list of IAML members, found in the subsequent Bulletin d'Information (March 1953) lists 11 institutional members and 39 individual members from the United States, including IAML President Richard S. Hill. Unlike other national branches of IAML, which were only then starting to develop in order to serve as the sole organization for music librarians, the United States already had one such professional organization in the 1950s—the Music Library Association (MLA).
Founded in 1931 and already a vigorous association at the founding of IAML, MLA has coexisted with and played a mixed role in the development of the US Branch of IAML. The course of the relationship between IAML-US and MLA appears already in the brief announcement in MLA Notes (December 1954) of an organizing meeting for a "tighter, better articulated" US branch of IAML: "In the United States, the overlapping interests of MLA and IAML make the development of a branch awkward, particularly since the proper moment has not yet come for suggesting that MLA as a whole become (organizationally speaking, of course) a branch of IAML." For IAML-US, which by 2006 counted 137 institutional and 88 individual members, that moment was still yet to come (see, for example, the discussion of the MLA/IAML-US ad hoc Committee Report in the MLA Board Minutes of October 2004, p. 12). "Despite this non-integration," James Cassaro observed in a 2002 MLA President's Report (MLA Newsletter No. 130, p. 2) "a powerful symbiotic relationship has emerged between these two organizations for American music librarianship."
That symbiotic relationship would come to fruition in less than a decade. After votes by the memberships of MLA and IAML-US Branch, on 1 July 2011 the operations of IAML-US and MLA were combined and MLA officially became the United States branch of IAML. That year MLA President Jerry McBride wrote (MLA Newsletter No. 166, p. 2): "The full merger of IAML-US and MLA now allows us to represent the full spectrum of music librarianship in the United States and to participate as partners and equals with the other national branches of IAML.”