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MLA History

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 eleven 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.


Past Presidents

View our list of past MLA presidents.