Personnel Survey Report and Summary

MLA Survey of Personnel Characteristics, 2009

Report and Statistical Summary
Susannah Cleveland and Mark A. Puente


Status & Salaries
Activities & Membership



Conducted in early 2009 by Mark A. Puente and Susannah Cleveland, the Survey of Personnel Characteristics was designed to allow for comparison with the survey of the same name conducted by the Working Group Surveying Music Library Personnel Characteristics in 1997.  Information from that survey, including the survey itself, the raw data, and a summary of findings can be found in the MLA Clearinghouse, and a summary by David Lesniaski appeared in the June 2000 issue of Notes ("A Profile on the Music Library Association Membership,” Notes, Second Series 56, no.4, pp. 894-906).  For the complete rationale, background, and data summary from the 2009 survey, please see the article on the 2009 survey scheduled to appear in Notes in mid-2011.

The survey was vetted and approved by MLA’s Career Development and Services Committee and MLA’s Board of Directors.  We also sought and received approval from our institutions’ respective human subjects review boards (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Bowling Green State University).

We began this new study with several specific goals:  to ascertain the degree to which MLA’s personnel profile has changed in the last decade, comparing new data with what was collected in the 1997 iteration; to re-test some of those commonly held assumptions about the profession, such as those related to salaries, gender, and status; to gather data on the current demographic make-up of the association so that these data could be compared to the results of the original survey in order to ascertain trends in representation of ethnic, racial, and other minorities in music librarianship; and to compare these data with national trends in the library and information profession at large and to representation of underrepresented groups in sister organizations and in the constituencies that MLA members serve.



While data gathered for the 1997 study was based on the distribution of paper surveys to a random sample of 300 MLA members and 80 non-members, data gathering for the 2009 survey depended primarily upon advertisement on the MLA list serve (MLA-L) to recruit study participants for a web-based survey.  Of the 380 surveys distributed in 1997, 245 usable surveys were returned for a 65% response rate; 213 of those were from MLA members, giving a 70% response rate in the member category.  Four hundred and one people responded to the 2009 survey, for a total of 301 completed surveys from MLA members; two people followed the link to the survey, but failed to give informed consent and begin the survey.  Because of the difference to the sampling method in 2009, a direct comparison with this return rate is difficult.  Basing the 2009 return rate on the approximate number of MLA-L subscribers during the time the survey was conducted yields a significantly lower return rate of 36.3% (301/1103).  Despite this difference, the total number of responses in 2009 was a bit higher than the number of responses in 1997 (401 compared to 246, an increase of 88%).  The survey was open for responses between January 30, 2009 and March 16, 2009.

Simple analyses of results were completed using native Survey Monkey tools, while data for more complicated analyses were exported into Microsoft Excel and CSV files and analyzed using SPSS software with the very generous assistance of David Green from the Association of Research Libraries.  The raw data is available as Excel files (one filtered for MLA members, one not filtered) for researchers wishing to conduct further analysis.  Please see our Data Re-Use Policy for more details.



The 301 member respondents report holding, in total, 475 completed music degrees, along with 5 diplomas.  Of the completed music degrees, 31 are doctorates (PhD, DMA, EdD), 187 are master’s degrees (MM, MME, or MA), and 256 are bachelor’s degrees (BM, BA, or BS).  An additional 65 people report completing coursework in music without completing a degree.

Music degrees

The most common major by far – at any level – is musicology or music history (43% of respondents) with instrumental performance as the next common major (29%).  A steep drop follows before the next categories:  music education (8%), vocal performance (7%), music composition (6%), music theory (5%), ethnomusicology (2%), music administration (1%), church music (1%), and music technology (>1%).  No respondents report having majored in music therapy or conducting, the other choices on the survey.   This distribution is similar at undergraduate and graduate levels to those in 1997.  In both studies, music education is a much more common major for undergraduate degrees than it is for graduate degrees of our members.

Distribution of music majors

The 301 member respondents collectively hold 278 professional degrees or certifications in library and information science and/or archives.  Most of these – 61% of member respondents– are ALA-accredited degrees in library science, while an additional 29% of respondents indicated that they had completed an ALA-accredited degree in library science with a music specialization.  Only two people report having archival certification.  In 1997 69% of members reported holding an ALA-accredited degree in library science, while 13% reported holding an ALA-accredited degree in library science with a music specialization.  Respondents could make multiple selections in both surveys.

types of library degrees

Professional degrees by percentage 2009

Porfessional degrees by percentage 1997

Almost 25% of members report having an additional degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level in subjects other than music or library science, comparable to approximately 24% in 1997.

Other degrees

Almost 9% of respondents are fluent or near fluent in at least one language other than English.  Thirty-five percent have moderate reading or speaking ability, 30% have some reading or speaking ability, and 20% have basic or bibliographic knowledge.  Fewer respondents also have fluency in additional languages, though quite a few have reading and/or bibliographic knowledge of second and third languages as well.  The most common language known to members was German (77%), followed by French (67%), Italian (32%), Spanish (29%), Latin (9%), Russian (6%), Hebrew (2%), and Japanese (1%).  Less than 1% of members reported knowledge of Arabic and Chinese. While these rankings are similar to those in 1997, the number of people with knowledge of each language seems to have dropped significantly throughout the decade.

comparison of language knowledge


Amongst member respondents, the majority, almost 91%, works in a library and/or archive.  Students make up 4% of the reported membership, and retirees make up almost 3%.  One percent of respondents reported being unemployed at the time of the survey.  The remaining members are divided between employment in "Other music industry,” "The library commercial sector,” and other environments, such as those who are music professors, composers, and musical directors.  This overall data reveals a marked change from 1997 when 83% of members reported working in a library and/or archive, and 13% were retired, though part of this difference might result from the fact that in that survey, respondents were able to choose multiple options – and 18% did – while they were asked to select only one status in the 2009 version.

types of employment

Just over 88% of member respondents who are librarians work in academic or conservatory libraries, up considerably from 59% of respondents in 1997.  Almost 7% work in public libraries (compared to 13%), 2.2% work in governmental libraries (compared to 1.5%), and 1.5% work in archives or special collections not affiliated with an academic institution or public library (compared to 8.1%).  Few members – less than 1%  – work in school libraries with an identical figure for orchestra libraries, while both of these categories contained just over one percent of members in 1997.  Many differences in the numbers between the data on this question can likely be attributed to the ability to choose multiple categories (say, employment in an academic library and employment in an archive or special collection) in 1997, while we requested that respondents only choose one category in 2009. 

Types of institutions

Of MLA members working in academic libraries, approximately 50% work in doctoral-degree-granting institutions, almost 29% work in institutions with master’s and/or post-baccalaureate programs, and almost 22% work in undergraduate-only institutions.  This distribution is comparable to data from 1997, when approximately 50% of members worked in doctoral-degree-granting institutions, 34% worked in institutions with master’s and/or post-baccalaureate programs, and 19% worked in undergraduate-only institutions.

highest degrees granted 

Slightly fewer members now work in state-supported institutions – just over 53% compared with 55% in 1997 – with just over 40% (compared to 36%) in private institutions and 15% (compared to 21%) in conservatory libraries.  Again, respondents to the 1997 survey could select multiple choices on this question, so the comparisons are not absolute.  The majority of academic librarians – almost 62% – work at institutions with more than 10,000 students, the largest enrollment option included in the survey.

types of academic institutions

Respondents in 2009 reported similar distribution to their 1997 counterparts between having duties primarily related to music (69%), split between music and other subjects (25%), and not primarily related to music (6%).  The distribution in 1997 was 60%, 26%, and 14%, respectively. 

distribution of duties

Likewise, the locations of music collections have been largely static, with one notable reduction:  the number of music libraries within a larger collection, but with their own service points.  2009 data show that 21% of respondents work in an integrated collection with no separate service point for music, 24% work in a separate music, media, or performing arts collection housed within a larger collection, and 55% work in a physically separate branch music and/or performing arts library.  In 1997, these numbers were 28%, 43%, and 58%, respectively.  In both cases, several people responded that they work in a central cataloging department while music materials may be housed in a branch library or other separate location. Several 2009 respondents also commented on having separate locations for different parts of their collections, such as storing recordings in a specialized music library space while integrating books with main collections.

where members work

The most common primary responsibility held by members is collection development (144 members report this as a primary responsibility), followed by supervision, then reference, library instruction, administration, cataloging, and so on.  Conservation and circulation are common secondary responsibilities for our members.

areas of member responsibilities


Status & Salaries

Since the last study, the percentage of respondents with faculty status has risen to almost 42% from 33% in 1997.  The largest group of members working in academic libraries – just over 44%  – is considered professional staff.  Almost 17% of members are permanent faculty without tenure status, while almost 26% are tenured or tenure-track faculty, up slightly from the 25% of tenured or tenure-track faculty in 1997.  Approximately 3% were in temporary employment, and 6% of members report being classified or paraprofessional staff.  We used different categories for status, rather than terms of employment, so other comparisons are difficult, but it is possible that some of these changes are attributed to the increase in the number of academic librarians.

status of academic employees

Of the members who answered the question about how many hours are assigned to his or her position – 29 people skipped it – 81% indicated that their position was full time, defined as 37 hours or more per week.  This figure is down 8% from the corresponding figure in 1997. 

Of those who are currently employed full time, the largest percentage – almost 42% – earn an annual salary between $40,001 and $50,000 or between $50,001 and $60,000.  Below that, almost 2% earn less than $20,000, 3% earn between $20,001 and $30,000, and just over 11% earn between$30,001 and $40,000.  At the upper end, 19% of respondents earn a salary in the $60,001- $70,000 range, 11% earn a salary in the $70,001-$80,000 range, almost 6% earn a salary in the $80,001- $90,000 range, and almost 3% earn a salary in the $90,001-$100,000 range.  Almost 5% earns over $100,000.

annual salary range

MLA’s overall rate of unionization is almost identical to that ten years ago – almost 22% compared to 21% in 1997.  The number of unionized academic librarians has been stable at around 20% while the rate of unionization amongst public librarian members climbed to 72% from 60%.  This increase makes little difference to the overall rate of unionization because of the decrease to members working in public libraries in the 2009 survey.

Salaries for union members trend higher than those for non-union members.  The largest portion of union members, 22%, have a salary in the range of $60,000-$70,000 while non-union members are situated most solidly in the area of $40,000-$50,000.

salary comparison union non-union

Likewise, there is a slight (though not statistically significant) correlation between education and salary levels.  Current top salaries for members with only an MLIS are around $50,001-$60,000 while current top salaries for those who have at least another master’s degree in addition to an MLIS are around $80,001-$90,000.  There are outliers in both groups, but those with the second master’s degree had higher salaries in the aggregate.  In keeping with 1997, there is still a strong correlation between salary and administrative duties; almost 24% of those with primary administrative duties ear between $60,000 and $70,000, followed by the next largest group in this category who earn between $70,000 and $80,000. Region still has some effect on salary, with jobs in the Northeast paying the most, jobs in the south paying the least, and jobs in the Midwest and West/Southwest situated in between.  There seems to be no significant correlation between gender and salary.

member salaries by region


Activities & Membership

Many MLA members report sustained involvement in the organization with almost 48% maintaining membership for 10 years or longer.  Just over 4% have been MLA members for less than a year, 29% have been members between 1 and 5 years, 19% between 5 and 10 years, 26% for 10-20 years, and 22% for more than 20 years.

years of MLA membership

People attribute several different factors to encouraging them to join and remain active in MLA.  Most important is contact with other members of the profession, followed closely by conference attendance.  Access to Notes, institutional promotion, the MLA Newsletter, and career advisory services are ranked next in descending order of importance.  Respondents also list playing with the big band, the usefulness of MLA-L, access to continuing education, assistance with music cataloging, and the closeness of friendships formed as reasons for their MLA involvement.  These priorities mirror those from 1997.

factors for membership

The importance of these benefits does shift fairly predictably based on the number of years that people have been MLA members, a pattern that mirrors the priorities seen in 1997.  Notes subscriptions are considered very important factors for MLA membership to those with more than 20 years of MLA membership – almost 43% list this as a very important factor – while members with less than a year list Notes access as either very important  or somewhat important.  In between, those with membership longer than one year but less than 20 rank the importance of Notes between somewhat important and slightly less than very important. 

The MLA Newsletter is considered somewhat important by all members aside from those who have been members between five and ten years, who rank it slightly lower.  Career advisory services – such as the Résumé Review Service or the Placement Service – are ranked as very important for those who have been members for less than a year, not important for those who have been members for more than 20 years, and somewhat important for everyone else.  Opportunities for mentoring or being mentored follows almost the same distribution, with the exception that members from between one and five years rank these opportunities as very important, as do our brand-new members.  Contact with other members of the profession is considered very important for members at all levels, as is conference attendance.  Institutional promotion is generally unimportant for new members and those who have been members for more than 20 years, very important for those with 5-10 years of MLA members, and somewhat important for others.

People who have not joined MLA or who have let their membership lapse at any time cite a variety of reasons.  Foremost is the cost of membership, followed by change in employment, then the sense that MLA’s offerings are not relevant to specific professional goals.  Less important reasons include overlap with membership in other professional organizations – either music- or library-related – or duplication between chapter- and national-level activities.

reasons for not joining or maintaining membership

MLA members are also active in many different organizations.  The highest level of involvement (74%) is in state or regional library associations, which include state or regional MLA chapters.  In 1997, MLA chapters were counted separately, but 65% of members indicated involvement in their local MLA chapter with 27% of members reporting involvement in state or regional library associations, presumably beyond their MLA chapter, though not definitively.  Fifty-four percent of 2009 respondents are members of other national library or archival associations, such as the American Library Association, the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, or the Society of American Archivists, up slightly from 50% in 1997.  Almost 28% are involved with systems users groups like III Users’ Group or MOUG, comparable to 24% in 1997.  Fewer MLA members (24%) are also members of scholarly music associations like the American Musicological Association, than they were in 1997, when the level was 37%, while involvement in performers or composers organizations (16%) has changed less from the 18% level in 1997.

membership in other groups

The types of scholarly activities undertaken by members have remained somewhat constant since 1997, although the levels of individual participation in these activities seems to have risen. The most common scholarly activity among MLA members is presenting papers or poster sessions; 79% of members noted having done this in 2009, while 56% of respondents indicated that they had presented papers at national or regional conventions in 1997.  Publishing short works, like articles, book chapters, or encyclopedia articles, was the second most common activity, undertaken by 71% of the membership, compared with 56% in 1997.  Publishing reviews follows next with 60% of members having participated, compared with 49% in 1997.  The next most common activities, following the same order as in 1997, were teaching or leading sessions or workshops, editing books, journals, or newsletters, and publishing books.

scholarly participation

MLA members appear to be very active in creative activities as well as scholarly ones.  92% of respondents report having given a recital (32% in 1997), 37% report appearing on a recording, video, or radio/television broadcast (18% in 1997), 30% have received grants, commissions, or other awards for their creative activities (33% in 1997), and 6% have published compositions (6% in 1997).   One key difference between these numbers might be that in 2009, there was less emphasis on reporting participation in these creative activities as coinciding with a professional career, while the 1997 survey explicitly described them as things that one would include on a professional resume or vita.

creative participation

The rankings of activities for both scholarly and creative activities differ little between public and academic librarians, though public librarians seem more likely to have published reviews than to have published or edited articles or books.  Likewise, only one public librarian reports having received grants or commissions for creative works, and none report having published compositions. Lesniaski reports no significant difference between these two groups, but again, the fewer respondents from public libraries in 2009 might have influenced these findings.



Of the 301 respondents, almost 62% were female while just over 38% were male.  This represents a shift from the 1997 study in which 55% of members were female and 45% were male. The current membership is concentrated most heavily in the age groups of 41-50 years old (almost 26% of membership) and 51-60 (just over 27% of membership).  We used different age ranges than in the previous study, but the distribution was similar, with the two largest groups in 1997 being 35-44 (25%) and 45-54 (34%).

age of members

In the 2009 study, 95% of MLA members indicated that they were of "White” origin; in the 1997, the corresponding category, "European/Anglo American heritage,” accounted for 93% of respondents.  (There is some discrepancy in the reporting of this number between the Lesniaski Notes article, the "Profile” in the MLA Clearinghouse, and the "Data Summary,” also in the Clearinghouse. Lesniaski and the "Profile” both report 88% of members responding that they were of European/Anglo American descent with 2% not responding, while the "Data Summary” reports 93% of members indicating European/Anglo American descent with no comment on the rest of the racial distribution.). While this initial figure shows an increase in this particular demographic, the remaining 5% did show slightly greater diversity:  3.4% of respondents selected Latino (compared to 1% Hispanic/Hispanic American in 1997), 1% Native American, including Alaskan (equal to 1997), 1.3% Asian (3% in 1997), .7% African /African American (0 in 1997), .3% Pacific Islanders or Native Hawaiians (0 in 1997), and 1.7% other (2% in 1997). The size of samples in both studies, however, means that the increases in the African/African American and Pacific Island groups only account for three people and could not be considered statistically significant.

race or ethnic origin

The distribution of sexual preference shifted a bit from the 1997 numbers. Almost 82% of respondents who answered this question in 2009 indicated their sexual preference/orientation as heterosexual, compared with 86% in 1997.  Just under 15% identified as lesbian/gay, compared with 11% earlier, and 3.5% identified as bisexual in 2009, compared with 2% in 1997. While this question was frequently skipped (17 respondents, or 5.6% of people who completed the survey skipped this question), the no-answer rate was lower than 1997, when 10% of respondents opted not to answer this question. 

The number of MLA members who reside in the United States has changed little since 1997 – just over 96% compared with 97% in 1997 – and no members reported working anywhere but the U.S. or Canada in either study.

For the members working in the U.S. who indicated in which state they worked, the geographic distribution was not significantly different than in the last study with 35% in the Northeast (37% in 1997), 27% in the Midwest (24% in 1997), 25% in the West/Southwest (22% in 1997), and 14% in the South (17% in 1997). We used roughly the same geographic distribution that was used in 1997:

Northeast: ME, MA, RI, CT, VT, NH, NY, NJ, PA, MD, DE, DC (98, or 35% of respondents)

Midwest:  OH, IN, MI, IL, MO, IA, MN, WI, SD, ND, NE, KS (76, 27%)

West/Southwest:  WA, OR, CA, ID, MT, WO, UT, CO, OK, TX, NM, AZ, NV, AK, HI (70, 25%)

South: VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, TN, KY, WV, AK, LA (40, 14%)

Susannah Cleveland is the Head Librarian of the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH.  Mark A. Puente is the Director of Diversity Programs at the Association of Research Libraries in Washington, D.C.


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About MLA

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.