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The Very Model of a Modern Day (Music) Librarian!: Qualficiation of a Music Librarian, Rev. 2013 (Draft)

A discussion of basic qualifications for music librarianship "then and now" and looking toward the future! This LibGuide accompanies Sheri Stormes's contribution to the program, "Music Librarianship: What Types of Jobs Are Available..." MLA San Jose 2013

Goals for "New" Qualifications for (Entering) Music Librarians

  1. Relevant
  2. Succinct
  3. Reasonable/Realistic

2013 Qualifications for Music Librarians (DRAFT)



Including Core Competencies

February 13, 2013

Drafted by Alan Ringwood (University of Texas at Austin) and Sheridan Stormes (Butler University) and incorporating contributions and suggested revisions by Jeanette Casey (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Kirstin Dougan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Pat Fisken (Dartmouth College), and Neil Hughes (University of Georgia).

This document describes the personal attributes, competencies, and training necessary for success in the field of music librarianship.  A music librarian may be defined as a librarian employed either in a highly specialized capacity (such as one that focuses exclusively on music cataloging, music reference, or development of a music collection) or as a librarian with a broader scope of responsibilities that may include but are not limited to selecting and/or cataloging music materials, answering music-related reference queries, developing and delivering information literacy (i.e., library instruction) sessions, designing and maintaining listening-viewing labs or other specialized computer labs, describing and preserving archival music materials, and/or administrative functions such as budget planning, space utilization and growth planning, or donor development. Some music librarians have no supervisory responsibilities while others may hire, supervise, and train student employees, support staff, volunteers, and/or other professional librarians.  Depending upon the position, an individual employed as a music, fine arts, or performing arts librarian may also have responsibilities in related fields, such as art and architecture, dance, or theatre.

This document assumes that most music librarians will hold more than one type of position over the developing course of their careers.

A successful candidate for a position in music librarianship should possess:


A bachelor's degree with a major in music generally is required.  For academic appointments, a Master’s Degree in Music with either a major or extensive course work in musicology or music history is desirable and often required.
*A master's degree in information and/or library science from an ALA-accredited academic institution.  Ideally, this degree should include courses in the following:

  • Cataloging
  • Collection development
  • Music research or bibliography
  • Library management and administration, including personnel management
  • Library instruction
  • Technologies or digital collections



  • A familiarity with music-related terminology, including instrument names, voice types, musical genres, tempo markings, key signatures, and basic bibliographic terms in the languages of English, French, German, and Italian.  Knowledge of musical titles in their original language or of how to determine them.  Knowledge of or training in other foreign languages (e.g., Spanish, Russian, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, etc.) also may prove useful.
  • A broad knowledge of music history, including the various genres of Western art and popular music and non-Western music.  Awareness of significant composers and representative/principal works from all major periods of music history.  
  • A thorough understanding of music research techniques.
  • A familiarity with scholarly and collected editions, musical monuments, and music-related dictionaries, encyclopedias, indexes, bibliographies, thematic catalogs, discographies, and online resources is highly desirable.
  • An essential understanding of music theory, including the ability to read key signatures, analyze basic harmonic structure, and recognize basic musical forms, genres, and styles.  Basic “aural skills” (especially the ability to mentally sight-read a melody line) also are highly desirable.
  • A broad knowledge of musical repertoire, both instrumental and vocal, in score and audio-visual formats.  
  • Familiarity with collection building resources for music, such as A Basic Music Library, Bowker’s Resources for College Libraries, Magazines for Libraries, or other recommended lists or bibliographies of books, music, and recordings.
  • Knowledge of particular strengths and areas of focus of music publishers.
  • Knowledge of the criteria needed to perform prudent and effective assessment of collection materials for relevance and balance.
  • The ability to operate a variety of audio-visual equipment, and an awareness of current developments in audio-visual recording and playback technology.
  • Excellent user services skills, including the skills necessary to conduct a successful reference interview.  These should include effective interpersonal and written and oral communication skills, interpretive skills, and empathy.  Even in a technical services role, the music librarian must be able to understand the needs, challenges, and perspective of library users.
  • An understanding of the philosophy of libraries and librarianship.
  • An understanding of music cataloging and familiarity with accepted standards of cataloging, including recognition of the various components of bibliographic and authority records and an understanding of how these components are derived.
  • An awareness of/familiarity with relevant current and emerging technologies relating to library resources, communications, and services.
  • An awareness of current trends in the music publishing and recording industries.
  • An appreciation of library advocacy and of the importance of public relations and/or donor relations.
  • Understanding of the creation, delivery, and assessment of library instruction.  Familiarity with the ACRL Standards for Information Literacy is highly desirable.
  • Experience as a performing artist are desirable.
  • An awareness of copyright laws pertaining to music and the arts.
  • Affiliations with/active membership in appropriate organizations related to music and music librarianship.  These may be at the local, regional, national, and/or international level.


  • Imagination and creativity necessary to develop effective and successful programs, instruction sessions, exhibits, Web resources, etc.
  • Flexibility and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Complementary capacities for broad understanding and attention to detail.
  • A strong desire to help others meet their information needs. (e.g., being aware of patrons and their needs and expressing interest in them, making patrons feel comfortable asking questions, making patrons feel valued, actively listening to patrons, using positive language, and confirming patrons’ satisfaction).
  • A capacity to work successfully with other people in the creation of ideas and the completion of projects.
  • A commitment to staying abreast of current events and trends in music, the arts, librarianship, and technology.


  • Basic training in and/or knowledge of at least one other discipline in the humanities, such as art, architecture, dance, theatre, or modern foreign languages.
  • Knowledge of program assessment strategies and techniques.
  • Knowledge of preservation and repair techniques for all relevant formats.
  • Project management skills.
  • Skills or experience in space planning and utilization.
  • Knowledge of or experience with budgeting, personnel management, and the preparation and use of statistics.

“2010 top trends in academic libraries." College & Research Libraries News 71, no. 6  (June 2010): 286-292.
Clark, Joe C. "What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians." Notes 69, no. 3 (March 2013): 472-293.
Gutsche, Betha. “COPING WITH CONTINUAL MOTION.” Library Journal 135, no. 4  (March 2010): 28-31.
Leniaski, David. “A Profile of the Music Library Association Membership.” Notes 56, no. 4 (June 2000): 894-907.

Library School Liaison Subcommittee of the Music Library Association. "Core Competencies and Music Librarians" (April 2002). Available at
“Qualifications of a Music Librarian: A Statement.” Fontes Artis Musicae 21, no. 3 (1974): 139-143.
Slawsky, Melissa. "21st Century Skills Desired for Music Librarianship." Music Library Student Group Resources. (accessed January 13, 2012).

Morrow, Jean.  “Education for music librarianship.” Notes 56, no. 3 (March 2000): 655-661.
Ochs, Michael. “A Taxonomy of Qualifications for Music Librarianship: The Cognitive Domain.” Notes 33, no. 1 (September 1976): 27-44.
Young, J. Bradford. “Education for Music Librarianship.” Notes, 40, no. 3 (March 1984): 510-528.

Neon Songs


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