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  • What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians

This study investigates skills and aptitudes required and preferred by institutions for entry-level professional employment in music librarianship. All announcements from the Music Library Association’s Job Placement Service’s Job List 2008–2011 were examined, and entry-level professional positions were extracted. Each was then categorized by primary responsibilities, and required and preferred qualifications were coded. Data indicate that while some required skills are common among the field’s specialties, each job type demands unique training and abilities.


As the field for entry-level librarians tightens, prospective candidates must do everything within their power to make themselves competitive. In Library Journal ’s 2011 annual placement and salaries article, survey participants reported too many applicants for entry-level jobs, and job searches that averaged more than five months.1 Some institutions in the study indicated they received 200 or more applicants for one entry-level position.

Most Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS or equivalently named) graduates hoping to work in music librarianship need more than just degree coursework to gain employment. Reading knowledge of foreign languages, specific personal and social attributes, relevant work experience, and technological skills not addressed in their MLIS program are often required as well. For those lacking a mentor or the opportunity to work in a library as a graduate student, entrance into the field can be even more challenging.

In a previous article published in Notes, I examined all position advertisements from 2002 through 2010 that appeared on the Music Library Association’s (MLA) Job List service.2 The analysis offered insight on how the types of hiring institutions and jobs for music librarians had changed not just during the period of study, but also since earlier evaluations of the Job List service. This follow-up article determines the number and types of entry-level positions in music librarianship, prerequisites for employment, and both differences and commonalities in requirements for the various types of employment. It examines all entry-level music-library job announcements from MLA Job List from 2008 to 2011. The eighty-three positions were categorized into one of five job types, and requirements and preferred experiences/traits were coded. This study provides data on what qualifications employers seek for the five music-librarianship position types, as well as expectations for the [End Page 472] field as a whole. Findings will offer future music librarians and their mentors an understanding of what employers desire. The results will enable library educators to better understand requirements for entry-level employment, and assist them in tailoring curriculum to better prepare future graduates. The conclusions may also help define music librarianship’s evolving core competencies in a digital information age.

Literature Review

A great deal of the literature examines librarian competencies and employment requirements via job announcements. Some studies have analyzed specific skills, such as foreign language.3 In “Are Employers Asking for the Right Competencies? A Case for Emotional Intelligence,” Patricia Promís investigated emotional intelligence competencies mentioned in job postings from College & Research Libraries during 2005–6.4 Additionally, a number of articles have explored employment requirements in different fields of librarianship through job description analysis. Recent examples include Wu and Li’s “What Do They Want? A Content Analysis of Medical Library Association Reference Job Announcements, 2000–2005,”5 Park, Lu, and Marion’s “Cataloging Professionals in the Digital Environment: A Content Analysis of Job Descriptions,”6 and Choi and Rasmussen’s “What Qualifications and Skills are Important for Digital Librarian Positions in Academic Libraries? A Job Advertisement Analysis.”7

Sproles and Ratledge’s “An Analysis of Entry-Level Librarian Ads Published in American Libraries, 1982–2002”8 was one of the first articles to study the skills specific to entry-level library positions by evaluating employment advertisements. Sproles and Ratledge analyzed 1,441 position announcements from American Libraries over a twenty-year period, at [End Page 473] five-year intervals, from 1982 through 2002. The authors found that during the period of study, employers often required knowledge and skills not gained in graduate coursework, such as diversity awareness, interpersonal skills, and supervision and leadership skills. Experience was almost always mandatory, and the number of entry-level positions remained constant while the overall number of advertisements decreased.

Other articles assessing entry-level requirements include Adkins and Esser’s 2004 study on children’s librarianship,9 Hall-Ellis’s article on entry-level cataloger positions,10 and Harders and Creth’s report on what academic libraries require in their entry-level librarians.11 Adkins and Esser found that technological skills were as important as knowledge of children’s literature. Hall-Ellis observed that in addition to understanding cataloging rules, MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging) formats, and integrated library system operations, graduates needed to possess effective communication and supervisory skills, an ability to stay current with changes in the field, and be able to work efficiently both alone and in a collegial environment. Harders and Creth surveyed academic library personnel officers in 1980 and discovered that libraries wanted (but usually did not require) previous experience working in a library, foreign language skills, and a second master’s degree in their entry-level professionals.

Holt and Strock’s 2005 article “Entry-Level Gap” examined the state of entry-level positions in libraries.12 It revealed that the number of full-time professional positions was down, MLIS graduates were experiencing longer job searches, and many positions were being deprofessionalized. Their research methods were challenged by Conners and McCarthy;13 however, Holt and Strock responded to the criticism and stood by their initial findings.14

Articles evaluating the education of music librarians in the United States during the last twenty-five years include Carobine’s “Education [End Page 474] and Training for Music Catalogers in the United States,”15 Marley’s “Education for Music Librarianship within the United States: Needs and Opinions of Recent Graduate/Practitioners,”16 and Oates’s “Music Librarianship Education: Problems and Solutions.”17 Carobine found that some entry-level music catalogers were not always fully prepared for the challenges of the position, and in the absence of other music specialists found themselves feeling isolated and perplexed. For new music catalogers, Carobine suggested several publications, and networking through the Music Library Association and other groups. One of the recommendations from Marley’s study was that schools of library science and music work together to provide more comprehensive series of classes and practical experiences for their students. Oates explored problems with the education of music librarians, and offered some practical solutions to mitigate these issues.

Morrow also explored the training and education of music librarians in her article “Education for Music Librarianship”18 and book chapter “Preparing to be a Music Librarian.”19 In the former, Morrow discussed the past, present, and future of music library education and how it has evolved. In the latter, she studied academic qualifications, knowledge, and skills needed to be a music librarian, and cited MLA’s list of “The Core Competencies of Music Librarians.”20 These competencies were prepared by David Hunter on behalf of MLA’s Library School Liaison Subcommittee in 2002, and are currently being revised by MLA’s Career Development and Services Committee.

In addition to MLA’s core competencies document, the association has created a Web page entitled “Music Librarianship: Is It for You?” which addresses questions like “What is a Music Librarian?” “What do Music Librarians do?” and “How do you become a Music Librarian?”21 The Web site offers a link to the brochure “Careers in Music Librarian ship” which [End Page 475] lists basic information on the profession.22 MLA also has a Web page of career resources,23 a directory of library schools offering music librarianship,24 and a nascent career advisory service.25

Dankner’s “Job Trends, 1974–1989” was one of the first studies to examine the job market for music librarians.26 Dankner found that while the employment market was strong for music librarians, salaries were low. McBride’s “What Employers Want Now: A Survey of the MLA Job List” revealed that, although most positions in music librarianship occurred in the academic environment, opportunities outside of traditional library settings existed for those interested in the field.27 Finally, my 2012 article “Job Trends in Music Librarianship: A Nine-Year Analysis from the Music Library Association’s Job List” analyzed job types, hiring institutions, and employment trends for music librarians. It found that professional appointments comprised nearly two-thirds of Job List postings, with most vacancies being in academic institutions. Reference, cataloging, and administrative positions were most common.


All announcements were taken from the Music Library Association’s Job List.28 While this service may not capture all of the professional vacancies in music librarianship, it is the most comprehensive resource in the field, and provides a variety of geographic coverage, position types, and hiring institutions. All vacancies had significant responsibilities with music materials and collections; nonmusic positions were not included.

Entry-level positions required an American Library Association accredited MLIS degree or equivalent. Every Job List posting from 2008 through 2011 was examined to determine whether it was applicable for an entry-level professional, meeting at least one of the following criteria:

  • • the announcement indicated that the position was entry level, or similar wording

  • • professional experience was not explicitly listed as a requirement

  • • the required experience and duties were not impossible for an entry-level librarian to obtain. [End Page 476]

When considering the last point, I assumed that most MLIS graduates complete their program of study in two years, and that required work experience could be obtained by working in a library environment during this time. For example, the requirement of “two years demonstrated experience in reference work” could be achieved by a graduate student working in a library while completing course work.

Part-time permanent and temporary positions were also included in the study, because such appointments offer entry-level librarians a start in the profession. Exceptions were positions that were sporadic in nature, of which there was only one. Reposted and redefined positions were excluded.

Positions requiring supervisory experience of full-time staff members were omitted since most student library jobs do not include such responsibilities. Positions preferring but not requiring professional experience were counted, but the qualification (professional experience) was not included in the analysis. References to faith and religious orientation were omitted from the required/desired traits and experiences.

Positions were classed into one of the following job types: (1) public service; (2) cataloging; (3) administrative; (4) hybrid; and (5) archival work. Public service usually involved reference, instruction, liaising with music and other fine-arts departments in the academic environment, and collection development duties. Cataloging positions consisted of work with music formats. Archival posts required processing and cataloging collections as well as some work with the public.

Administrative positions had titles such as head or director of the music library, with varied levels of responsibility. In a small branch library, the successful candidate might work in public services, catalog, and manage the collection, in addition to supervising employees and budgets. A similar incumbent at a larger institution might handle unit planning, development, budget, and personnel. Hybrid positions involved public service and cataloging duties without administrative responsibilities, and reported to the branch head or to reference services in academic libraries.

Required and preferred qualities were placed in one of six categories: (1) education; (2) personal attributes; (3) social attributes; (4) experience; (5) general knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA); and (6) technological KSAs. Education includes an undergraduate degree, specific coursework for one’s MLIS degree, additional graduate work, and certifications. The personal and social attributes are based in part on Promís’s analysis of such soft skills in job postings from College and Research Libraries, and her use of Goleman’s work in emotional intelligence.29 [End Page 477]

Three groupings of general library experience were used: one year, two years, and experience with no time-duration given. The experience category also captured specific types of work, including reference, cataloging, and supervisory. The general and technological KSAs included all other skills and knowledge listed in the advertisements.

Once all jobs were broken down by type and given an identifier, the list of required and preferred skills and experiences were entered into a spreadsheet for that job type using its unique identifier. Totals were tallied for each job type and for all positions, and analyzed for notable trends. In order to appear in the tables, a required or preferred quality or experience had to appear in at least 8 percent of the announcements.

Who Is Hiring and What Types of Jobs Are There?

During the four years covered by this study, eighty-three entry-level positions were advertised in the Job List (table 1). The jobs were most plentiful in 2008 with thirty-six. 2009 listings were less than half the previous year with only sixteen. The number rebounded in 2010 with twenty, and then dropped to a low of eleven in 2011.

The number of positions for a given job type varied widely from year to year. While reference employment was most common in 2008, it had the lowest number of vacancies the following year. In 2009, archive jobs made up almost half of the vacancies (seven out of sixteen), but in 2010 only 10 percent of the announcements were for entry-level music archivists. Hybrid positions increased during 2010 and 2011 as a percentage (30 percent in 2010 and 27 percent in 2011, vs. 11 and 19 percent in 2008 and 2009 respectively). Over the four-year study, archive, catalog, hybrid, and administrative positions were about equal, while public service vacancies were most common (fig. 1).

Of the eight-three jobs, seventy-nine, or 95 percent, were in academic institutions. This percentage is considerably higher than that found in Clark’s (82 percent) and McBride’s (62 percent) studies. Eleven of the advertisements for academic institutions were tenure-track. Two postings were for public libraries, one for a nonprofit, and one for a symphony orchestra.

Public Service Librarians

Of the twenty-three entry-level positions in public service, 83 percent required or preferred an undergraduate degree in music or equivalent experience (table 2). While none required a graduate degree in music, twelve (52 percent) preferred one. These percentages are the highest of the five job-types. Only two announcements listed course work in music or fine-arts librarianship as required. [End Page 478]

Table 1. Entry-level positions by year and job type
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Table 1.

Entry-level positions by year and job type

Fig. 1. Entry-level positions by job responsibilities
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Fig. 1.

Entry-level positions by job responsibilities

Four qualities appeared most frequently in the personal attributes section. Organizational skills and the ability to prioritize were most common, with nine advertisements (39 percent) requiring these skill sets. Both motivation and flexibility/managing multiple demands were required in seven announcements (30 percent). The potential for scholarship and professional development, which was required in tenure-track positions, was listed as required for four jobs (17 percent) and preferred in two others (7 percent). Analytical and problem solving skills, along with the ability to represent the library and/or institution were each required or preferred in two announcements.

As with all job types in this study, interpersonal skills and excellent written and oral communication skills were the most requested social attributes; seventeen positions (74 percent) required this skill set. [End Page 479]

Table 2. Public-service knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 23 announcements
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Table 2.

Public-service knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 23 announcements

[End Page 480]

Collaborative skills were required in twelve announcements (52 percent), while a strong public-service orientation was required in nine job listings (39 percent). Four jobs (17 percent) required leadership and supervisory abilities, and only two announcements listed the capacity to work with those of diverse backgrounds as a required trait. All of these social attributes were required, not just preferred.

Thirty percent of the public-services positions required or preferred library experience. Three listings required or preferred one year working in a library, while three required or preferred two years. One posting required experience in a library, but did not specify a duration. The two most common experiences required or preferred for public-service employment were music reference and instruction, and collection management, each appearing in 43 percent of listings. While reference and instruction was required on eight postings (35 percent) and preferred on two (9 percent), collection management was required on only four listings and preferred on six. This indicates that reference and instruction experience were more important than collection-development experience. The two other experiences that appeared were cataloging (required for two vacancies) and supervisory (preferred on two listings).

Of the general KSAs, knowledge of and experience with reference resources was most commonly listed, required in twelve advertisements and preferred in one (totaling 57 percent). Reading knowledge of foreign languages was required or preferred in nearly half of the listings (48 percent). While reference and instruction experience was listed in 43 percent of the advertisements, 35 percent either required or preferred knowledge of instructional strategies and techniques.

An understanding of the principles and trends in both academic and music libraries was preferred or desired in 35 percent of the listings. Knowledge of copyright and preservation techniques also appeared; these skills were required or desired in 17 and 13 percent of the listings, respectively. Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules 2 (AACR2), Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), and MAchine-Readable Cataloging 21 (MARC21) skills were required in two listings.

No technological KSAs appeared frequently in the public service announcements. XHTML/Web design and knowledge of general technology was most common, enumerated in five advertisements (22 percent). Familiarity with online presentation systems/course software and expertise in multimedia were mentioned three and four times respectively (13 and 17 percent). Nine percent of the advertisements indicated knowledge of music notation/AV software, music-related equipment, and automated library system as required or preferred. [End Page 481]

Cataloging Librarians

Of the fifteen cataloging positions, eleven (73 percent) required and one (7 percent) preferred an undergraduate degree in music or related experience (table 3). This was the highest percentage of the five job types that required an undergraduate degree in music. A graduate degree was preferred or required by five (33 percent), and coursework in cataloging was required in four announcements (27 percent).

The most commonly requested personal attributes were organizational skills and motivation, with both required for seven jobs (47 percent). One-third of the postings required flexibility and analytical/problem-solving skills. Aptitude for complex and detailed work was required in four listings (27 percent), and appeared only in this job category. The potential for scholarship and professional development was required for three listings (20 percent) and preferred in another (7 percent).

Only three social attributes appeared in over 8 percent of the listings. Excellent interpersonal skills in both written and oral communication were mandatory for eleven jobs (73 percent). Collaborative skills and a public service orientation were required for four vacancies (27 percent).

Forty percent of the cataloging positions mentioned library experience; four announcements (27 percent) preferred it and two (13 percent) required it. Two of those preferring experience did not specify a period of time, while another preferred one year. This latter preference does not appear in table 3, as it was under the 8 percent threshold for listing. Eighty-seven percent of the catalog listings did require or prefer cataloging experience, which is usually attainable only in a library environment. One-third of the announcements preferred nonprint media cataloging experience, while two positions preferred supervisory experience.

Knowledge of AACR2, LCSHs, and MARC21 was the most requested general KSA, listed in thirteen of the fifteen postings (87 percent). Knowledge of foreign languages was the second most common general KSA, with twelve positions (80 percent) requiring or preferring this skill. The remaining general KSAs all appeared in less than 35 percent of the required/preferred listings, with knowledge of non-MARC metadata schema in five (33 percent), Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) skills in four (27 percent), and nonprint media in three (20 percent). Knowledge of reference resources and principles/trends in academic librarianship each appeared in two postings.

The most common technological KSA—knowledge of automated library systems—was in nine listings (60 percent). General technology (hardware and software) was enumerated in three announcements (20 percent), while familiarity with digital repositories appeared in two postings. [End Page 482]

Table 3. Cataloging knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 15 announcements
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Table 3.

Cataloging knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 15 announcements

Hybrid Librarians

Of the sixteen entry-level hybrid positions, twelve (75 percent) required or preferred an undergraduate degree in music or related experience (table 4). Seven (44 percent) preferred an additional graduate degree in music.

The most frequently listed personal trait in hybrid requirements was organizational skills, followed closely by flexibility and effective management of multiple demands. Organization skills were required in seven listings (44 percent), while flexibility was required by four and preferred [End Page 483] by two (totaling 38 percent). The remaining personal traits required or preferred were motivation (25 percent), analytical/problem-solving skills (13 percent), and ability to produce scholarship and engage in professional development (13 percent).

Table 4. Hybrid knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 16 announcements
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Table 4.

Hybrid knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 16 announcements

Thirty-eight percent of the hybrid jobs required or desired some library experience. Two positions indicated a minimum of one year, while another expected two years. Three did not specify an amount. Cataloging experience was required or preferred for six jobs (38 percent). Three positions (19 percent) listed experience with music reference and [End Page 484] instruction as required or preferred. Only two vacancies required a supervisory background; one required and another preferred experience or knowledge of collection development.

Knowledge of foreign languages was the most recurring general KSA for hybrid positions. Six advertisements (38 percent) required and two preferred it (13 percent). Seven positions (44 percent) required knowledge of AACR2, LCSH, and MARC21. Two general KSAs tied for the third-most required/preferred skill, each listed in five announcements (31 percent): knowledge of music reference resources, and an understanding of principles and trends in academic librarianship. Creating displays/programing, understanding various formats, and possessing expertise in at least two fine-arts disciplines were listed as required or preferred in three hybrid advertisements (19 percent). A comprehension of archival and preservation techniques, grant writing, and non-MARC metadata schema were each preferred in two of the hybrid positions. The only technological KSAs listed for this job type were automated library system (listed in three postings) and general technology (in two announcements).

Archival Librarians

Of the fifteen announcements for music archivists, six (40 percent) required an undergraduate degree in music or the equivalent, while another three (20 percent) preferred that a successful candidate possess the degree (table 5). Only three positions (20 percent) preferred a graduate degree in music; however, eight announcements (53 percent) required coursework and specialization in archival methods. Three positions also required or preferred course work in music and/or fine-arts librarianship.

The most commonly requested personal attribute for archivists was organizational skills, which was required for seven positions (47 percent). Six postings (40 percent) required or preferred motivated individuals. Both analytical/problem-solving skills and an aptitude for scholarship and professional development were required in four positions (27 percent). Two positions required flexibility and the ability to manage multiple demands. Three postings, all for the same part-time position which experienced high turnover, required a commitment to library services.

The most frequently desired social quality was excellent written and oral communication/interpersonal skills. This was required in thirteen positions (87 percent). Collaboration skills and a public-service orientation were both listed in four announcements (27 percent). Supervisory/leadership qualities were required for two positions and desired for one.

Previous experience was required or preferred in 53 percent of the archivist positions, with three posts (20 percent) requiring two years. A [End Page 485]

Table 5. Archive knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 15 announcements
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Table 5.

Archive knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 15 announcements

single year was required for one job and preferred in another, and three positions did not specify an amount. Forty percent of the postings required or preferred candidates with a background in appraising, preserving, and processing in an archival environment. [End Page 486]

Other common experiences preferred in successful candidates included the creation of finding aids, cataloging, and music reference and instruction; each appeared in four announcements (27 percent). Supervisory experience was listed in three advertisements, and donor relations and grant writing both appeared in two listings.

Knowledge of archival and preservation techniques was desired or required in ten listings (67 percent), while the second most frequent general KSA was familiarity with various formats (six listings, 40 percent). A grasp of cataloging was sought in many announcements, with five (33 percent) listing AACR2, LSCH, and MARC21 proficiency, and four (27 percent) included non-MARC metadata schema skills. Three positions required expertise in fine-arts disciplines other than music. Language proficiency appeared in only two listings.

The most common technological KSAs were general technology (five positions, 33 percent) and digital repositories (four positions, 27 percent). Knowledge of automated library systems was preferred in two advertisements, and expertise in EAD (Encoded Archival Description)/Archivists Toolkit was required for two positions.

Administrative Positions

Of the fourteen administrative music library listings, the majority required (seven positions, 50 percent) or preferred (one position, 7 percent) an undergraduate degree in music or equivalent (table 6). Six positions (43 percent) preferred a graduate degree in music.

The most frequently listed personal attribute was flexibility; this appeared in six of the announcements (43 percent). Analytical/problem-solving skills were required for four jobs (29 percent). Three attributes appeared in three listings (21 percent): organizational skills, an aptitude for scholarship and professional development, and motivation.

Excellent written and oral skills were the most commonly listed social attributes. Ten announcements (71 percent) listed this trait as required or preferred. Collaborative skills were required for eight positions (57 percent), while five postings (36 percent) desired a strong commitment to public services. The ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds was specified in four advertisements (29 percent). Supervisory/leadership qualities were required for three positions (21 percent).

Over half of the announcements desired candidates with library experience, although it was usually preferred and not required. Two years of experience was mandatory for one position and preferred for two others (totaling 21 percent); however, most postings did not specify an amount. Of these, four preferred experience and one required it. Both supervisory [End Page 487] and reference/instruction experience were mentioned in six announcements (43 percent). Knowledge of, or experience with, collection development was required in two and preferred in two positions (29 percent total). Outreach experience was listed in three postings. Planning and project management experience was mentioned in two announcements.

Table 6. Administrative knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 14 announcements
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Table 6.

Administrative knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs): 14 announcements

The most common general KSAs for administrative librarians were foreign languages, reference resources, and principles/trends in music librarianship; [End Page 488] each appeared in four advertisements (29 percent) as required or preferred. The remaining general KSAs (information literacy, copyright, instructional strategies and techniques, principles/trends in academic librarianship, and trends in higher education) were specified in two job postings. Three technological KSAs for administrative librarians were listed in three job announcements (21 percent): online presentation systems/course software, multimedia expertise, and general technology.

Overview of Desired Qualifications Among All Jobs

Required and preferred qualities for entry-level music librarians are listed in table 7. As with the previous tables, all presented attributes appeared in eight percent or more of the vacancies. An undergraduate degree in music or related experience is one of the most commonly required qualifications for employment in music librarianship. Of the eighty-three postings, fifty-one (61 percent) required this degree, and nine more (11 percent) preferred it. The undergraduate music degree appeared most commonly in public service positions (83 percent) followed by cataloging (80 percent), hybrid positions (75 percent), archives (60 percent), and administration (57 percent). Depending on the position, an undergraduate degree in another arts-related discipline or even humanities was acceptable.

While only one post required a graduate degree in music, thirty-two (39 percent) listed the graduate degree as preferred. The advanced degree preference was most frequent in public services (52 percent), followed by hybrid (44 percent), administration (43 percent), cataloging (33 percent), and archives (20 percent). Specific graduate coursework or an emphasis within a library science degree was noted, particularly for cataloging and archive employment. Four (27 percent) of the cataloging jobs required coursework in cataloging, and eight (53 percent) of the archive positions required coursework/specialization in archival studies. Seven percent of all postings required coursework in music/fine arts librarian-ship, with most of these in archive and public-service advertisements.

The three most commonly desired personal attributes were organizational skills/ability to prioritize (40 percent), motivation (33 percent), and flexibility/ability to handle multiple demands (31 percent). The second most frequent tier included an aptitude for scholarly production and professional development (23 percent) and analytical/problem-solving skills (20 percent). The latter quality was most prevalent in cataloging (33 percent), administrative (29 percent), and archive (27 percent) appointments.

The social attribute of excellent written and oral skills/interpersonal communication was the most requested item in the study, with sixty-two [End Page 489]

Table 7. Knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) for all entry-level music librarianship jobs: 83 announcements
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Table 7.

Knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) for all entry-level music librarianship jobs: 83 announcements

[End Page 490]

announcements (75 percent) requiring it and one (1 percent) preferring it. The two remaining social features listed in more than 20 percent of the postings were collaboration skills (40 percent) and a strong commitment to public services (33 percent). The least commonly listed social attributes included in at least 8 percent of the postings were ability to work with others of diverse backgrounds (18 percent) and supervisory/leadership qualities (13 percent).

Forty-two percent of entry-level jobs desired library experience; 20 percent required and 22 percent preferred it. From high to low, experience was listed most frequently in administration (57 percent), archives (53 percent), cataloging (40 percent), hybrid (38 percent), and public services (31 percent). Fourteen advertisements (17 percent) did not specify an amount of experience; however, thirteen (16 percent) wanted two years, and eight (10 percent) listed one year.

In addition to time spent working in a library, experience practicing several specific skill sets were desired. Cataloging was most common (36 percent), followed by reference and instruction (30 percent). As one might expect, the former was most common in cataloging vacancies (87 percent), hybrid jobs (38 percent), and archive employment (27 percent). Forty-three percent of both public service and administrative posts desired a reference and instruction background. Hybrid, archive, and cataloging announcements mentioned reference and instruction experience (38, 27, and 13 percent respectively). Knowledge of or experience with collection development/management was mentioned in sixteen advertisements (19 percent). Supervisory experience, which is usually difficult to obtain for most graduate students, was required for five jobs and preferred in ten (totaling 18 percent). Experience creating finding aids/subject guides was the least common skill desired; it appeared in only five postings (6 percent).

The most frequent general KSA, knowledge of one or more foreign languages, was required for twenty-one positions and preferred for sixteen (37 total, 45 percent). Among the five job types, it was most frequent in cataloging (80 percent), followed by hybrid (50 percent), public services (48 percent), administration (29 percent), and archives (13 percent). Familiarity with reference resources was the second most common KSA listed/required and appeared prominently in most categories: public services (57 percent), hybrid (31 percent), administration (29 percent), archives (27 percent), and cataloging (13 percent).

Most other general KSAs were specific to job responsibilities. For jobs that involve cataloging (hybrid, catalog, and archive positions), command of AACR2, LCSH, and MARC21 languages is commonly sought. [End Page 491] This knowledge was preferred or required for 87 percent of catalogers, 44 percent of hybrid librarians, and 33 percent of music archivists. Understanding non-MARC metadata schema was desired or required by 33 percent of music catalogers, 27 percent of archivists, and 13 percent of hybrid positions. Proficiency of instructional strategies and techniques was mandatory or preferred for 35 percent of public services positions and 14 percent of administrative positions.

Comprehension of principles and trends in music and/or academic librarianship appeared in four of the five job types, and was notably missing from archival announcements. Forty-three percent of administrative, 35 percent of public service, 31 percent of hybrid, and 13 percent of cataloging positions required or preferred knowledge of one or both. Familiarity with trends in higher education was preferred for two administrative posts (14 percent).

While a familiarity with archival and preservation techniques was expected for archival posts (67 percent required or preferred this KSA), 13 percent of both public service and hybrid employment also desired this expertise. Preferred or required knowledge of fine arts disciplines other than music was also listed for public services (22 percent), archival (20 percent), and hybrid (19 percent) posts. An understanding of copyright was sought in both public service (17 percent) and administrative (14 percent) positions.

Conclusions and Further Study

Entry-level music librarians need more than just an MLIS degree and a music background to find employment in today’s economy; employers seek a well-rounded person who not only has specific course work and experience related to job responsibilities, but who is able to communicate well with others, prioritize, and collaborate, values excellent customer service, and is self-motivated and flexible. Additional experience and knowledge valued by search committees include an advanced degree in music, professional activities, a reading knowledge of one or more languages other than English, familiarity with the latest trends in technologies and music/academic librarianship, and an understanding of basic library issues (preservation, collection development, information literacy, copyright, and so on).

Although a variety of positions exist within music librarianship, job vacancies are not as plentiful as in previous years. A core list of prerequisites is common among all job types. However, archival, cataloging, and reference vacancies have specific requirements not shared by the others. Prospective entry-level librarians should be aware of these commonly required [End Page 492] and preferred skill sets, and prepare to enter the job market with as many as possible.

While this study offers quantitative evidence for what institutions expect in their new music librarians, future studies could gain additional insights by interviewing and/or surveying hiring personnel at music libraries. It is infrequent that a job announcement details all of the knowledge, experience, and skills that a search committee would like to see; rather, announcements contain only the most vital qualifications. [End Page 493]

Joe C. Clark

Joe C. Clark is head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University. Web URLs cited herein accessed 14 November 2012.


1. Stephanie L. Maatta, “The Long Wait,” Library Journal 136, no. 16 (15 October 2011): 20–27.

2. Joe Clark, “Job Trends in Music Librarianship: A Nine-Year Analysis from the Music Library Association’s Job List,” Notes 69, no. 1 (September 2012): 44–58.

3. Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis, “Language Proficiencies Among Catalogers and Technical Services Librarians,” Technical Services Quarterly 25, no. 2 (2007): 31–47; and Li Zhang, “Foreign Language Skills and Academic Library Job Announcements: A Survey and Trend Analysis, 1966–2006,” The Journal of Academic Li brarianship 34, no. 4 (2008): 322–31.

4. Patricia Promís, “Are Employers Asking for the Right Competencies? A Case for Emotional Intelligence,Library Administration & Management 22, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 24–30.

5. Lin Wu and Ping Li, “What Do They Want? A Content Analysis of Medical Library Association Reference Job Announcements, 2000–2005,” Journal of the Medical Library Association 96, no. 4 (October 2008): 378–81.

6. Jung-ran Park, Caimei Lu, and Linda Marion, “Cataloging Professionals in the Digital Environment: A Content Analysis of Job Descriptions,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60, no. 4 (2009): 844–57.

7. Youngok Choi and Edie Rasmussen, “What Qualifications and Skills are Important for Digital Librarian Positions in Academic Libraries? A Job Advertisement Analysis,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35, no. 5 (September 2009): 457–67.

8. Claudene Sproles and David Ratledge, “An Analysis of Entry-Level Librarian Ads Published in American Libraries, 1982–2002,” Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship 5, no. 2–3 (Fall 2004),

9. Denice Adkins and Linda Esser, “Literature and Technology Skills for Entry-Level Children’s Librarians: What Employers Want,” Children & Libraries 2, no. 3 (Winter 2004): 14–21.

10. Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis, “Descriptive Impressions of Entry-Level Cataloger Positions as Reflected in American Libraries, AutoCAT, and the Colorado State Library Jobline, 2000–2003,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 40, no. 2 (2005): 33–72.

11. Sheila D. Creth and Faith Harders, “Thirty Academic Research Libraries Report Their . . . Requirements for the Entry-Level Librarian,” Library Journal 105, no. 18 (15 October 1980): 2168–69.

12. Rachel Holt and Adrienne L. Strock, “The Entry-Level Gap,” Library Journal 130, no. 8 (1 May 2005): 36–38.

13. David Conners and Laena McCarthy, “The Jobs Can Be Found,” Library Journal 132, no. 14 (1 September 2007): 44–45.

14. Rachel Holt and Adrienne L. Strock, “The Entry-Level Gap, Revisited,” Library Journal 132, no. 16 (1 October 2007): 44.

15. Timothy Carobine, “Education and Training for Music Catalogers in the United States,” Fontes Artis Musicae 38, no. 1 (January–March 1991): 61–67.

16. Judith L. Marley, “Education for Music Librarianship within the United States: Needs and Opinions of Recent Graduate/Practitioners,” Fontes Artis Musicae 49, no. 3 (July–September 2002): 139–72.

17. Jennifer Oates, “Music Librarianship Education: Problems and Solutions,” Music Reference Services Quarterly 8, no. 3 (2004): 1–24.

18. Jean Morrow, “Education for Music Librarianship,” Notes 56, no. 3 (March 2000): 655–61.

19. Jean Morrow, “Preparing to be a Music Librarian,” in Careers in Music Librarianship II: Traditions and Transitions, ed. Paula Elliot and Linda Blair, 29–39 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press and Music Library Association, 2004).

20. These core competencies are available on the Music Library Association’s Web site:

26. Laura Dankner, “Job Trends, 1974–1989,” in Careers in Music Librarianship, ed. Carol Tatian, 43–56 (Canton, MA: Music Library Association, 1990).

27. Renée McBride, “What Employers Want Now: A Survey of the MLA Job List,” in Careers in Music Librarianship II: Traditions and Transitions, ed. Paula Elliot and Linda Blair, 41–51 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press and Music Library Association, 2004).

29. Patricia Promís, “Are Employers Asking for the Right Competencies? A Case for Emotional Intelligence,” Library Administration & Management 22, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 24–30.

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