Music Librarians


Exploring this Job

There are several ways you can explore the field of music librarianship and librarianship in general. If you are a high school student, you already have your own personal experiences with the library: reading, doing research for class projects, or just browsing. If this experience sparks an interest in library work, you can talk with a school or community librarian whose own experiences in the field can provide a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Some schools may have library clubs you can join to learn about library work. If one doesn't exist, you could consider starting your own library club.

You should also try to take as many music-related classes as possible in high school. These will begin to give you the basic framework you need to become a music librarian. Ask your school librarian to direct you to books and other resources about music. You can also ask them to help you learn more about music librarian careers. Perhaps they took a music librarianship course in college or has a colleague who specializes in the field.

Once you know you are interested in library work, you might be able to work as an assistant in the school library media center or find part-time work in a local public library. Such volunteer or paid positions may provide you with experience checking materials in and out at the circulation desk, shelving returned books, or typing title, subject, and author information on cards or in computer records. In college, you might be able to work as a technical or clerical assistant in your school's music library.

Professional organizations, such as the American Library Association (ALA), provide opportunities for people to learn more about the field. Go online to access professional resources, industry news, podcasts, and more.

The Job

Music librarians perform many of the same tasks as general librarians. These duties, with an emphasis on music, include arranging, cataloging, and maintaining library collections; helping patrons find materials and advising them on how to use resources effectively; creating catalogs, indexes, brochures, exhibits, Web sites, and bibliographies to educate users about the library's resources; supervising the purchase and maintenance of the equipment needed to use these materials; hiring, training, and supervising library staff; setting and implementing budgets; and keeping abreast of developments in the field. They also select and acquire music, videos, records, DVDs, compact discs, books, manuscripts, and other nonbook materials for the library; this entails evaluating newly published materials as well as seeking out older materials.

Specialized duties for music librarians vary based on their employer and their skill set. For example, a music librarian employed by a college, university, or conservatory may acquire the music needed by student musical groups, while a librarian who is employed by a music publisher may help edit musical publications. Music librarians employed by radio and television stations catalog and oversee music-related materials that are used solely by employees of these organizations. They research and recommend music selections for programs, prepare musical selections for on-air shifts, and maintain relationships with record companies and distributors.

Some music librarians may arrange special music-related courses, presentations, or performances at their libraries. They may also compile lists of books, periodicals, Web sites, articles, and audiovisual materials on music, or they may teach others how to do this.

Music librarians at large libraries may specialize in one particular task. Music catalogers are librarians who specialize in the cataloging and classification of music-related materials such as scores and sound recordings, software, audiovisual materials, and books. Music bibliographers create detailed lists of music-related materials for use by library patrons. These lists may be organized by subject, language, date, composer, musician, or other criteria.

In addition to their regular duties, some music librarians teach music- or library-science-related courses at colleges and universities. Others write and edit reviews of books and music for print and online publications.