Music Librarian Careers

Music librarians organize and maintain music archives and collections.

Music collections are an important component of music in business, practice, and study; archived materials can include audio recordings in various formats, written music, video, and more. Some collections include rare instruments, delicate manuscripts or librettos, and books about music. All of these collections require a caretaker equipped to work with their particulars: a music librarian is a reference professional with special training in music archival who is responsible for the maintenance of these collections.

The role of music librarians varies between settings; some music librarians are responsible for digitizing physical materials (or, alternatively, creating physical archives of digital files); others focus on maintaining and organizing huge collections of music, such as the inventory of a music publisher, and making them possible for staff members to navigate. It's also common for music librarians to act as resources to the public, helping them to find specific materials within a collection. Reading music notation is an essential skill for music librarians in certain roles, particularly those who catalog or research classical music. Many music librarians have an understanding of several written languages, which can allow them to make better use of foreign texts; different roles have different demands, and the more closely aligned they are with one's skillset, the more fulfilling the job may be.

Work as a music librarian may include...

  • Locating or obtaining reference material related to music
  • Developing educational programs related to a collection
  • Archiving performance materials and recordings
  • Managing music inventory
  • Helping others to navigate music collections

All sorts of organizations employ music librarians, from music publishers to symphony orchestras to schools. Music librarians often have an area of specialized knowledge that makes them valuable to a particular type of employer, such as broadcast archival or written music. They can often be found in reference libraries at conservatories or performance companies, or they may work as specialists in the music section of a larger library. Military music groups tend to have their own music librarians, as do radio stations, orchestras, and opera companies. Some music librarians have a very hands-on role in the performance circuit, particularly with the acquisition and learning of new pieces.

Like other librarian and archival roles, music librarians often have certain qualifications that allow them to perform their jobs well. Many future music librarians study music at the undergraduate level, which includes training in topics like notation, theory, history, and ethnomusicology. Others may pursue Bachelor's degrees in information science and obtain a graduate level credential in music later. The most essential step is a degree in library science. While a few institutions offer library science as an undergraduate field of study, a Master's in Library Science is industry standard for those who work in formal settings. For orchestral librarians who work closely with performing groups, next level reference skills and a deep understanding of music can be more important than a degree.

If you're an organizational whiz who wants to dedicate your work to the preservation and archival of music, consider a career as a music librarian.

The Music Library Association provides a professional forum for librarians, archivists, and others who support and preserve the world's musical heritage.

The Association of Music Performance Librarians facilitates communication between professional performance librarians to educate and assist them in providing service to their organizations.

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world and advocates to ensure access to information for all.