I’m pleased to introduce another guest post by Joe Clark, who described his research into nine years of job postings on the Music Library Association Job List and identified job trends for us here.
This post delves more deeply into the specific qualifications desired in entry-level positions. While his research is specific to music librarians, I think there are wider implications for entry-level expectations across disciplines.
Please do click through and read his more formal account of this research, which was published last March in the journal of the Music Library Association. Notes is open access, so the entire article is available online here for free.
So you graduate with your M.L.I.S. degree ready to land your first professional job, but realize that institutions are asking for skills and experiences you didn’t learn in graduate school. Now what?
A firm understanding of the skills, knowledge, and experiences that employers want will give you a leg up in a tight job market. Not only does music librarianship require subject-specific knowledge, but sub-fields within music librarianship differ in required and desired abilities and experiences.
I examined all of the position announcements on the Music Library Association’s Placement Service Job List from 2008 through 2011 and identified those open to entry-level librarians. I then classed each position into one of five types: 1) public service, 2) cataloging, 3) administrative, 4) hybrid, or 5) archival. Hybrid positions involve work in both public and technical services, while administrative librarians might run a small library as well as catalog, provide reference, and supervise staff and budgets.
I recorded the required and desired traits, abilities, knowledge, and experience for each position by job type, and then compiled the data. I also totaled the numbers for all of the music library positions, which provided a broad picture of what employers wanted in music librarianship entry-level hires. I broke traits sought into the following categories: education, personal attributes, social attributes, experience, general knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), and technological KSAs.
Most of the entry-level music librarianship positions were in academic librarianship (95%). Twenty-eight percent of the vacancies were in public services, while the remaining four job types comprised between 17 and 19 percent of the advertisements.
As I examined all of the entry-level positions, it became quite clear what employers wanted in terms of education (other than the M.L.I.S. degree, which was a prerequisite for all of the jobs): 72% of positions required or preferred an undergraduate degree in music or the equivalent, and 40% desired a second graduate degree in music. Some public service and archival posts sought completion of music/arts library classes, while 27% of cataloging vacancies required cataloging coursework. A course in archival/preservation techniques was listed in 10% of all vacancies, and this figure was over half for jobs in archival environments.
The most commonly listed personal attributes included organizational skills/ability to prioritize, self-motivation, and flexibility/ability to handle multiple demands. Aptitude for scholarly production and professional development and analytical/problem solving skills appeared less frequently.
Excellent written and oral skills was the most commonly listed trait and the top social attribute. Other required or preferred social attributes included collaborative skills and a strong commitment to public services.
Previous library experience was desired in 42% of the listings, and appeared most commonly in administrative positions and least frequently in public service jobs. Experience with specific skills were also sought; cataloging was required or preferred in 36% of the announcements, and 30% wanted experience in reference and instruction.
The most common general KSA was reading knowledge of foreign languages, required for 25% and preferred for 19% of the jobs. Many of the other general KSAs were specific to the job responsibilities; for example, knowledge of AACR2, LCSH, and MARC21 was needed for positions that involved cataloging (including archive and hybrid posts).
In conclusion, institutions are looking for more than just an M.L.I.S.; they seek well-rounded individuals who can effectively communicate, collaborates, prioritizes, values excellent services, and self-motivates. These skills are in addition to subject expertise, which is highly valued in music librarianship. One should keep in mind that search committee members may want to see other qualifications not mentioned in advertisements.
The entire article, “What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians,” was published in the March 2013 issue of Notes (69:3), pages 472-493. All preferred and required qualifications for each job type that appeared in more than 8% of the announcements are detailed in the original article. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.
Joe Clark is the Head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University. He has published articles in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Fontes Artis Musicae, Serials Review, Journal of Library Innovation and The Journal of Academic Librarianship. His research interests include employment trends in music librarianship, collection management, library administration, and American music. He is currently the Placement Officer for the Music Library Association.