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How do I Become a Music Librarian?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Someone who wants to become a music librarian should plan on spending a lot of time in school. People who are interested in this kind of work will need to receive training in librarianship and music, and additional skills may be required as well, depending on what kinds of settings they want to work in. Music librarians work for colleges and universities, music archives, orchestras, radio and TV stations, organizations which work in the field of music, and in many other environments as well. This work can be very demanding and involves a broad skill set.

Qualifying as a music librarian requires fulfilling the requirements to become a librarian and completing additional training to specialize in music. To be a librarian, someone needs a masters in library science or a masters in information science. People who want to specialize in music usually complete musical training as part of their undergraduate work, learning about music history, theory, and practice. Some music librarians also come from a background of performance, although this is not required to become a music librarian.

To become a music librarian, it may be necessary to take special courses in archiving to learn how to care for the objects in a music library. In addition, people may need training in dance, film and television, and other aspects of the arts which can integrate music. Someone who works as a music librarian for an opera company, for example, needs a deep understanding of opera and stage performance, not just skills as a librarian and music lover.

Courses in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and even archeology may also be necessary to become a music librarian. This coursework is utilized by librarians who work with ethnic music, early music, and music manuscripts from other eras and cultures. Because librarians need to understand the objects in their collections, they must have a thorough grounding in the cultural and historical context for the objects they work with. Someone who manages a collection of Renaissance music manuscripts, for example, needs to know about the history of the era, musical trends which existed during this period, and proper archival technique for handling documents from the 14th to 17th centuries.

It helps to have a passion for music to become a music librarian, but it's also necessary to have good organizing and cataloging skills, and an ability to contextualize information. A good music librarian knows the collections he or she supervises and cares for intimately, and can assist people with research requests, locating specific items, and making arrangements to borrow or examine items from other libraries.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On May 04, 2012

@Mykol - I am somewhat familiar with this career as my niece works as a music librarian. This job is a perfect fit for her as she is able to combine two things she loves and is quite interested in.

You would be surprised at what the average pay scale is though. As you said, there is quite a bit of schooling required, yet most of these jobs don't pay what you would expect after all that training.

I think she makes around $45,000 a year and this is probably pretty average. It all depends on what part of the country you live in and where you are employed.

You would probably make more if you are living on the coast or in a large city. I don't know very many small towns where you would be able to find a job working as a music librarian.

By Mykol — On May 03, 2012

I never realized there was an actual degree to become a music librarian and how much schooling was involved.

I have a friend who just graduated with her masters degree in library science, and that alone seemed to take many years of schooling.

I can see how the training in both library science and music would be essential to be a music librarian.

What kind of salary does a music librarian make? Because so many years of education are required, I would expect the wages would be pretty good.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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