This is a WWW version of the article appearing the the April-May 1998 MLA Newsletter.

MLA Survey of Personnel Characteristics Preliminary Report

Are there significant differences in education, scholarly activity, salary, job satisfaction, and participation in MLA between librarians in academic and public libraries, between reference librarians, administrators and catalogers, and between men and women in our organization? These and many other questions can now be answered from data gathered by the Working Group on MLA Personnel Characteristics via a questionnaire completed by a randomly selected statistical sample of MLA members and non-members. Some preliminary results and sample analyses were reported in Boston by the Chair, David Lesniaski, at the open meeting of the Working Group. Thanks to all who contributed data by completing a questionnaire.

The central purpose of this survey is to find out more about our educational backgrounds, our professional lives, and our participation in MLA-related activities. The survey included questions about degrees earned, language proficiency, access to continuing education, publications, music interests, where we work and what we do in our work, salary, benefits, how we feel about various aspects of our work, reasons for being an MLA member, attendance at national and chapter meetings, participation on MLA committees, and participation in other professional associations. A total of 380 questionnaires was sent out, 300 to MLA members and 80 to either non-members who had attended a recent conference or those who are chapter but not national members. 247 replies were received, for a 65% return overall; when limited to MLA members, the return rate increases to 70%. Precautions were taken at every step in the process to ensure the anonymity of the respondents.

The average age of MLA members is slightly over 49 years, and there are approximately 10% more women than men in the organization. In terms of geographic distribution, the Northeast section of the country is the source of over one third of the membership.

MLA members clearly have invested heavily in formal education: 97% have at least one graduate degree; 63% have either an MA or MM; 20% have a doctorate in music; 3% have a doctorate in library science. Most MLA members have at least a basic knowledge of one or more languages other than English. The languages most commonly cited were German (86%), French (81%), Italian (38%), Spanish (31%), Latin (23%), and Russian (11%). We engage in a variety of professional pursuits, with many of us active as scholars and performers. 56% of us have published articles, 49% have published reviews, 30% have edited newsletters, journals, or books, 26% have authored or co-authored books, 56% have presented papers and 38% have organized sessions at national/regional meetings, and 35% have presented recitals (as featured soloist, etc.).

The data collected confirms that the majority of MLA members (58%) are employed in academic or conservatory libraries. Public libraries account for 13%, and other types of libraries, 12%. Educators and publishers comprise, respectively, 7% and 3%. Retirees make up 13%. (These figures do not add up to 100% because some respondents selected more than one category). 33% of national MLA members have faculty status. 82% have permanent, continuing, or multi-year renewable contracts. 21% are represented by a union.

Job satisfaction appears to be high in our profession. MLA members indicated that they are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with: their autonomy in carrying out their job responsibilities (90%); their choice of profession (84%); their current job (82%); their professional education (81%); their professional status (76%); their salary (64%).

Some of the reasons rated as "important" or "very important" for becoming or remaining a national member of MLA were contact with other members of the profession (77%), Notes (62%), and the MLA Newsletter (55%). Questions on participation in MLA revealed that 40% of the membership have been appointed to a committee, working group, etc., 26% have chaired a committee, working group, round table, etc., 20% have participated as a panel member, and 11% have served as board members. Ongoing efforts to balance the distribution of board members geographically seem to be working, but it appears that members from the Northeast are proportionally more likely to be appointed to committees.

There is no evidence of any statistically significant (i.e., not due to chance) differences by gender in any data analysis performed thus far, with one exception. Women are more likely than men to change their job or alter their pursuit of education because of family responsibilities. However, this difference does not seem to have a long-term impact overall. Men and women are equally likely to have graduate music degrees, to achieve scholarly and other professional goals, and to participate in MLA. The average salary of male and female MLA members employed full-time is the same.

To see a copy of the questionnaire developed by the Working Group (David Lesniaski, Chair, Tim Cherubini, Charles Coldwell, Pat Fisken, Dick Griscom, Mickey Koth, Renee McBride, and Cindy Richardson), please go to the MLA Clearinghouse under "MLA Survey of Personnel Characteristics". Data analysis continues, and a more detailed article on the survey methods and results is planned. In the meantime, if you have specific questions about what topics various combinations of data may be able to address, contact any member of the Working Group.

[submitted by]

David Lesniaski

St. Olaf College

WG chair


please note: this article was written by the WG; authorship is not limited to 1 person.