Music Library Association

Plan 2001

The best plans provide direction on how organizations will focus their energies, allocate their time, and spend their money. Good plans are also clear in their vision and in the core values they imply. They lay the groundwork for the important choices that must be made by any organization working with an ambitious program and a limited budget.

Plan 2001 seeks to establish direction and focus for the Music Library Association through the year 2001. The Plan is grounded in the purpose and values that have sustained the Association since its inception. It focuses on four Major Initiatives and, within the Initiatives, on nine Objectives.

These Initiatives were developed from both an assessment of the external environment of the Association and an identification of key issues in the internal environment of the organization. Environmental factors were identified during a survey of members selected at random administered in late summer 1995, an intensive retreat of a dozen members in November, 1995, a Town Meeting held at the February, 1996 annual meeting, and a revision process through which the final plan has been developed.

INITIATIVE I: INCREASE AND ENHANCE VISIBILITY OUTSIDE THE MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. The Association intends to intensify efforts in three areas: outreach to key persons and organizations outside MLA; greatly increased advocacy; increased use of publications to reach an outside audience.

Objective I. A. Increase outreach to key organizations and individuals outside the Association; strengthen already established ties and develop new relationships; offer advice on music library matters to--and share MLA's positions on issues with--key entities in the external environment; make MLA education programs available outside the Association. (See also Initiative III. Objective I.A. for further thoughts on providing educational programs for non-members.)

  1. Stronger ties will be developed with other library and archival organizations, such as the American Library Association (ALA), the Art Librarians Society (ARLIS), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA), as well as with other music organizations such as the International Association of Music Librarians (IAML) -- especially IAML-US -- the College Music Society (CMS) and the Sonneck Society for American Music--wherever such ties can strengthen the success of both collaborating parties. Joint conferences with other organizations could be explored.

  2. Individual librarians outside MLA, such as generalists with responsibilities for music collections and services and library administrators, will be the focus of intensified communication about the issues with which the Association is concerned.

  3. A special audience will be key decision makers in members' home institutions: the task will be to help them understand better the purposes and value of music librarianship. An important means of reaching this group will be through other associations, such as ALA, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), etc.

  4. Systems vendors and system user groups will become key contacts for Association communication. Activities envisioned include the development of position papers on system requirements and the provision of product evaluations and recommendations.

  5. There will be more productive contact with publishers of music, sound recordings, music books, and all other relevant formats, with the goal of better publisher understanding of the needs of music libraries.

  6. Intensified communication with library schools will seek to influence curriculum and program development that will better meet the needs of music librarians.

  7. The Association will strengthen its program of communication with key government agencies on issues such as intellectual property, federal support of the arts and humanities, and federal support of libraries.

  8. A major means of taking the MLA message outside the Association will be to invite non-members to participate in our education programs.

Rationale: This Objective fulfills our purpose of bringing our expertise as music librarians to the outside world and in turn learning from others' special knowledge. Though MLA has an important message to communicate, currently it seldom has an opportunity to do so.

Recommended Implementation: This is an Association-wide objective. The Board, Committees, Liaisons, Chapters--all members will have the potential of contributing to its success. There may be a need to add more Liaisons.

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Objective I. B. Take a stronger, proactive stance on issues related to our profession, such as intellectual property, system design, standards, support for the arts and humanities.

Until now, MLA has not been as active as other professional organizations in speaking out on issues important to music librarians, nor as successful as it might be in getting its message across to key players in the environment. Activities envisioned are, for example, position papers, lobbying efforts.

Rationale: MLA and its members need to have more influence on developments in the external environment that are affecting music libraries, especially the decisions that will ultimately alter the ways in which we serve our users.

Recommended Implementation: The Board, Liaisons, and Committees need to be involved in the implementation of this objective.

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Objective I. C. Intensify public relations efforts through such mechanisms as brochures, electronic announcements and publications, presentations by members.

Rationale: Publications are among the Association's strongest programs--an excellent means of informing the world of MLA's purposes and achievements. This objective will lay important ground work for the achievement of other goals, such as fund raising.

Recommended Implementation: The Board, the Publications Committee, Development Committee, Advertising Manager, Publicity Officer, Conference Managers need to be involved in the implementation of this objective.

INITIATIVE II: INTENSIFY DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS IN THE AREAS OF MEMBERSHIP AND FUND RAISING. Membership has been declining steadily and needs to be increased in order to ensure the continued health of the association; MLA has made an encouraging start on building an endowment to support some of its activities but now needs to focus more on this effort.

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Objective II. A. Broaden membership to include persons in allied fields, such as ensemble librarians, archivists, generalists with responsibility for music collections, multimedia and video specialists, music scholars, teachers, and performers attempting to cope with ever-expanding music resources. Special targets for membership recruitment and retention will be those whose representation in the association has been historically small: paraprofessional staff, public librarians, library school students, and all others who would benefit from MLA membership.

Rationale: While taking care not to compromise basic purposes, the Association needs to move beyond its traditional membership pool to attract new members. Both the Association and those currently outside it who are attracted to membership can profit from the creative diversity that results. This Objective relates to Objectives in Initiative I--to take MLA's mission and purpose outside the Association.

Recommended Implementation: The Membership Committee will be the key implementer of this Objective. The chapters will also have a key role in attracting new members, especially paraprofessional staff, to MLA membership.

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Objective II. B. Intensify development and fund raising efforts beyond our present, already very generous membership, to increase endowment to an amount equal to at least three times the operating budget.

Rationale: Though the Association has made an excellent start on building an endowment, the fund needs to grow to three times its current size in order to provide a stable financial base to support basic purposes and expand programs.

Recommended Implementation: The Board and the Development Committee will be the key implementers of this Objective.

INITIATIVE III: INTENSIFY CONTINUING EDUCATION EFFORTS. Continuing education was one of the most important needs to emerge from the survey of members taken in fall, 1995.

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Objective III. A. Expand continuing education programs to meet members' needs and as outreach to non-members.

Avenues to be explored include: distance conferencing and distance learning, summer institutes (perhaps as part of a Library School's program), more workshops at annual conferences; more collaborative activities with Library Schools; more offerings through Regional Chapters. Members have made it clear that continuing education is one of the most valued programs of the Association, but they have also sent a strong signal that continuing education should emphasize hands-on instruction and that the content should help them solve the problems they deal with on a daily basis: new developments in technology; intellectual property issues; preservation; audio-visual materials; cataloging and other technical services operations; management skills.

Rationale: Continuing education is a major means of helping members deal with a rapidly changing environment, especially changes in technology. Outside MLA, there is not much continuing education of direct relevance to Music Librarians and persons in allied areas who deal with music. Education is a prime opportunity for members to use their skills and expertise in the service of others. A successful continuing education program could generate income for the Association.

Recommended Implementation: The Education Committee and other Association entities, as appropriate, will be the key implementers of this Objective.

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Objective III. B. Use publications--in all formats--more explicitly as educational vehicles.

Existing MLA publications serve a variety of educational purposes, within both the profession of music librarianship and the discipline of music. New kinds of publications focused on particular areas of music librarianship will be needed as well. Envisioned for example are a basic manuals series, web site, video, cd-rom, or multimedia resources, especially publications that deal with issues of practical concern to music librarians and music libraries.

Rationale: Publications are one of the strongest programs of the Association. The need for more education through the publications program is a clear message from the membership. The Objective intensifies one of the Associations most important continuing purposes. Publications provide an excellent opportunity to achieve other Objectives of the Plan: for example, developing financial resources and membership; outreach to the community outside MLA.

Recommended Implementation: The Publications Committee, Education Committee, and others as appropriate, will be the key implementers of this Objective.

INITIATIVE IV: ENHANCE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE ASSOCIATION'S INTERNAL ORGANIZATION AND OPERATIONS. Two needs emerged particularly during the assessment of the internal environment: the need for a thorough review of current administrative functions and services, as well as appropriate reorganization of those functions and the need to revitalize the Regional Chapters.

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Objective IV. A. Conduct an intensive review of current administrative functions and services; reorganize as needed to maximize effectiveness. During the planning process, the establishment of a central administrative office was discussed. Such an office could manage functions currently managed by Management Services, the Advertising Manger, the Convention Managers, the Publicity Officer, the Executive Secretary, the Treasurer. Some functions of the Editors and others who serve the Association might also be handled by the Executive Office.

Rationale: The current arrangement for managing the Association is diffuse and does not meet all of our needs. It has been difficult to find volunteers for labor-intensive jobs. A redesigned Association administration should free up the time of the Board (especially the Treasurer)--as well as the time of others in the Association--to spend on planning, program development, and the achievement of high-priority goals. At the same time, reorganization of administrative functions needs to retain essential features of current organizational culture, especially full participation of MLA members.

Recommended Implementation: The Board will implement this Objective.

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Objective IV. B. Review the structure, purpose, and vitality of the Association's chapters.

Rationale: The Association's members are dispersed over a vast geographic area. The Regional Chapters are able to bring MLA to all the members, especially those who might be unable to attend annual meetings. The Regional Chapters will be a key means of achieving the Objectives of Plan 2001, especially those related to continuing education. With higher visibility in their regions, the Chapters will also be a key success factor in outreach to new members.

Recommended Implementation: A Task Force composed of Chapter members from a mix of more and less successful Chapters, plus some members of the Board, will be responsible for implementing this Objective.


The MLA Board will develop charges to those responsible for implementation of the Objectives. The Board will also appoint a team to develop a timetable for plan implementation, maintain continuity during the five-year implementation period, and monitor progress. This is a critically important step, as Board and Committee membership will change during the five-year implementation phase.