What is MOLA?


A Guide to
The Major Orchestra Librarians' Association


MOLA is the Major Orchestra Librarians' Association, founded in 1983. MOLA's mission is to facilitate communication between professional performance librarians, educate and assist them in providing service to their organizations, provide support and resources to the performing arts, and work with publishers to achieve the highest standards in music performance materials.

The first MOLA meeting was held in Philadelphia in 1983, when twenty-five librarians from the United States and Canada met for a day to discuss issues of common interest. Today MOLA is an international, not-for-profit corporation spanning the globe with a membership of almost 270 institutions, including libraries from symphony orchestras, opera and ballet companies, educational institutions, music festivals, professional bands, and other ensembles.

Means of Communication

Members stay in contact with each other in various ways. An annual conference is hosted by a member orchestra and features presentations, workshops, round-table discussions, networking opportunities, and numerous other valuable resources.

The quarterly newsletter Marcato addresses many issues of common interest such as feature stories, errata lists, and updates from the special committees within MOLA.

Computer technology has made it possible for member librarians to be in contact instantly through MOLA's online Discussion Forum. A website (www.mola-inc.org) provides ongoing resources and a comprehensive look at what MOLA has to offer. These services provide information and support to an ever-expanding group of library professionals.

Communication between members is perhaps the most important contribution MOLA makes to the performing arts field. An example is the sharing of music errata lists. Even the most traditional and often-performed works, such as Beethoven symphonies, can have errors in the scores and parts. Through the use of errata lists, a librarian can save countless hours of ensemble rehearsal time by correcting errors without tediously having to compare each part to the score.

Communication with Publishers

Another benefit of MOLA has been the creation of a unified voice in making the concerns of the orchestra librarian known to music publishers. MOLA periodically invites representatives from music publishers to its annual conferences in order to address the publication and condition of printed orchestral materials. This collaborative effort has led to the formation of the MOLA/Publisher Committee. MOLA has also created a brochure entitled "Music Preparation Guidelines for Orchestral Music."

Other Areas of Interest

Other areas of interest addressed by MOLA include copyright law and performing rights issues, the use of public domain works, selecting editions, cataloging, touring, computerized databases, conductors' and soloists' music, archiving and preservation, budgeting, library operations, and specialized library equipment, such as photocopiers, paper, and binding machines.

Being an Orchestra Librarian

There are currently no degree programs for orchestral librarians. However, orchestra librarians need to have a broad range of training. They may acquire the necessary working knowledge either through apprentice/internship situations or on-the-job training. Most orchestra librarians begin their musical careers as performers.

In the past, librarians were often members of the orchestra or were retired from the ranks of the orchestra into the library. Today musicians are choosing the profession as a first career. While some librarians are still players in their orchestras, it is most common for the library position to be full-time at the major orchestra level.

When surveyed about what they consider to be the most important part of their job, orchestra librarians responded, "To have the right music in the right place at the right time." When asked how they view their role in the orchestra, they replied, "As musicians!"

Association with Music Service Organizations

MOLA is represented on the MLA (Music Library Association) / MPA (Music Publishers' Association) / MOLA Joint Committee. In addition, MOLA has cultivated relationships with other music service organizations, including the International Association of Music Librarians, the League of American Orchestras, the American Federation of Musicians, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, and the Regional Orchestra Players' Association.


(updated March 17, 2013)

What is MOLA?