Library International Strategy

This document outlines the goals and activities that the Library must pursue to maintain and develop its strength as a significant player in the University of Illinois’ international programs. In order to achieve these goals, this document should be taken into consideration as the Library prepares its next strategic plan. 


The document is based on the October 2002 “Draft Strategic Plan” prepared by the Task Force on an International Strategy for the University Library, comprised of:  Robert Burger, Marianna Tax Choldin (chair), Barbara Jones, Tom Kilton, Betsy Kruger, Susan Schnuer, Karen Wei, Greg Youngen, and Priscilla Yu.  






 “Our service mission has long since ceased to be simply the benefit of the scholars on this campus or, indeed, the people of Illinois. Today, this great library must serve people the world over, harnessing the latest technologies” (Provost Richard Herman) 


With these eloquent words the provost points the way for the University Library as we move into the 21st century. The academic world is part of a complex global society that faces unprecedented opportunities and challenges.  The Library has a vital role to play as the University moves towards understanding the broader world in which we live.  


The University Library’s primary mission is to provide the best possible collections and services to our users and by so doing to fulfill its promise to the international world of learning. An important part of achieving that mission is to incorporate an international dimension into the Library’s programs and activities. 1 Such a focus on our international dimension benefits first and foremost our own university students and faculty, but it also fulfills the Library’s historic role, and the Provost’s vision of serving people the world over.  


For the better part of the 20th century, the Library’s focus on building a first-rank international collection, supported by excellent Library faculty, has been recognized by the international clientele of the Library. The collection has allowed the Library to serve as a bridge between University of Illinois faculty and students and the world of learning and information beyond the borders of the United States. 


The University Library must maintain and develop its remarkable international collections, staff, and services, and seek new ways to promote our rich resources - primarily to our own user community, but also to users around the world. 


For the purposes of understanding this role, the Library includes within its perspective of “ international” all politics, culture, language, economy, science, and other forms of knowledge that have developed or are thriving outside of the boundaries of the United States.  As such, several Library collections and programs have a significant role in issues of international learning.   


Since the inception of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs in 1991, the University Library has benefited from the presence of Mortenson Associates from around the world in a variety of ways. For instance, many of our librarians have established long-lasting professional relationships with the Associates, and such contacts, by virtue of knowledge gained through them, have frequently had the effect of improving our ability to deliver services to our users. In some instances our librarians have paid visits to the Associates and their libraries, forging mutually beneficial relationships between the libraries.  Beyond the obvious examples of strong programs such as the Mortenson Center and the many area studies libraries, there are many other units with strong international ties.  Beyond the obvious examples of strong programs such as the Mortenson Center and the many area studies libraries, other units with strong international ties include the Newspaper Library, Reference, Modern Languages and Linguistics Library, Map and Geography Library, Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University Archives, Commerce Library, as well as several science and social science libraries.  




The Library’s International Role 


Since the second decade of the last century, the University has built a library that had made the University a world center of learning through a collection of substantial breadth and depth.  Since the end of the Second World War the University Library has had a proud history of active engagement in a variety of international library activities: cooperative acquisitions projects, massive exchange programs, cooperative ventures in the area of bibliographic control, and in more recent years involvement in international consortia and participation in the work of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. With the turn of the 21st century and the increasing globalization of library interests surrounding ever-improved remote access to international library collections, it is paramount that the Library formulate a deliberate strategy to improve its resources and services with an international focus.  It is also a fundamental stewardship responsibility for the rich collections built over the past century to support international scholarship. Having a clear international strategy is of primary significance for our own user community, and it is, of course, of value also in promoting closer ties with our international library partners. It is fully understood that any realization of such improved financial resources for services or collections must derive from the normal budgeting processes in which the needs of various Library initiatives are carefully weighed.  


The six strategic goals set forth in this document are central to the mission of the University of Illinois Library and of the UIUC campus. The realization of these goals will serve to secure a proper place for our Library in the international arena of library activities. These goals can form the basis for all future international engagement on the part of the Library.  


 Goal 1. Develop an international dimension to all Library services 


Goal 2. Develop outstanding collections 


Goal 3. Promote the University Library within the international library community


Goal 4. Engage the public in international activities at the University Library 


Goal 5. Strengthen the role of international activities within the University Library 


Goal 6. Develop the resources to support international Library activities 




Strategies for the Implementation of the Goals 


Goal 1:  Develop an International Dimension to all Library Services 


The UIUC Library has had for many years a very visible international presence. The core collection has drawn from international sources from the Library’s inception, and over the past fifty years the area studies libraries have focused on collecting material from non-English speaking parts of the world as well as English language materials published in other countries to make these resources available to our own student and faculty community. In addition, this Library in recent years has become increasingly engaged with libraries in countless countries abroad. The Mortenson Center has hosted more than 500 librarians from 76 other countries. Many UIUC librarians have participated in international activities and have sought actively to promote global learning and access to information. These efforts have been well received by the UIUC community, but they are just a beginning. We need to review our current services to ensure that they will meet the future demands of users who no longer expect to find all the information they need locally or even nationally, and who want to access our services from points around the world. 


Steps that will help us achieve this goal:


1.1       Building on UIUC strengths, select and promote cutting-edge technology that can assist in providing services to users world-wide. 


1.2       Assist our users in locating materials around the world and answer reference questions from library users located in other countries, thereby creating an international library reference network as our resources permit. 


1.3       Continue to develop international interlibrary loan agreements especially in areas abroad where we send students to study and in universities where faculty often spend sabbaticals. Work with libraries abroad that can assist in areas where we have collection weaknesses. 


1.4       Attract talented librarians from other countries for short-term consultations to improve our library services. 


1.5       Strengthen ties with the international community on campus to identify ways of better serving that community by establishing new international partnerships. 


Goal 2:  Develop Outstanding Collections 


To support the campus endeavor to strengthen its strategic engagement in international activities, the Library must develop outstanding international collections for our students and faculty. On college and departmental levels, a significant number of disciplines, such as commerce and engineering, have increasingly come to focus on internationalism in recent years. This factor, coupled with the mounting interdisciplinary purview of many of these programs, mandates an increased and sustained enhancement of our international resources from the ground up. 


To support high-quality studies and research for our local clientele and to attract international students and faculty, the Library must respond to the campus strategic engagement by sustaining and developing international collections that are truly outstanding and that meet the requirements of the campus’ educational policy and the fund allocation processes of the Library. We must find new ways to balance relations with our international partners, both with respect to purchases and exchanges, to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. 


Steps that will help us achieve this goal:


2.1       Continue to build and strengthen collections and access to materials to reflect and support the international interests of our scholars and students, with the understanding that the degree of these interests will vary from discipline to discipline. 


2.2       Develop measures for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of our international collections. 


2.3       Ensure that international materials receive appropriate preservation and access services.  


2.4       Identify means to reduce, as quickly as possible, the cataloging backlogs for international materials, and assign a priority to the cataloging of new, incoming international materials. 


2.5       Expand and enhance international materials exchange programs.  


2.6       Identify, collect, and make accessible electronic international library collections. 


2.7       Build partnerships and engage in programs designed to strengthen access to important materials published around the world. 


Goal 3:  Promote the University Library within the International Library Community 


The UIUC Library has a long history of activity and accomplishment in the international library community. We should capitalize on the solid reputation of the University and the Library for the building of new partnerships and programs. Promotion of the Library, including its services, faculty and staff, collections, and unique programs (such as the Mortenson Center), can provide the impetus for new international endeavors that will directly and indirectly reward our own local user community. Promoting the Library’s successful international activities also ensures visibility and recognition within the University, the State of Illinois, and among our peer institutions. 


Steps that will help us achieve this goal:


3.1       Encourage faculty and staff to participate in international library organizations to strengthen our ability to provide better services for our own students and faculty and enable us to provide services to the international community without expense to the services for our local constituency.  


3.2       Cooperate with librarians around the world to increase communication and promote the Library’s resources especially by connecting problems with solutions through the creative use of our personnel and resources.  


3.3       Promote the Library’s successful model for international library activities 


3.4       Participate in appropriate international consortia and on international boards and commissions. 


3.5       Play a leading role in the development of international library and information standards  


Goal 4:  Engage the Public in International Activities at the University Library 


One of the responsibilities of the University Library is to engage the public in a variety of cultural and educational activities with an international dimension. We have done this informally in the past and now we seek to institutionalize these activities to benefit our local community permanently as well as our international visitors.  


Steps that will help us achieve this goal:


4.1       Develop a yearly schedule of international seminars and discussions that are open to all.  


 4.2      Arrange for UIUC Library faculty and staff and our international visitors to meet and talk with citizens in the State of Illinois, including legislators and professionals with common interests. 


4.3       Involve UIUC and other librarians in the state and in the country in international exchanges and as hosts for international visitors. 


4.4       Encourage Library faculty, academic professionals, and staff to participate in local service clubs and community organizations that have an international activities agenda. 


Goal 5:  Strengthen the Role of International Activities within the University Library 


Libraries no longer exist solely within the four walls of a building. Librarians interact with colleagues around the world daily to identify resources for their users. Our Library faculty have increased their international activities in recent years, and the Library and our users have benefited from their efforts. As the campus seeks to strengthen its strategic engagement in international activities, the faculty and students will look to the Library for support of their activities and studies. The Library needs to prepare to respond to their requests. 


Steps that will help us achieve this goal:


5.1       Strive to recruit candidates with international and language expertise for faculty and staff positions to manage our collections from around the world and to diversify our staff to represent the world more broadly. 

5.2       Continue to develop an international network of librarians and to offer professional development programs to our colleagues around the world. 


5.3       Develop permanent Library exhibit space for international affairs and activities in the library, on campus, and in the state. 


5.4       Promote the richness of the UIUC Library’s international collections and publicize relevant campus activities to non-international UIUC students. 


5.5       Encourage international professional development and research opportunities for library faculty and staff. 


5.6       Increase the capability of the University Library to coordinate international activities within the library and to welcome into the University Library international students, faculty, and visiting scholars 


5.7       Offer professional development workshops to help our faculty and staff become more knowledgeable about other cultures. 


5.8       Encourage our library faculty to participate actively in international conferences and organizations with a strong international purview. 


5.9       Promote the involvement of Library faculty in the Mortenson Programs, with an emphasis on enabling the faculty to benefit from professional interaction on a regular basis (special projects, excursions, visits to other libraries, etc.) with Mortenson associates. 


5.10     Integrate Mortenson Center activities more closely into the Library’s activities and programs 


Goal 6:  Develop the Resources to Support International Library Activities. 


International library programs will thrive most successfully in an environment of broad campus and community support, with a variety of sources for funding, programming, and participation. The two main components are identifying potential funding sources and producing promotional information to stimulate interest and financial support. 


Steps that will help us achieve this goal:


6.1       Identify potential resources for international activities. 


6.2       Maintain contacts and build partnerships with U.S. agencies and private foundations involved in international work. 


6.3       Develop and distribute an annual report of the Library’s international activities. 


6.4       Build an active development program for international alumni.



1International collections include materials throughout all disciplines concerning areas of the world outside the United States. They involve print and electronic resources in all languages and from all areas of the world including the United States. Such collections benefit North American students and faculty as well as students and faculty from other countries conducting studies and research within the United States.


Updated: 27 March 2003

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