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Welcome to the Mortenson Center

Since the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs was founded in 1991, over 1,300 library professionals from 90 countries have participated in the Center's innovative programs. We also work with our librarian colleagues in countries around the world. 
Find out more on our  "About Us" page.

Libraries for Peace

The Mortenson Center invites libraries and librarians around the world to take part in our International Peace Day initiative. Visit the Libraries for Peace webpage ( to learn about what   libraries are doing to promote peace,   how they can initiate their own efforts, and   where these actions are taking place to discuss and share ideas of libraries and peacebuilding and to serve as an information hub for an international library celebration and action day for peace. 

25th Anniversary Giving Opportunity

To make a matching gift to the Mortenson Center, and double its impact in celebration of its 25th anniversary, please click the link below:

         Make a gift

25th Anniversary Activites

The Mortenson Center Celebrates 25 Years!

Walter and Gerda Mortenson

It all began with generous giving from C. Walter and Gerda B. Mortenson in 1986. The couple envisioned a program for the promotion of international education, understanding, and peace through library programs. Their $2 million gift created the Mortenson Distinguished Professorship for International Library Programs at Illinois. It was the first named academic position of its kind in the United States. An additional $2 million gift from the couple in 1991 expanded the activities of the professorship through a variety of unique programs with the creation of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs. The Mortenson Center and the professorship seek to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians—regardless of geographic location or access to technology.

Celebrate With Your Support - A Matching Gift in 2016

MerricksThe Mortenson Center for International Library Programs has thrived in large part to external support. Realizing the importance of outside giving and its significant impact, Library Friends Bob and Kay Merrick have agreed to match every single dollar given to the Center through 2016 -- up to $25,000.

Bob and Kaye have supported the Center through funding visiting librarians from other countries through the Associates Program. Their travels and international experiences have confirmed the value of the Center's activities and especially the training programs for visiting librarians. They feel that this is a model for "citizen diplomacy."

25th Anniversary Events

University Library Celebration

A Celebration in the Field

  • Costa Rica Reunion

A Celebration with our Associates and Partners

An International Celebration

  • International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Congress Celebration

Our Main 25th Anniversary Program and Celebration on October 14, 2016 at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center (601 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana, IL 61801)

  • 1:00-2:30 Chai Wai and Mortenson Center Dialogue: International Perspectives on Censorship, moderated by Barbara Jones, Former Director of ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, with panelists: Marianna Tax Choldin, Founding Director of Mortenson Center, and Author of Garden of Broken Statues: Exploring Censorship in Russia (2016) AND Ann Morgan, Author of T he World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe(2015)
  • 3:00-3:30 The Investiture of Mortenson Distinguished Professor Clara M. Chu
  • 3:30-4:00 Reception
  • 4:00-5:30 Lecture: Reading the globe: exploring the world's literatures, discovering ourselves , by Ann Morgan (Read more ...
  • 5:30-6:00 Book Signing, by Ann Morgan

Our Impact

Impact by the Numbers

Since 1991 more than 1,300 library leaders from over 90 countries have been trained at the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs - the only one of its kind in the world.

The Center has raised $2.5 million in grant funds from multiple agencies.

According to the 2013 Arabella Advisors' independent evaluation of the Center's past five years of programs:

  • Over 70% of Mortenson center alumni introduced a new tool, service, or resource in their library within five years of training.
  • 79% of Mortenson Center participants believe that their library is more prepared to serve their users' needs.
  • 80% of alumni feel better prepared to take on leadership roles or additional responsibility in their libraries.
  • 1/3 of Mortenson Center participants went on to take leadership roles in professional networks.

Our History


The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs has been shaped by its dynamic leadership, impacting the development of librarians and libraries in all corners of the world.  From Albania to Zimbabwe, each Center leader has worked with a wide array of countries, infusing the Center with her expertise, strengthening and shaping its work and direction.

Mortenson Center Libguide [our history online]

Learn about our past work in the following program areas: 


American Library Association (ALA) Tribute

Friendscript (A Brief History)

Brochure (A downloadable historical overview)

Promotional Videos

Mortenson Center in 3 Words (#MortensonIn3) 


“The influence of the Mortenson Center and CABCE [Center for updating librarians in Central America], as a means for growth and better services in libraries in Central America, is one of the most remarkable merits….All Central American libraries and librarians wish to acknowledge the vision and charisma of the Mortenson Center and its leaders in seeking and providing a better future for their countries.”

- Dr. Ana Cecilia Torres, Past Director, School of Library and Information Science, University of Costa Rica