A commitment to international education and global learning is a distinctive feature of the Illinois experience, and an historic strength of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Following the adoption of its “International Strategy” in 2003, the University Library made a strategic commitment to build on its unique strengths in international and area studies collections by developing an international dimension to all Library services, providing access to outstanding international collections of Library materials and scholarly content, and strengthening the role of international activities within the University Library.
According to its International Strategy, the Library’s commitment to international programs, and to meeting the challenges of the contemporary global information environment, should be found not only in its long-standing Area Studies programs, but in all Library units serving fields of scholarly inquiry and professional practice informed by a global perspective. The Library has demonstrated its commitment to its International Strategy through promotion of the work of The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, ongoing support for its Area Studies Library units, and the development of innovative service programs such as the Global Studies Virtual Library, and digital resources such as Global News Village. The International and Area Studies Library represents a new approach to realizing the promise of the Library’s International Strategy, a new model for supporting the study of other nations, regions, and cultures across the curriculum, and a new opportunity to coordinate Library services, collections, and facilities with the campus commitment to foster the “global competence” of our students – a goal best achieved not only through the study of global concerns and transnational issues, but also through the study of distinct national and regional cultures.
As Chancellor Richard Herman wrote in a recent message to the Urbana Campus, Illinois is a leader in international education – its leadership rooted in the diverse composition of our academic community, the opportunities our faculty and students pursue in teaching, learning, and conducting research abroad, and the recognition that this programmatic excellence has found in the ongoing awards to the Urbana Campus of Title VI U.S Department of Education National Resource Centers. Our commitment to teaching, learning, scholarship and service in a global context is brought together at the campus level through programs represented in the Office of the Vice-Provost for International Affairs, including Area and Thematic Studies Programs, Language and Literature Programs, International Programs, and Study Abroad Programs. Through the programs coordinated in that office, Illinois aspires to become "our nation's pre-eminent global university" – a university that will prepare its graduates to possess "global competence," i.e., a set of skills designed to help them to thrive in a world increasingly defined by the connections among (and between) distinct nations, regions, and transnational communities. According to the Associate Provost for International Affairs: "The skills that form the foundation of global competence include the ability to work effectively in international settings; awareness of and adaptability to diverse cultures, perceptions and approaches; familiarity with the major currents of global change and the issues they raise; and the capacity for effective communication across cultural and linguistic boundaries." Global competence, also referred to as global learning, has also been recognized as a core component of a 21st century liberal education by the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Illinois is committed to maintaining its leadership in this area and to remain, as Chancellor Herman concluded, “one of the most engaged and dynamic universities in the world.”
The University Library contributes to this campus goal through a variety of services, including those currently housed in Area Studies Libraries (e.g., Slavic & East European Library), in other departmental libraries (e.g., Education & Social Science Library), in central service programs (e.g., Content Access Management), and in campus units outside the Library (e.g., Center for Global Studies). The International and Area Studies Library service program will transcend the divisions among existing Library units and allow us, together as the faculty and staff of a pre-eminent public research library, to provide access to a rich collection of international content, and to the expertise that supports students and scholars in the location, navigation, management, evaluation, and preservation of that content. Excellence in international collections and depth in international expertise have been among the hallmarks of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, and we believe that committing to a vision of the International and Area Studies Library that builds on these strengths while facilitating greater communication, coordination, and collaboration across all Library units will ensure that international programs remain a distinctive feature of the University Library in the 21st century.
The University Library renews its commitment to its International Strategy, and its commitment to supporting a vision of global learning at Illinois that is informed by a rich understanding of national and regional distinctiveness, by proposing that all existing Library service programs that serve fields of inquiry informed by a global perspective contribute to the establishment and development of the International and Area Studies Library. This new vision for international and area studies librarianship will include the integration into this new unit of service programs currently housed in our Area Studies Library units, including the Slavic & East European Library, the Asian Library, the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Library, and the Africana Library unit, as well as programs currently housed in other Library units, including Global Studies, European Union Studies, and Modern Languages and Literatures. The International and Area Studies Library service program will also be designed to foster and facilitate greater communication and collaboration among Library faculty serving departments, colleges, and interdisciplinary programs with distinct international agendas, e.g., International Business, as well as those responsible for the collection and provision of access to primary source international materials, e.g., international government information and international newspapers. Through the International and Area Studies Library program, the University Library will commit to a Library-wide approach to support for global learning and scholarship that matches the campus-wide approach found in at the University of Illinois.