Internationalization and the North American University Library

By Karen Bordonaro. Lanhman, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013. 184 pp. $75.00 (hardback). ISBN 9780810891838.

Increasing numbers of undergraduate and graduate students from China, India and other countries are attending colleges and universities in both Canada and the United States. Serving international students in the libraries of North American institutions of higher learning is a subject of considerable attention in the literature of librarianship. Most of it focuses on the challenges faced by librarians who often lack the training to deal with students from other cultures. Karen Bordonaro, Teaching and Learning Librarian and Liaison Librarian for Applied Linguistics and Modern Languages at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, has written this book to provide a more complete picture of the role of the library in the internationalization of the university. 

Having directed a major university library and engaged in building international collaboration for more than two decades, I read this book with great interest. I believe that Ms. Bordonaro has produced a study that contributes significantly to our understanding of the role of internationalization in the universities of both Canada and the United States as well as the key role that a library should play in that process. What distinguishes this study from others is that she places the library in the broader context of institutional policy and practice and she views the library through the lens of actual international students and visiting scholars whom she interviewed extensively at two institutions, one in Canada and the other in the United States.

The insights she gleans from those interviews are very useful for libraries attempting to be relevant to international users. There are actually some surprises in the results. One is that international students view the role and value of the library in much the same way as domestic students. They value the library as a sanctuary, a place in which to study, locate resources, and interact with their peers. Also, while they appreciate having an initial orientation to the library in their native language, international students subsequently prefer all interactions such as library instruction sessions and reference transactions to be in English so that they may further hone their language skills. They would encourage the library to undertake additional services, such as hosting events and programs to further cultural understanding within the university. They are heavy users of libraries and library services and appreciate services such as interlibrary loan, computer labs, group study rooms, but also mundane things domestic students take for granted such as scanners and copy machines, often unavailable in the libraries in their home countries.

The book contains a great deal of sage and practical advice for librarians planning services for international students. The focus of the book is on engaging such students in positive and relevant interactions that actually meet their needs as they view them as opposed to how librarians might see those needs. Giving voice to international users of North American libraries is the most important aspect of this book.

This is a must read for North American librarians serious about serving international students and contributing positively to their institution’s efforts to broaden perspectives on campus by increasing their global presence and programs.


Rush G. Miller
Director Emeritus
University Library System
University of Pittsburgh