As our world becomes increasingly interconnected politically, economically, culturally, and socially, higher education has followed suit. The 2011 survey by the American Council of Education’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement found a perceived acceleration of internationalization across campuses, from doctoral to associate degree institutions.[1] The definition of what that means for each institution varies. Graham Elkin, Faiyaz Devjee, and John Farnsworth developed a 13-scale model to assist universities in evaluating where they are presently and where they could further develop (see fig. 1).[2]How our universities characterize their current and aspirational states shapes the environment in which research libraries can advance their efforts.

Fig. 1. Framework of Internationalization[3]

This article addresses how research libraries can explore unmet needs and identify new opportunities for engaging deeply in the evolving teaching, learning, and research life of a global university, with primary attention given to students. Since the role of research libraries in acquiring and preserving international collections is a well-defined practice, the authors will focus on other, less-developed aspects of engagement.

Building Universities as Global Entities

Although U.S. universities have had international ties for a century or more, the past two decades have seen a dramatic rise in global engagement. American higher education has extended its presence around the world by establishing international programs and more recently whole campuses abroad, by courting more international students, and by internationalizing the curriculum and the American student experience. The number of American students studying abroad and the number of international students coming to the U.S. are at an all-time high. Study abroad programs have risen significantly since 2000, with over 300,000 American students studying abroad for academic credit in 2013/14 (see fig. 2).[4]

Fig. 2. U.S. Study Abroad Students 1989/90-2013/14[5]

kenney fig 2


In 2014, the Institute for International Education launched a five-year national campaign to double the number of students studying abroad by decade’s end, from 10% to 20% of all college students. As of May 2016, 400 U.S. colleges and universities had joined the Generation Study Abroad campaign, including 55 members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).[6] By comparison, the number of international students coming to the U.S. to study is much larger than the number of American students studying abroad and has risen more sharply. In 2014/15 the number approached one million (see fig. 3).[7]

Fig. 3.[8]

kenney fig 3


Assessing Library Support for Internationalization