Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Mortenson Center for International Library Programs: Home

The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs seeks to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians worldwide for the promotion of international education, understanding, and peace.

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.

Raised $2.5 million in grant funds from multiple agencies

According to the 2013 Arabella Advisors’ independent evaluation of the Center’s past 5 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.

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 Program. The Mortenson Center and the professorship seek to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians—regardless of geographic location or access to technology.

C. Walter and Gerda B. Mortenson 



“So many friendships, devotions, professional contacts, cultural bridges, inventions, stereotypes eliminated, have happened during these long, happy years of cooperation that it is very hard to overestimate it. We do believe that it is vital to keep our dialogue going regardless [of the] internal and external pressures of nowadays. [The] experience and trust we have in each other will help both national communities see the importance of education and culture we all share.”

Svetlana A. Gorokhova, Head, International Cultural Center, Russian State Library for Foreign Literature (Moscow, Russia)