Global libraries exhibit helps Pattee Library visitors travel world virtually

November 22, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Traveling to some of the world’s most notable research libraries just got easier with a new Penn State University Libraries exhibit, “Academic Libraries Around the World,” open through Feb. 12, 2018, in the Diversity Studies Room, 203 Pattee Library, on the University Park campus.

The exhibit, celebrating international academic libraries and the field of library science, features visual highlights of academic institutions on every continent except Antarctica, and is free and open to the public during Pattee Library’s Arts and Humanities Library operating hours.

Drawing on the wealth of library science-related materials held by the University Libraries, “Academic Libraries Around the World” explores the similarities and differences in academic libraries around the globe. Starting in Asia and stopping at select institutions in Africa and the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, visitors can learn about both ancient libraries — renowned for their striking craftsmanship and priceless holdings — as well as modern library marvels, breathtaking for their architectural innovation.      

“Global academic libraries generally have the same goals of preserving and providing access to the world of knowledge, but we often accomplish those goals by very different means,” Mark Mattson, Global Partnerships and Outreach Librarian for Penn State University Libraries, explained. “By working with international partners and sharing information across national boundaries, we can discover new and innovative ways to serve our users and communities.” 

“Academic Libraries Around the World” is curated by three Penn State faculty librarians: Mattson; Glenn Masuchika, information literacy librarian; and Alia Gant, diversity resident librarian. Each curator contributed their extensive knowledge of international librarianship and library history to selecting some of the world’s most innovative facilities, such as the oldest library featured in the exhibit, the University of Al Qarawiyyn’s Library in Fez, Morocco. Founded in 859 CE by Fatima Al-Fihiri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, the University of Al Qarawiyyn’s Library currently houses an impressive collection of items, including a ninth-century copy of the Qur’an.

In contrast, visitors also can learn about one of the newest libraries featured in the exhibit: The Sung Kyun Kwan University’s (SKKU) Samsung Library in Suwon, South Korea. The library’s seven-story building, which resembles the splayed pages of an open book, was designed by South Korea-based Samoo Architects and Engineers, and received the Gyeonggi-do Architectural Culture Grand Award the very first year after its construction in 2009. At nearly 78,000 feet, Samsung Library offers its students 3,000 study spaces, 270 PCs, 1,000 digital lockers, an auditorium, a cinema room, a media-editing room and a CD station.

In addition to being a state-of-the-art marvel, the SKKU Library also is a sister library of the Penn State University Libraries through Penn State’s Global Engagement Network (GEN). The GEN represents the University’s strategic partnerships with peer institutions around the world who share Penn State’s commitment to solving the world’s most pressing challenges through research, faculty and student collaboration. Along with SKKU, the exhibit also features some of Penn State’s other sister libraries: the University of Cape Town Libraries in South Africa, University Library Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany, and Split University Library in Split, Croatia.    

Books, photographs and artifacts are on display, as well as supplementary content for visitors to access on two interactive, touch-activated iPad kiosks. The kiosks include a brief timeline of the evolution of academic libraries, additional information about GEN sister libraries, and a short quiz to test visitors’ knowledge of all things library related.

For more information about the exhibit or inquiries about special accommodations or the physical access provided, contact Mark Mattson at or 814-863-2480; Glenn Masuchika at or 814-867-2229; or Alia Gant at 814-865-0401 or

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 18, 2017