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Study Abroad Library Information: EUROPE: IT-SP-FR


Visiting the University of Rome (Sapienza) Libraries.   Universities in Italy are unlike CSUs in that they have multiple, scattered libraries, rather than one central library.  The University of Rome--called Sapienza University of Rome--has over 50 libraries!   Each is run by its affiliated department, such as the Art library, the Physics library, etc.  This tradition goes back to Renaissance times, when libraries were for faculty, not students.  All libraries are connected by a common online catalog, and share access to core databases, but otherwise, they remain very different: their own hours, own shelving classification, and own staff.  Left: at the main entrance of the university.  Right: meeting with Librarian Luca Lanzillo, manager over the electronic resources of all libraries. (Notice the very characteristic grandiose 1930s building architecture).

John at entrance of University of Rome John in the campus square of the University of Rome

Left: At the Art Department: it has a gallery of replicas of famous statues in Italy.  Right: one of the individual libraries: the Art Library.  It is squeezed into a classroom building, with its entrance looking more like a faculty office.  Book shelves are inside, but spill into the hallway in locked glass cases.

University of Rome Art Department statue gallery               Entrance of University of Rome Art Department Library  Book shelves of the University of Rome's Art Department Library

Left: Another individual library: the Physics Library, inside the Physics Department (named after radio inventor Marconi).  Right: meeting with officers of the University of Rome's International Office, Martina Vizzani, Elisa Tolazzi, & Antonella Fabbricatore, to discuss library education of international students.

University of Rome Faculty of Physics building  John meeting with University of Rome International Office staff


1. Visiting the CSU Florence Center.  California State University has its own educational art center in Florence, with offices, classrooms, art & architecture studios...and!...a small library of art & architecture books!  The library is in-house, not connected to any CSU online catalogs.  Left: at the entrance. Right: with the center's staff: Anne Chatellier, Paola Fidolini, and James Simon (Resident Director, faculty from CSULA).

John at CSU Florence Center entrance      John with CSU Florence Center staff

2. Visiting a University of Florence Library.  Nearby the CSU Florence Center is the University of Florence.  As is common with Italian universities, there is no central library, but rather, scattered libraries for each department (discipline/faculty).  I visited the Architecture Library, which is nearest to the CSU Florence Center and relevant to CSU students studying architecture. Right: with Librarian Claudia Burattelli, Systems Director for all the libraries.

John inside University of Florence Architecture Library     Inside the University of Florence Architecture Library     John with University of Florence Librarian 


Visiting the University of Bologna Libraries.   Bologna University likewise has departmental libraries scattered throughout the city (the campus itself is spread throughout the city).  Several years ago, the university assumed responsibility for the Ministry of Culture's historic archive library, with books and documents going back to Medieval times.  Left: at the entrance of the library.  Right: inside the library.  Wow! What a breathtaking a time machine back to 1600.

John at entrance of University of Bologna Library     University of Bologna's historic archive library

Left: close-up of one of the manuscript books in the library: A handwritten book label, corresponding to a handwritten catalog in a big ledger book, by a monk in the 1600s.  (And you thought the Dewey Decimal System was old!)  Right: with the Director of the Library, Giacomo Nerozzi.

Close up of a historic book in the University of Bologna Library          John with the director of the University of Bologna Library


1. Visiting the Complutense University of Madrid Libraries.  The CSU system has a partnership with Complutense University of Madrid to host CSU students studying various subjects in Spanish.  Like Italy, the university's libraries are scattered in different locations, corresponding to different departments/disciplines. For example, below is the Languages Library and Law Library (under one roof: a newer building called the "Maria Zambrano Library").  Left: the amazing domed corkboard ceiling to absorb noise.  Right: like all academic libraries worldwide, student group-study space is a growing need, so the Zambrano library responded by creating an entire half floor for this.

Interior of University of Madrid Library with corkboard ceiling     John next to Group Study sign in University of Madrid Library  Interior of University of Madrid Library group study area

Left: entrance to the combined History and Geography Library ("Biblioteca").  Right: inside is very modern, but still traditional with the "Silence" signs. An important practicality CSU students need to remember is bringing electricity adapters; Spain (and EU Europe) uses round-pin sockets.

John outside the University of Madrid History & Geography Library      University of Madrid Library with electrical socket on table

2. Visiting the CSU Office in Madrid.  Complutense University of Madrid provides office space for CSU staff: both local staff member and a rotating Resident Director (this year: Dr. Paula Sanmartín from CSU Fresno).  We met and discussed the similarities & differences of Spain's libraries for CSU students.

John with Dr Paula Sanmartín, CSU Resident Director in Madrid



1. Visiting the University of Granada's various Libraries.  Like other universities in Spain & Italy, the University of Granada's different departments are scattered throughout the city, as is all of its libraries. Sample libraries I visited were: (a) the historical heritage library, housed in a historic castle building (with high walls of books!) 

  University of Granada's historic heritage libraryJohn on a wallof books ladder at the University of Granada historical heritage library

(b) the Linguistics Library, housed in the basement of a historic stone building dating back for centuries. 

Basement Linguistics Library of the University of Granada  Basement Linguistics Library of the University of Granada 

(c) the Law Library (historic law books back for centuries!) and the Modern Languages Library (the Modern Language Center is where CSU students go to study intensive Spanish).

John holding a historic book in the University of Granada Law Library         John in front of the University of Granada's Modern Languages Center

2. Visiting the CSU Office.  Nearby the Modern Languages Center is the CSU office, with two resident staff members: Christian Butler and María José.  They assist our CSU students with everything from housing to course credits to visa matters.  The office has a small, in-house library of Spanish books (travel books, literature, dictionaries, etc.).  We discussed upgrading from the current paper log to an electronic check-out system.

John with CSU staff at the CSU Granada office   CSU Granada Center's in-house bookcase and check-out log


Visiting the University of Barcelona Libraries:  the University of Barcelona also has numerous libraries.  I visited its historical heritage library, containing both archival and modern works.  Left: the main reading room, with books walls all the way up to the ceiling!  Right: overlooking a huge assembly hall, adjacent to the library.  The architecture and design reflects both the Moorish (Islamic) and European (Renaissance) influences.

Inside the University of Barcelona library  John at the University of Barcelona, library-adjacent assembly hall


In 1970, the University of Paris was split into 13 autonomous universities, all in a common "University of Paris" system (similar to our 23 autonomous universities in the CSU system).  I visited several that particularly send/receive international students to & from California. For example:

1. Visiting the Université Paris Cité Libraries.  As is common, the Université Paris Cité has many department-based libraries. But several years ago it created somewhat of a main, or multi-subject, library.  Left: the architecture of the building is fascinating: a renovated 1901 brick flour mill factory, so it has a "industrial" interior design theme.  Right: common "Best Practices" on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean!  Telephone study booths are popular with their students too, the same as at CSUF.

Interior of University of Paris Cite Library     Telephone study booth inside University of Paris Cite Library

Left: as part of the factory design theme, the Reference Desk was designed with a natural pine look (but not so popular with all librarians).  Right: at the library entrance with Librarians Pauline Laurent and Laurie Badeau.  

John at the  Reference Desk of University of Paris Cite Library     John with librarians at entrance of University of Paris Cite Library

2. Visiting the Université Paris Nanterre Libraries.  The Université Paris Nanterre also has a main, or central, library--in addition to its many discipline-specific libraries--and it is very prominent.  Below: Built decades ago, it has a unique design: a "silo" tower in the middle, which houses it's archival and close-stack storage collections, and then two wings, which are the open shelves and reading/group study areas.

Exterior of University of Paris Nanterre Library     Interior of University of Paris Nanterre Library

Left: at a shelf with UDC classification for psychology.  The library, like so many other libraries in Europe, uses the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), which is similar to Dewey, but has even more expansion features. Right: meeting with my host librarians, Louis Tisserand and Magali Le Coënt

John by Universal Decimal Classification sign in University of Paris Nanterre Library

 John with librarians at University of Paris Nanterre

3. Visiting the University Paris-Est Créteil Libraries.  Similarly, the University Paris-Est Créteil has a main, or central, library, in addition to its many discipline-specific libraries.  Left: outside entrance.  Right: book shelves and reading areas (notice the sign on the column: no baguettes or wine, please).

John at the library entrance of the University of Paris UPEC      Interior of the University of Paris UPEC Library

Left: the Reference Desk.  I like the big Question Mark logo, behind, on the wall.  Middle: they also have a quiet study section.  I like the emoji-like graphic on the door entrance!   Right: meeting with my host, Librarian Marine Rigeade.

Reference Desk at University of Paris UPEC Library   Quiet area of University of Paris UPEC Library   John with Librarian of University of Paris UPEC Library    


1. Vising the French International Exchange agency and our CSU Resident Director.  The French government has an organization, MICEFA,  that coordinates the exchange of incoming CSU students and outgoing French students.  Left: I met with one of their directors, Rebecca Procak, at their office in Central Paris, to discuss the importance of information literacy and library awareness among students, along with CSU Resident Director in France, Dr. Preston Rudy (San Jose State University).  Right: the MICEFA banner and logos of the many University of Paris universities.

John at MICEFA office in Paris     MICEFA poster in Paris office  MICEFA poster in Paris office

2. Visiting a Paris Suburban Public Library.  I visited a random suburb library, rather than just the main central Paris Library, to get an up-close look at library outreach beyond the city center: the Vitry-sur-Seine Public Library, southeast of Paris.  The library is a modern building, named in honor of Nelson Mandela, and serves a multicultural community.  Left: the library exterior.  Right: chatting with a Reference Librarian.

John outside a Paris public library     John with a Paris public library Reference Librarian

Left: the book shelves of the library.  Right: a "discussion hut": a Best Practice feature they implemented a few years ago for group discussions

Book shelves of Paris public library     A "Discussion Hut" booth in the Paris public library