Welcome Guide for International Students

Welcome to the University Libraries! This page provides an introduction to our resources and services, as well as our library system. Some aspects of our library may be familiar to you, or they may be totally new.

We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate our library so that you can access what you need, when you need it. We want your experience with us to be an enjoyable and productive!

Our librarians and staff are here to help you. If you need help finding materials or resources, conducting your research, or just have general questions, ask for assistance at any of our service areas, call us, or submit your inquiry through our “Ask a Librarian” service found on every page of the University Libraries website. We also have librarians at many campuses who are focused on helping international students, visiting scholars, and other international patrons.

Note that most of our resources and services are available to the Penn State community free of charge – and largely online.

About Libraries in the United States

While there are many types of libraries in the United States, the common characteristic is that they are focused on serving their community. The University Libraries is an academic library (or research library), and the main goal of academic libraries is assisting students, faculty, staff, and visitors with their learning and research needs. Academic libraries also provide study space, technology equipment, specialized research assistance, and leisure resources.

In general, libraries in the United States use an “open stacks” system where access to materials is not restricted. This means that library visitors can directly browse and select materials from the shelves in physical buildings and online. Some exceptions to the open stacks system are made for special collections and archives materials (which include rare and fragile items), off-site storage, and equipment. In these cases, items are accessed through service desks.

 More information about libraries in the United States is found in this introductory library guide.

About the University Libraries

Our library network includes libraries at all 24 Penn State campus locations, including Penn State’s World Campus. See our library locations and departments page to learn about our locations across the Commonwealth and at University Park.

The University Libraries employs professional librarians and specialist staff. Most of our librarians are University faculty, and they teach classes, conduct research, and write articles and books like other Penn State faculty. Library employee training emphasizes friendliness, research, technology, and service. Our top priority is to help you find what you need to ensure that you succeed in your studies or research.

Find Materials

To find books, journals, videos, and other materials, use the search box on the Libraries homepage. Our online search tools allow you to find materials from all University Libraries locations. You have access to almost all of the Libraries materials and resources at any Penn State campus and it is quick and easy to request items from other Libraries locations. You also have access to most of our electronic materials from anywhere with an internet connection.

If you need an item or resource that we do not own or subscribe to, we can get most materials for you by borrowing items from other libraries. This interlibrary loan (ILL) service is provided at no cost to you.

On-site materials can be located using the item’s call number. Here in the Penn State Libraries, we use the Library of Congress call number system to help you find materials on the shelves. Check out our Understanding Call Numbers Tutorial for assistance or Ask a Librarian.

My Library Account

You can log into your Library Account to view materials you have borrowed and requested as well as any overdue items or fines you might have. See our My Library Accounts overview page for more information.

Visit our Borrow & Renew information for details about borrowing privileges, policies, fines and fees.

Course Reserves & Guides

Course Reserves make it possible for you to check out course materials such as textbooks and other class readings through the library at no cost. Because many students use the reserve service, reserve items generally have short loan periods, ranging from a few hours to a few days. There are two types of course reserves:

  • Electronic reserves, or e-reserves, which make materials available electronically.
  • Physical reserves, which can be found at a service desk, where you check materials out using your ID card.

In addition to course reserves, we also provide Course Guides. These guides are designed for students and are created by Penn State librarians. They contain databases, resources, and other information which may be useful for students enrolled in a specific course.

Need help? We’ll work with you to find, access, and evaluate, and use library resources for your research. Here’s how:


At the University Libraries, you can borrow more than just books. We provide a wide variety of technology equipment and services available for academic, research, professional, and personal use. You can also borrow technology such as laptops, iPads, calculators, chargers, audio-visual equipment, and other specialized equipment.

In our spaces we provide the Penn State community with internet access either through public desktop computers (PCs and Macs) or through WiFi. In addition to standard office software, some of our computers also have feature specialized software like Adobe Creative Cloud applications, statistical software, and data analysis tools. Many University Libraries locations also have spaces and resources for specialized tech needs including 3D printing, audio and video recording booths, and prototyping.

Visit our Technology & Equipment page for more information.


When our locations are open, you are welcome to utilize a number or rooms and spaces like group study rooms and collaborative spaces. Visit our Rooms and Spaces page for more information.

Research Support

Whether you are an undergraduate student, graduate student, staff member, or faculty member, we can help you get started with your research.

Each Libraries location has at least one highly trained librarian whose job responsibilities include being available to provide research assistance. If you have a question related to libraries or research, please contact us! We can’t say it enough. It is our job to assist you with your questions. We want you to succeed in your research and studies.

We also offer expertise in research data management, digital humanities data analysis, data visualization, mapping, statistical analysis, and open publishing. For direct access to these services and resources, visit our Research Informatics and Publishing department.

Get started with your research:

Library Terminology

Libraries often use specialized terms to describe some of the services and resources that we offer. Our Multilingual Library Terms Guide explains some Penn State-specific terms and offers translations in other languages.

International Student Liaisons

We have librarians at many campuses who are focused on helping international students, visiting scholars, and other international patrons. Contact the librarians listed below for help, or contact your subject specialist librarian. 

Some of these librarians also participate in a Personal Librarian program focused on international students. Make sure to ask your liaison about this.

University Resources