Over several decades various monographs have appeared that include the words “international librarianship” in their titles, but most of these are compilations of chapters by various authors, describing library conditions in particular foreign countries or regions. Most have done little to systematise or develop a conceptual framework for international librarianship. In this article an attempt is made to fill this gap. Varying uses of the word “international” and the relationship between international and comparative librarianship are examined, before the motivations or rationales of writers on international librarianship are categorised: exoticism, philanthropy, extending national influence, promoting international understanding, internationalism, cooperation, innovation, advancing knowledge, and self-understanding. The possibilities of librarians in different countries learning from one another are critically examined. It is proposed that international librarianship, as a field of
study or an academic sub-discipline, refers to, in a narrower sense, the systematic study of similarities and differences between countries, and their causes; international relations and influences; and international cooperation and the role of international organisations, insofar as these relate to libraries and librarianship. Themes that should be covered in a syllabus or basic text on international librarianship are listed.