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University of Minnesota Libraries records

Identifier: ua-00866

Scope and Content

The collection contains the administrative records of the Libraries on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Materials date from 1870-2011 with the bulk from the 1940s-1980s. While the collection is divided into multiple series and subseries, there will be overlap especially with materials in the Administration series. Researchers should consult all series and subseries for related files.

The collection is divided into the following series and subseries.

Series 1: Administration contains correspondence, planning files, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, and budgetary information. It is divided into the following subseries:

  1. Alphabetical Files contain primarily correspondence and were probably assembled as part of a central filing system. These files have been maintained in their original order.
  2. Budgets and Contracts includes files relating to general budgets and contracts. Budgets related to specific libraries can be found in the Main Libraries or Branch and Special Collections Libraries series.
  3. Committees and Groups contains meeting minutes, agendas, correspondence and related reports of committees, groups, and organizations both within and outside the University of Minnesota.
  4. Correspondence contains general or miscellaneous correspondence files.
  5. Faculty and Staff contains committee meeting minutes, reports, guidelines, and correspondence relating to library faculty and staff.
  6. Grants documents local, regional and national grants awarded to the Libraries.
  7. Ralph Hopp includes records created and assembled by Hopp in his role as University Librarian.
  8. Library Governance and Miscellaneous includes policies, procedures, planning and other documentation of the Libraries and library leadership and other miscellaneous files.
  9. Reports contains annual and task force reports.
  10. E.B. Stanford includes records created and assembled by Stanford in his role as University Librarian.
  11. Surveys contain primarily internal surveys. Of note is the complete records of a patron survey completed in 1991 that includes all the main libraries on campus.

Series 2: Branch and Special Collections Libraries are divided into subseries by library name, including I.T. Libraries, Ames Library of South Asia, the Mines Library, Music Library, etc. Libraries that have little documentation in the collection are grouped together under a Miscellaneous subseries.

Series 3: Departments is divided into the following subseries:

  1. Acquisitions
  2. Minitex
  3. Reference
  4. Systems
  5. Technical Services
  6. Miscellaneous

Series 4: Main Libraries contains information regarding the 4 main libraries on the Twin Cities campus. Materials include building plans, budgets, and reports, and are divided into subseries by Library building.

Series 5: Media includes VHS tapes.

Series 6: Publications includes reports, newsletters, mailings, and bulletins.


  • Creation: 1870-2011


Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

The First Annual Report of the University’s Board of Regents, submitted to the Minnesota Territorial Legislature February 7, 1852, notes that a “valuable donation to the Library has been made by the Smithsonian Institute, consisting of six volumes of the Annals of Congress, previous to 1800. Also books and pamphlets from the Hon. H. H. Sibley.” The early years of the University were marked by fragile economic circumstances, struggling academic programs, and, for a time in the 1850s and 1860s, closure. The 1869 Committee on Organization Report to the Board of Regents, which outlined the academic and administrative structure for the soon-to-be reopened University, calls for “a respectable beginning of a library…consisting of several thousand volumes of the most valuable reference books in the various departments of science and literature.”

William Watts Folwell, the University’s first president, also oversaw the library during his presidency. When he resigned as president in 1884, he began a dual appointment as professor of political science and librarian. During President Folwell’s administration as librarian, the Dewey Decimal System was adopted and the first library building on campus was completed in 1895, later named Burton Hall (1931).

Hired in 1906, James T. Gerould served as the first full-time University Librarian. He is credited with bringing about administrative reorganization for the Libraries and overseeing the growth of the collection from 50,000 to nearly 250,000 volumes. A new library building was opened in 1924, later named Walter Library (1959).

A Division of Library Instruction was approved by the Board of Regents in 1928, and the University Librarian also served as the Director of the Division. In 1953, the Division became the Library School within the College of Science, Literature and the Arts reporting to a separate Library School Director.

Several special collections and archives were established in the 1950s and 1960s, including the James Ford Bell Collection, the Kerlan Collection of children’s literature, the Social Welfare History Archives, and the Immigration History Archives. As the University Twin Cities campus expanded to the West Bank area, University Libraries also expanded, opening Wilson Library on the West Bank campus in 1968.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Library of Congress classification system for books was adopted and over one million catalog records were converted to a machine readable format, making the University of Minnesota Libraries the first major academic library in the U.S. to convert its card catalog to an online format.

Technological advances in the 1990s encompassed electronic course reserves, online tools to help undergraduates locate and use library resources, and an online reference service for distance education students. The Elmer L. Andersen Library opened in 2000 combining an above-ground facility for special collections and archives units and below-ground storage caverns.

In 2004, the Libraries adopted the following mission statement as part of a strategic planning process, “The University Libraries inspire learning and discovery through information resources, collaboration, and expertise.” By the early 2010s, the University of Minnesota Libraries’ holdings included over 7 million volumes and 109,000 serial subscriptions and annual visitors totaled more than 2 million.

University Librarians

  1. William Watts Folwell, 1884-1906
  2. James T. Gerould, 1906-1920
  3. Ina Ten Eyck Firkins, Interim, 1920-1921
  4. Frank K. Walter, 1921-1943
  5. Errett W. McDiarmid, 1943-1951
  6. Edward B. Stanford, 1951-1971
  7. Ralph Harvey Hopp, 1971-1976
  8. Eldred R. Smith, 1976-1987
  9. John R. Howe, Jr., Interim, 1987-1989
  10. Thomas W. Shaughnessy, 1989-2001
  11. Peggy Johnson, Interim, 2001-2002
  12. Wendy Pradt Lougee, 2002-present


206 boxes (235.5 cubic feet)


Collection contains the administrative records of the Twin Cities campus Libraries of the University of Minnesota.


The collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Administration
  2. Branch and Special Collections Libraries
  3. Departments
  4. Main Libraries
  5. Media
  6. Publications

Most series are further divided into subseries.

Source of acquisition

The collection was transferred to University Archives in various accretions over the past 50 years.

Related Materials in University Archives

University of Minnesota Library School Records

Senate Library Committee Records

James Gerould Papers

Frank Walter Papers

E.W. McDiarmid Papers

Edward Stanford Papers

Ralph Hopp Papers

Processing Information

The collection was processed by a grant awarded to University Archives by the University of Minnesota Libraries.

University of Minnesota Libraries Records, 1870-2011
Karen Spilman
January 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area