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YMCA Historical Library and Kautz Family YMCA records

Identifier: Y.USA.72


Records primarily of the YMCA Historical Library as well as a small amount of material from its subsequent incarnation as the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, including correspondence, cataloging data and classification schemes, lists of holdings, bibliographies, policies and reports, and other documents. Major portions of the material date from the 1880s through the early 1900s, when Jacob Bowne, was actively building and working with the collection, and document his efforts to locate and curate relevant material as well as his work on cataloging and classification. The period of the 1970s, when the library was under the direction of John Randle, is also especially rich and includes many topical files and material related to projects and initiatives in which the Library was engaged. They also reflect the ongoing struggle to demonstrate the Library's relevance to the YMCA and to secure needed resources. Files from the 1980s and beyond document the decision to move the collection to the University of Minnesota and the mass deacidification project that was subsequently undertaken to preserve the material. The collection also includes a series of "early records" consisting of general YMCA historical records. These records were not generated by or about the Historical Library in particular, but rather were probably part of the material collected by the Library documenting YMCA history.


  • Creation: 1855-2002


Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.


The American YMCA movement recognized from relatively early in its lifetime the importance and usefulness of documenting its own history. In 1877, in preparation for becoming General Secretary of the YMCA in Hudson, New York, Jacob T. Bowne asked the International Committee (the governing body for the YMCA in the U.S. at the time) for historical material and was disappointed to learn there were no official archives of basic YMCA records. Shortly thereafter, he began collecting a library of YMCA records himself. In 1880, when the International Committee began using the Newburg, New York Association as a training school for general secretaries, the collection, soon to be known as the YMCA Historical Library, began serving the national movement. By 1882, the first catalog of holdings was published and in 1885, the collection was formally donated to by Bowne to the International Committee to hold in trust for the Young Men's Christian Associations of North America. By 1890 it had grown to nearly 1250 volumes, consisting of reports, periodicals, and other publications of the YMCA (local, national, and international); and other similar or relevant organizations, both religious and secular, as well as photographs and engravings.

The historical library moved to Springfield, Massachusetts when the YMCA Training School (later Springfield College) was established there in 1890. Under the direction of Bowne, who became its first official Librarian, it was cataloged using the Dewey Decimal System. In 1895, in collection with the International Convention of YMCAs held in Springfield that year, the library produced its first exhibit; it included rare books and manuscripts, as well as over two hundred framed phtotographs of Association buildings, conferences, and individuals.

In 1908, the collection moved to the newly constructed YMCA headquarters in New York City. A decade later, it boasted over 40,000 books, pamphlets, and documents. The Association's annual report of 1919 described the library as "a rare laboratory, the value of which cannot be overstimated" for the student of interdenominational Christian effort, and "the most complete reservoir of Association data in existence."

After a period of austerity, beginning during the Depression, which saw library staff reduced to one part-time librarian, a committee was established in 1948 to redefine the function of the library and recommend new plans for its oversight and management. The library continued to flourish and expand in its services and collections, and in 1966 relocated to a "modern, spacious, air-conditioned room" on the ninth floor of the New York headquarters, adjoining the Research and Planning Department. In 1976, the celebration of the library's centennial highlighted its dual roles as a historical collection serving researchers looking for historical information and as a modern corporate library serving YMCA staff in need of current information.

In 1980, when the YMCA of the USA relocated its headquarters from New York to Chicago, limited space and budget did not permit the Historical Library to make the move. The collections were packed and placed in temporary storage, pending a decision on their disposition. After a process of consulting to determine the best home for the material, the YMCA of the USA agreed to send it to the University of Minnesota, where it would complement the existing Social Welfare History Archives. In 1985, the YMCA Archives opened in University facilities near its St. Paul campus, under the direction of curator Andrea Hinding. In recognition of a significant gift from Richard C. Kautz, businessman and YMCA lay leader, the collection was renamed the Kautz Family YMCA Archives in 1996. The donation funded critical preservation work on the collection material, the centerpiece of which was a mass deacidification project, one of the largest such projects in North America. The project spanned three years and ensured the long-term preservation of 9,500 books and more than four million sheets of manuscript materials. Preservation and access to the material were also greatly enhanced by the 1999 move to the new Elmer L. Andersen Library in the west bank area of the University campus. The new facility brought the Kautz Family YMCA Archives and the other University of Minnesota archives and special collections units physically together for the first time.


8.8 Cubic Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials



Records primarily of the YMCA Historical Library as well as a small amount of material from its subsequent incarnation as the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, including correspondence, cataloging data and classification schemes, lists of holdings, bibliographies, policies and reports, and other documents.

Processing Information

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP073

Catalog Record ID number: 9974845603701701

YMCA Historical Library and Kautz Family YMCA Archives
An Inventory of their Papers
Lara Friedman-Shedlov
February 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area