WA Secretary of State Blogs

The National Union Catalog never looked so good!

12371035_978424865556349_3448584737465999370_oWe all know the joy that a book can give us.  I suspect that curling up with a good book is one of life’s great pleasures for most of our readers.  But I doubt there are many people who would say that the National Union Catalog ever made them feel “warm and fuzzy”.  However this holiday season it has done just that.  The National Union Catalog is, of course, not traditionally used for tree construction.  According to Wikipedia “The National Union Catalog (NUC) is a printed catalog of books catalogued by the Library of Congress and other American and Canadian libraries, issued serially beginning in the 1950s… the set is a massive bibliography (754 volumes) compiled during the period from 1968 to 1981”  754 volumes of large green books what could be better for tree building?

Our tree is the brainchild of Mary Schaff one of the State Library’s crackerjack reference team.  It started with inspiration found on library Pinterest pages.  It turns out many libraries across the country have come up with the idea of a holiday tree made of books.  And a lot of libraries use Pinterest.  The NUC is an obvious choice because of the large green volumes, but other successful library trees have been made of bound journal volumes and other lesser-used publications.  And no one is better at documentation than librarians; instructions on how to create a book tree were found easily.

Once she had the go ahead from Crystal, Mary started building our tree.  12249757_978424868889682_6305688495417380389_nThe end result is a 7 foot ever evolving “tree” of joy.  Library patrons and staff check regularly to see what new items were added the previous day.  Some additions are anonymous, some are public but each change brings delight.  The public services staff report that the patrons love the tree and that it has completely changed the atmosphere in the library. The tree has served as a both a physical representation of holiday spirit, as well as a conversation starter about the NUC and the future of print books in libraries in general.  Many people are interested to know that only a fraction of the NUC was used to create the tree (about 220 volumes of the possible 754).12348010_978424872223015_8845830000677088247_n  Other speculations include the weight (a lot), the physical strain of moving the volumes (a good cardio workout), and what would happen if someone took a volume out at the bottom (highly improbable due to the weight of the volumes above, but let’s not test it out).  Rest assured that we are not utilizing books that are frequently used, nor are the books in danger of being damaged.  In fact, some resting time on their boards is probably a relief to these NUC volumes which have spent decades resting on their fragile edges and spines.  And that isn’t to say that the NUC isn’t still valuable.  As the Wikipedia article indicates, as of 2008 nearly ¼ of the volumes’ contents were still not listed in OCLC’s Worldcat.

We wonder if other libraries in our state have built trees from books this year.  We’d love to see what you’ve made.  Please send us your pictures of book trees or even general holiday decorations to [email protected].  If we get enough we might start our own Pinterest board.  We love seeing the creativity happening around Washington State.

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