Giant holiday book tree erected in Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center

University of Nevada, Reno tree, perhaps largest book tree ever, makes good use of beautiful old books

12/18/2012 - By: Angela Bakker
Holiday Book Tree in the Knowledge Center Alden Kamaunu and Larry Smith from the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries take a break after building the 2012 holiday book tree in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. Photography and time-lapse video courtesy of Nick Crowl.

The Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada, Reno has a giant and unconventional tree on display this holiday season. Some would call it a green tree, not just because of its color, but because the tree is made entirely of recycled materials - old books.

This is the second year the Knowledge Center has erected a holiday book tree, but this year the tree is almost twice the size, and according to research conducted by Knowledge Center librarians, the tree appears to be the largest book tree ever built.

"Our research librarians were not able to find a book tree this large anywhere else in the world. To the best of our knowledge, we're it," said Maggie Ressel, director of information service at the University Libraries. "Students love it because it has all those old dusty books, like a library, but it's fun and festive at the same time. It's a popular spot for photos."

The tree stands nearly 14 feet tall, and is constructed out of National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints. The rarely used reference books made an ideal book tree, with their evergreen covers and gold lettering on the spine.

Alden Kamaunu, manager of the center's building operations, took on the task of practically doubling the size of the tree this year.

"Last year, we used 347 books. This year, we used 600," he said. "When it was determined that we were going to make this an annual event, we felt a need to top ourselves while maintaining the original style of making it look like a real tree. We realized that we created an art piece last year and we needed to maintain that sense of class and holiday feel for our students during this busy time on campus."

The base of the tree is comprised of 12 books placed in a circle. As the tree grows in height, the number of books decreases to one final book at the top. Although the tree has not been weighed, Kamaunu estimates it weighs nearly 600 pounds. The unconventional nature of the tree doesn't end with the books. Wolfie Jr., one of the University mascots, tops off the tree, donning a Santa Claus hat. 

Kamaunu recruited library technician Larry Smith to help design and build the masterpiece.

"It may look simple enough, but most book trees look like pyramids. We wanted ours to look like a real tree. There was a lot of trial and error."

The tree is located in the atrium inside the main entrance of the Knowledge Center and will remain up until early January 2013.

For Knowledge Center hours visit the website or call (775) 784-4636. To view a time-lapse video of the tree's construction, go to 2012 Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center Book Tree on Flickr.


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