Posted in Events & Exhibits, Interesting News & Commentary

The Scottie Bookmas Tree: Historic Artifact?

Scottie Bookmas Tree
Click to see more pictures on our Flickr site!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday a few over-sized elves snuck into McCain Library and erected a holiday tree out of books!

But what if I need one of those books you may ask.  Don’t worry – unless you are trying to hunt down an obscure text published before 1954 you are safe.  The elves used roughly 345 volumes of the National Union Catalog to create this tree.  Before the digitization of resources and the Internet, this 754 volume set was the go-to resource for researchers who needed to know what books were available on a topic and which of the major research libraries in the United States held those books.  If you are familiar with card catalogs, just imagine a master catalog containing cards on every book available in the major libraries in the United States.

The National Union Catalog, also referred to as Mansell after the publisher of this behemoth index of knowledge, took 14 years and 34 million dollars to produce.  It was completed in 1981.

Today most researchers use to identify books available in libraries throughout the United States.  It is believed that most of the books indexed in the National Union Catalog are now available in, but since no one has checked every entry, most libraries still provide access to this collection.

As you walk past the Scottie Bookmas Tree we encourage you to imagine the students and faculty from the 70s, 80s and the 90s who may have used this collection.  Additional volumes are available on Floor 3 near the group study room if you have a moment to explore.   If you have used this collection of volumes, we would love to hear your stories!

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