-written by Jill Bambenek, Public Services Librarian
The National Union Catalog (NUC) is a list of all books, pamphlets, maps, atlases and music in the Library of Congress as well as major works in over 750 other libraries across the United States and Canada. Before the Internet, the National Union Catalog was the only way to discover books in nearby libraries for Interlibrary Loan. Even though these searches can now be done quickly through a library’s website or WorldCat, the NUC is still important because as of 2005, an estimated 27% of books from before 1956 only be found in the National Union Catalog!
In 1901, the Library of Congress began a cooperative program with the New York Public Library, the Boston Library, the Harvard University Library and the John Crerar Library to exchange information about the books and other materials each institution held. This program quickly grew to include the Newberry Library, the libraries of the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, in addition to many others across the country. In 1963, the Library of Congress decided to publish these records on all materials published before 1956. The resulting NUC: Pre-1956 Imprints is sometimes referred to as the “Mansell” in reference to the publisher. The 754 volume set was published over a period of 13 years and weighs around a ton and a half!
The NUC Christmas Tree
The first Christmas tree created from the National Union Catalog was created in 2006 at the University of Aalborg Library in Aalborg, Denmark. Since then, the tradition has spread with NUC Christmas trees appearing in the libraries of Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, the University of Nevada at Reno and Minnesota State University. The tradition has become particularly popular at the University of San Francisco’s Gleeson Library.
Our tree was designed by Bryan Deziel and constructed by Jill Bambenek, Jason Carter, Amanda Jachec, Isabelle Ryan and Bryan Deziel using 477 volumes of the 754 Pre-1956 Imprints. The National Union Catalog Tree is a good example of repurposing materials to create a sustainable tree for the Crown Library. The volumes of the Union Catalog used to create this tree will be returned to the collection after the holiday season.