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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 18, 2012

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

RENO, Nev. – 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.” 

Knowledge Center holiday book tree

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 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, go to or call 775-784-4636. To view a time-lapse video of the tree’s construction, go to   

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Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of 18,000 students and is ranked in the top tier of the nation’s best universities. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University has the system’s largest research program and is home to the state’s medical school. With outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties and with one of the nation’s largest study-abroad consortiums, the University extends across the state and around the world. For more information, visit 

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University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557
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University of Nevada, Reno/108
Reno, NV 89557
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