What’s up with Christmas?

December 19th, 2014 by Kelci No comments »

As we get ready for the holidays here in Gleeson Library, I found myself wondering how we got our modern tradition of Christmas. What’s up with bringing a cut pine tree inside your home to decorate? What’s up with all the poinsettias? Why do Brits give gifts on Boxing Day, December 26, while here in the US we give gifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning?


The Gleeson tradition of erecting a Christmas Tree out of the National Union Catalog. Way to go, Access Services!

Lucky for us all, Gleeson Library has the sources you need to find out! Here are some Reference Books that will help us learn a lot more about Christmas:

The Folklore of American holidays by Hennig Cohen and Tristram Potter Coffin, editors, devotes nearly 40 pages to Christmas, and confirms that the religious roots of Christ’s birth coinciding with the date we now know as Christmas melded with pagan and mythological traditions: “The western date of Christmas was made to coincide with the Roman midwinter festival of the Kalends… many of the pre-Christian rites are still celebrated as part of Christmas: the evergreen decorations, the exchange of gifts or strenae, the indulgence in food and drink, the license in kissing and sexually related activities, the mumming” (p. 371).

Holidays, festivals, and celebrations of the world dictionary by Helene Henderson, editor. This one is fun because it has pages and pages of entries dedicated to Christmas the world over, so you can easily see how Christmas traditions vary around the world. 

Encyclopedia of Christmas by Tanya Gulevich & illustrated by Mary Ann Stavros-Lanning. This is our go-to for all things Christmas and will answer our question, “What’s up with the Christmas Tree?” (Hint: most scholars can’t agree on the legend of the Christmas tree, but the earliest written record of “Christmas Tree” is from Germany in 1561 — see page 141!)


Through the course of my recent research on holidays, I was fascinated to see a world wide movement of nationalizing holidays took place in the last half of the 19th Century — Thanksgiving was made a national U.S. holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln (previously it was a Northeastern holiday) and Boxing Day was made a national holiday by Parliament in England/The UK in 1871 (previously it was known as St. Stephen’s Day). There have been feasts and festivals all throughout history, but much of our modern day holiday traditions have only been standardized and canonized in the last 150 years or so. 

There is still time to check these out for yourself! Gleeson Library will be open until 6 pm today 12/19, 10 am – 6 pm tomorrow 12/20, 8 am – 6 pm on Monday 12/22, and 8 am – 4 pm on Tuesday 12/23. See our hours for more info, and most importantly, have a very merry Christmas!

Library Brand Canned Foods – Champaign, IL

December 19th, 2014 by Larry T. Nix No comments »

Librariana comes in multiple varieties and formats. One of the more unusual examples of librariana is the label from a can of sweet corn which is shown above. Library Brand Canned Foods was a label for the Eisner Grocery Co. of Champaign, Illinois. Eisner Food Stores was a chain of stores headquartered in Champaign, but located throughout central Illinois. The chain was acquired by the Jewel Companies in 1957. The building shown on the label is the library building of the University of Illinois completed in 1897 now known as Altgeld Hall. It now houses the Mathematics Library of the University of Illinois. 

ILLIAD Service Enhancement Friday, January 2nd, 9:01 PM – 12:00 PM, January 3rd , 2015

December 18th, 2014 by joscampi No comments »

toolbox Happy Holidays  ILLiad Users!

ILLiad is scheduled for a fifteen hour service interruption on January 2nd at 9:01 PM         till 12:00 PM, January 3rd, 2015. While these service enhancements were scheduled    late Friday evening to early Saturday morning, we hope they minimize any inconvenience    for our ILLiad users.

Questions? Email us at ill@usfca.edu. Thank you!

Library History Buff Holiday Letter 2014

December 16th, 2014 by Larry T. Nix No comments »
Exhibit at Hales Corners Public Library, 1 of 10 month long exhibits in 2014
Seasons Greetings from the Library History Buff!

This holiday letter focuses on my library history promotional activities in 2014.

One of the more interesting activities for me this year was facilitating the transfer of the Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection to the American Library Association Archives at the Universisty of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

A number of my activities revolved aroung the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC), a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. I am completing my sixth and final year as Chair of the Steering Committee for the WLHC. I am particularly proud of my involvement with the selection of inductees into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame which is a project of the WLHC. This year five additional individuals were inducted.

Another project of the WLHC is the sponsorship of an exhibit of Wisconsin library memorabilia. This year my wife and I set up the exhibit at ten different libraries around the state for a one month period at each. To do this we traveled almost 3,000 miles.

The WLHC sponsored a booth in the exhibits area at the WLA Annual Conference in Wisconsin Dells, and I set up and staffed the booth.

I entered exhibits related to postal librariana at stampshows in Denver, St. Louis, and Milwaukee this year. My one frame exhibit on the American Library Association in World War I won gold medals at all three. My ten frame exhibit on libraries and the mail in 20th century American won vermeil medals (the level between gold and silver) at all three stampshows.

Of course, I continued to blog on The Library History Buff Blog by posting more than 50 articles. I also continued to maintain the Library History Buff website.

All in all a good year for promoting library history.

Happy holidays to all!

A New Library for Bellows Falls, VT 1908

December 15th, 2014 by Larry T. Nix No comments »

Laying the corner stone is a ceremonial highlight in the building process for a new library building. This occasion for the library building in Bellows Falls, VT was captured in a photograph on October 8, 1908. The photograph was printed on the Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) which is shown above, and is part of my library postcard collection. The postcard was mailed on December 29, 1908. The library is named the Rockingham Free Public Library for the Town of Rockingham which it serves along with the Village of Bellows Falls. The library's website has a brief history of the library and includes the same image as the postcard. The building was made possible by a $15,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie. It was dedicated on November 23, 1909.