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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Bubble Light Christmas Tree

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 05, 2010

The passing of Thanksgiving Day signals that it is time for me to put up my small Christmas tree in my office at the library.

 

It is just a little artificial tree that fits on my filing cabinet, but it is covered with “bubble lights.”

 

You see, my spouse is not a “bubble light” person, so we agreed years ago that my bubble light tree would be in my office, where I could enjoy it.

 

Now the bubble light tree has become a tradition for library staff.

 

Actually, the bubble light tree represents tradition, in the same way the library system has tradition.

 

When formed in 1899, the library provided books and magazines to its users.  In 2010, we still do that, but books have been supplemented with a variety of new media from DVDs to E-Books.

 

The purpose of the library remains unchanged from its founding, but the tools and methods have upgraded and changed with time.

 

Our recent levy campaign brought forth people’s library stories, the traditions of a public library that remain unchanged over the years.

 

So many people expressed the impact that a public library had on their lives, from a child into adulthood.

 

In today’s society, we are looking for that mix of tradition and new technology that makes us feel comfortable as well as take full advantage of the offerings of technology.

 

At the library, you can use the Internet and download an E-Book, or walk up to the desk and talk to a librarian.

 

Back to my bubble light tree, I loved those early bubble lights that appeared on Christmas trees in the 1950s.

 

When I was growing up, our tree had about 10 bubble lights, as they were expensive and you scattered them around the tree to make it appear that you had lots of bubble lights on your tree.

 

I enjoyed watching the magic of the bubbles going up the glass tube from the colorful electric bulb.

 

Bubble lights disappeared from popularity for awhile, but returned, although they are still more expensive than regular Christmas lights.

 

But, I purchased enough for a little tree, and a couple of spares when a light burns out.

 

The tree also has ornaments that I have been given over the years as the tree has become known to staff.

 

Ornaments from a library party, bells given by a departed staffer, a couple of library models, and gold beads from a retired librarian all adorn the tree.

 

Favorites to me are three ornaments that I found in a box with my name on the outside, when I was sorting through my father’s Estate.

 

The box contained three plastic ornaments that I was allowed to purchase at S.S. Kresge Co. about 1960.  For you folks younger than 40, Kresge’s were a chain of discount stores that operated until 1987 around the country.

 

Anyway, my mother took me to Kresge’s and gave me 50 cents to purchase “my ornaments” for our Christmas tree, and I selected a gold plastic star, and silver plastic star, and a gold plastic sunburst.

 

As years passed, I had forgotten about the ornaments that had been placed in a box for me.

 

So, the tree of traditions joins the letter from Andrew Carnegie, and a picture of Dr. Reid who wrote to Carnegie, a framed poem about librarians, and the computer system in my office.

 

And so it is in the library, traditions and new technology, all rolled into one package for you, the library user.