MC Library Christmas Tree
MC Library Christmas Tree

SHREWSBURY –  A husband thinning out his supply of paperbacks and an innovative and thoughtful wife who looked at the discarded paper as craft material  resulted in several of the unique and beautiful ornaments  carved from 500 pages of discarded science fiction books now on display at the Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library. Each of the various ornaments on the tree is made from recycled materials decorating an also  generously donated eleven foot Puleo International Tree Co. artificial tree.

The talented wife is Coleen Hopson of Oceanport, a year round volunteer at Eastern Branch, who is as generous as she is talented.  In July Hopson suggested to Eastern Branch Supervising Librarian Kim Avagliano that she make ornaments for a large tree to celebrate the holiday season and be displayed at the library. She explained she would use, among other things, a beautifully illustrated book, “Tiffany’s 150 Years” she had among the items she keeps for repurposing. The book had been her mother’s, and while Hopson did not need it any longer, the illustrations were too beautiful to ignore. So she sought out sources online and learned to create stars from the pages.  From her husband’s discarded science fiction books, Hopson created many of the larger ornaments on the tree. In Hopson style, not wasting anything, the artist used the leftover cuttings to make a garland.

Library Whimsy Bulb Fly Reads Book
Library Whimsy Bulb Fly Reads Book

Next the creative artist found spent light bulbs she kept in her repurpose stash and thought she could make some bugs from the bulbs. Some old x-rays she also had in her stockpile of discards were the right color and stiffness to cut out perfect wings and voila! Hopson created Book Bugs for the library’s tree.

Next Hopson took some pages from a Shakespearean collection that was no longer useable for reading, and designed fanned out book pages with medallions on one side cut from greeting cards, and small jam jar lids with various sayings, a souvenir from a trip to Scotland, for the other side.  The preserved sentiments on the jar lids add extra joy. She added glitter  and a flower to the words that include, “Sweet, Spread a Llittle Joy, and “Savor the Moment,” and of course, as a lover of the library,  her own words. “Smile, Read, Love Life.”

And so the supply of ornaments multiplied and diversified. Hopson’s Book Bugs are on the tree sitting on books, some even with bug stories. The roses on the tree are from book pages and finished with a glitter ball in the center. Even the Tree Topper is recycled. Hopson created that from wooden dowels wrapped in paper, decorated with glitter and held in place in a Styrofoam ball center.


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With Christmas nearing, and Hopson still seeking a tall tree for the display, library staffers suggested Craig’s List  and Hopson found a tree for sale just before Halloween. The 11 foot tree was perfect, she told the seller, and Puleo is recognized as the oldest family name for Christmas trees in the nation. However, once she explained to the seller she was buying the tree for the County library, he was equally generous and said he would prefer to donate it for the display. Not only that, a thrilled Avagliano and Hopson recall, but the donor even delivered the tree to Eastern Branch.

Library Whimsy paper ornaments
Paper ornaments on Christmas tree.

The result of all the ingenuity, talent and generosity is a magnificent display of ornaments in a variety of designs, and already the focus of attention at the library for family and group photography backgrounds.

Nor are all of Hopson’s creations on the tree. Perched on the Reference desk are some Reading Angels, these handmade from discarded copies of the New Jersey Criminal Code. Look closely at them, two have the faces of Renaissance period angels, the others are from Byzantine art.   

“Coleen’s generosity and talent have long been known to all the library users at Eastern Branch,” Avagliano said,   “She loves to create things, has a lot of energy and talent, and has done many things for the library in the past. She has made many decorations for many events over the years but is probably best known for the wonderful Mad Hatter/Alice in Wonderland Tea Party table display. We have also featured some of her work in the library’s display cases and people are still talking about the program she gave several years ago on making flowers from paper and plastic. She simply repurposes discarded things into art and we are all the beneficiaries of her generosity and talent.”

The tree will remain on display in the library until the end of the year, and visitors are invited to take their own personal photos in front of it.  Tag the library on Instagram @MonCoLibrary, then bring the youngsters over for unique photographs of a special tree.

As to Hopson, she thinks she owes thanks to the library!  Her only comments on the variety, beauty and uniqueness of the ornaments were  “I hope you have as much fun enjoying the tree as I had making the ornaments.  My thanks to Kim, and the Eastern Branch Library, for indulging me in my whimsy.”

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...