Change starts in the local library


One of the things I really like about teaching an online American Environmental History class at UMass is that my course is offered through the university's Division of Continuing Education. That means my students tend to be older and are mostly non-history majors. Many are non-traditional students: working people finishing up a bachelor's degree they've been working on at night or, more recently, online. Taking the General Education requirement they missed along the way.

So I've tried to build my class and my textbook for these people. And my hope is that, in addition to being useful in college courses like my own, the textbook might be interesting and useful to regular people. Because I think a widespread public understanding of our history that includes the environment is critical, if we're going to make any progress toward a more sustainable social order in the twenty-first century

I know, it seems like a kind-of high-falutin idea, when I write it down like that. But isn't that pretty much what we're really working for? So I've been thinking, how do I get this message out to more people? There just aren't enough regular people getting on Goodreads or Amazon and searching for new books about Environmental History.

But there are a lot of regular people visiting their local libraries

So I've decided to donate copies of the book to libraries. There are a lot of libraries in the U.S. and lots of people still use them pretty extensively. So maybe if my book is sitting on a shelf of newly acquired titles, people will pick it up and take a look. The way the math works out, I'll break even if I send a copy to a library for every three books I sell. If I don't sell a lot of books, maybe I'll try some type of crowd-funding scheme.

I'm not saying my American Environmental History textbook is the only EnvHist title that ought to be available for people in local libraries. But I can buy my own book for a fraction of the cost of other people's titles. Maybe someday there'll be a big foundation stocking local library shelves with EnvHist titles. That would be pretty cool. In the meantime, I'm going to start sending copies of my book to libraries later this week, when my first box of books arrives.