History department houses free historical books


J’Mari HughesReporter

Students can find the history department’s office in Engleman Hall, which has been housing free books since October 2018.

“We have a lot of faculty that put books outside their doors,” said Jacqueline Isabella the history department’s secretary. “They just sort of line them up for free.”

Isabella said she informed the other faculties that the department wanted to collect the books outside of professor’s offices to combine into one area.

She said she asked for no more than five books per semester, which professors leave in the department. When the shelf began, Isabella said, it was full of books, some alphabetized by author and others on display by which she thought would catch students’ eyes.

“They’re really paring down now so I might have to take some more from their little doorways,” she said.

The shelf ranges from textbooks to novels, all relating to history. Christine Petto, chair of history department said some books come from publishers.

“They like to entice us to start using their books so sometimes we have textbooks or different kinds of books,” Petto said, “and [other professors] have so many that they think, ‘Ugh I have no place to put this’ and so those will end up on the shelf as well.”

Isabella said she spread the news of the shelf through the history department’s Facebook page and their newsletter. At least once a week, she said students come by to either take a book or read one before class.

Among the students who visits is Ryan Plourde, a senior, who said he learned of the books by being part of the history department.

“I’ve gotten a variety of books over the last year or so from these places, ranging from things about the first world war, to books on culture and ethics,” he said.

Plourde, who majors in history and special education, said he racked up over a dozen books from the department’s shelf and in the alcoves of professor’s offices.

Petto said the space creates a relationship with the department by letting majors and non-majors know they can read and take a book if they desire.

“It’s a nicer venue,” Petto said. “We created this space so that students could come and sit here so it’s nicer than going in the alcove where there’s a pile of books and sitting on the floor, whereas if they make their way here they can sit and read for a while.”

The shelf is not only limited to students. As Petto said, she read a book about the Lowell family and gave it to her brother.

Plourde said she thinks it is a great area for students to get books, especially history majors because it is easy and convenient to look through the shelf, take one book and be on his or her way.

“I’d love to see it be expanded and other professors who want to maybe learn to some of their books to contribute to it,” he said. “It’d be awesome if more book shelves were brought up.”

Isabella, a graduate of Southern, said she admires that the books are not strictly textbooks, rather ones that appeal to those interested in history.

“Good books for free—I think that’s pretty great,” she said. “We started this wondering how it was going to work out. It was sort of this grand experiment that could not end well and we’d have to scrap but I really think it’s been successful so I’m happy we did it.”

Photo Credit: J’Mari Hughes

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