UCSB Leaders Pass Out Novels To Commemorate the Program’s Eight Year Anniversary

Thousands of free copies of Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, a historical account of the nation’s largest wildfire and its impact on Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, will be available at Davidson Library today as part of the campus’s eighth annual UCSB Reads program.

The program, designed to ignite discussion on a topic of particular importance to the local community, will continue throughout the quarter with discussions, film screenings, faculty panels and an art exhibition, before culminating in a visit from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The book details how the 1910 wildfire that spanned across Washington, Idaho and Montana lead to the formation of the U.S. Forest Service and put “conservationism” on the national agenda for the first time.

Chancellor Henry T. Yang, his wife Dilling Yang, University Librarian Denise Stephens and Associated Students President Jonathan Abboud will begin distributing copies of the book in the library at 10 a.m.

Stephens said the book’s subject matter hits particularly close to home for the Santa Barbara community because of the constant threat of wildfires and the damage they have caused the area in the past.

Additionally, Rebecca Metzger, Assistant University Librarian for Outreach and Academic Collaboration, said the book’s perspective has wider implications for the conservation movement and the politics of environmentalism.

“I think many people will be surprised to learn that the term ‘conservation’ only dates back to the early 20th century,” Metzger said. “President Teddy Roosevelt championed the idea of setting aside land for future generations. At the time, this idea met much resistance from government and industry.”

Metzger said the program aims to bring together students, faculty members and other community members to focus on a common topic of local concern.

“UCSB Reads is designed, first and foremost, to promote reading,” Metzger said. “A signature aim of the program is to get UCSB faculty and students interacting with the community, which is why we partner with the Santa Barbara Public Library System.”

Metzger said she hopes to continue the level of success that the program has built up in past years.

“Last year, we had a long line of students waiting for their free books starting half an hour before the giveaway. At Campbell Hall, for the author talk, we had a full house,” Metzger said. “I hope to see the same enthusiasm and interest this year.”

According to Stephens, the program is the result of a collaborative effort between various campus organizations and Davidson Library to provide as many useful and interesting activities as possible.

“Even while under construction, the UCSB Library continues to host exhibitions, events and other programming for the benefit of the UCSB and Santa Barbara communities,” Stephens said. “The UCSB Library looks forward to welcoming students, faculty, staff and the community throughout the Winter Quarter to our packed schedule of UCSB Reads programs.”


A version of this story appeared on page 1 of Wednesday, January 15, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.