Charleston 2012: The Twenty-First Century University Press: Assessing the Past, Envisioning the Future

Lecture by uniinnsbruck
“Lecture” by uniinnsbruck

Speaker: Doug Armato, the ghost of university presses past, University of Minnesota Press

The first book published at a university was in 1836 at Harvard. The AAUP began in 1928 when UP directors met in NYC to talk about marketing and sales for their books. Arguably, UP have been in some form of crisis since the 1970s, between the serials crisis and the current ebook crisis.

Libraries now account for only 20-25% of UP sales, with more than half of the sales coming from retail sources. UP worry about the library budget ecology and university funding as a whole.

“Books possessed of such little popular appeal but at the same time such real importance” from a 1937 publication called Some Presses You will Be Glad to Know About. Armato says, “A monograph is a scholarly book that fails to sell.”

Libraries complain that their students don’t read monographs. University Presses complain that libraries don’t buy monographs. And some may wonder why authors write them in the first place. UP rely on libraries to buy the books they publish for mission, not to recover the cost of production by being popular enough to be sold in the retail market.

Armato sees the lack of library concern over the University of Missouri Press potential closure and the UP role in the Georgia State case as bellwethers of the devolving relationship between the two, and we should be concerned.

But, there is hope. The evolving relationships with Project Muse and JSTOR to incorporate UP monographs is a sign of new life. UP have evolved, but they need to evolve much faster. UP press publications need better technology that incorporates the manual hyperlinks of footnotes and references into a highly linked database. A policy for copyright that favors authors over publishers is necessary.

Speaker: Alison Mudditt, ghost of university presses present, University of California Press

[Zoned out when it became clear this would be another dense essay lecture with very little interesting/innovative content, rather than what I’d consider to be a keynote. Maybe it’s an age thing? I just don’t have the attention span for a lecture anymore, and I certainly don’t expect one at a library conference. As William Gunn from Mendeley tweeted, “To hear people read speeches and not ask questions, that’s why we’re all in the same room.”]

Charleston 2012: hotel internet sucks edition

Scream by Daria
“Scream” by Daria

And so does the WordPress app for iPad, or at least the current version. I had drafts of the three sessions I attended this afternoon, ready to publish as soon as I returned to my room, which is the only place I can connect to the wifi. As soon as the WordPress connected to update, the contents of all three posts reverted to the blank drafts I had created as placeholders.

Yeah. Pissed. That’d be me right now.

In short:

Eresources librarians need to demonstrate their value to the library/university, and they either need more staff to do the increasing work, or other departments need to suck it up and process e-stuff like they should. And yes, someone needs to handle licensing, but that someone shouldn’t also be responsible for every little tiny detail of eresources management (i.e. cataloging, trouble-shooting, invoices, etc.) when there are staff already handling similar processes for other materials.

Librarians need to learn how to market eresources effectively, and assess their marketing strategies effectively. Marie Kennedy has a book coming out next year that can help you with that.

Eresources librarians (or licensing librarians) need to make sure language supporting text mining is included in their license agreements with publishers. Your researchers will thank you for it later, and your future self will be happy to not have to go back and renegotiate it into existing contracts.