First Annual University Press Week: A Report from the Task Force Chair

The capstone to AAUP’s 75th anniversary year was the first annual University Press Week, “an opportunity to raise awareness of the work of university presses within their communities and around the world” and “to celebrate the value and quality of university presses with one voice.”

In January 2012, at the invitation of AAUP’s director of marketing and communications, Brenna McLaughlin, the first University Press Week Task Force came together with the following members: Colleen Lanick (MIT), Melissa Pitts, (British Columbia), Michael Roux (Illinois), Leila Salisbury (Mississippi), Mark Saunders (Virginia), and myself, representing Kent State as task force chair. MaryKatherine Callaway (Lousiana State), AAUP’s then-President, served as an ex officio member. McLaughlin coordinated our efforts, ably executing additions to the website, reporting to the task force, and liaising with stakeholders, with the assistance of communications coordinator Regan Colestock.

Starting in late January, our group met semimonthly through an AAUP-sponsored conference call. From the beginning we held lively discussions with a variety of ideas mooted, chewed on, digested, and adopted or shelved. The marketing professionals in our group—which happily were in the majority—were particularly valuable in shaping what will be an annual celebration.

When would the first University Press Week be held? After some discussion, we settled on the week beginning November 11, well after universities’ summer hiatus and the AAUP Annual Meeting, while dodging Election Day in the US and the subsequent holiday season.

Next, we developed a broad outline of the purpose and scope of University Press Week and drafted a Purpose Statement (quoted above), which lists planned events and activities: “an online gallery of ‘Best Books’ selected by presses to exemplify their work; local events, including talks, publishing workshops, and bookstore displays; partnerships with publishing service providers to highlight AAUP members' books and projects; and online tools to promote greater awareness of the breadth and depth of university press contributions to scholarship and society.”

I’m pleased to report that all of our plans were realized—and more. Here are the major accomplishments of the Task Force:

  • A UP Week logo design competition was held for staff from member presses. Several fine entries were received. The winning design by Washington’s Tom Eykemans garnered two complimentary AAUP Annual Meeting registrations for his press.
  • Lively discussion and voting among the task force resulted in the branding of the best books list as “Fine Print*” (*and digital!). Task force members agreed it was important not to limit the list to print or to books, but to include journals and digital. Using criteria of their choosing, each member press was invited to select one publication as representative of its program. The resulting Fine Print* gallery of more than 100 entries is impressive by any measure.
  • We solicited testimonials from a broad range of stakeholders: authors, university faculty and administrators, public intellectuals, politicians, and other thought and policy leaders. The assembled accolades make us all proud.
  • AAUP developed tools for member presses to build Influence Maps and built a central map to organize them. The maps graphically represent the geographic impact of our diverse membership using a variety of criteria such as press or author location, the subject matter of publications, and global sales reach. More than 30 presses have constructed a map, and the list is growing.
  • Press release and letter-to-the-editor templates were created for individual presses to publicize University Press Week regionally or nationally. These include talking points customizable depending on audience.kentstatepromo
  • AAUP provided University Press Week bookmarks and a customizable poster design for presses to use for displays and events during UP Week.
  • The Charleston Conference gave us the opportunity to kick off UP Week 2012 with some of our most important library partners. Task Force member Leila Salisbury (Mississippi) organized a standing-room-only plenary session at Charleston entitled “The Twenty-First Century University Press” and featuring Doug Armato (Minnesota) and Alison Mudditt (California)
  • Members arranged to hold events or set up displays  with their local bookstores.
  • A blog tour featured cross-press promotion and solicited posts on “why university presses matter.” This was a grand success, with 26 presses participating.

All in all I am pleased to declare our first annual University Press Week a resounding success. The opportunity to chair this excellent task force of publishers reconfirmed my admiration and affection for the talent and generosity of the staff at our member presses.

At our task force’s last conference call on November 5th, we just couldn't say goodbye. We said instead, “farewell,” and agreed to reconvene soon to begin planning for University Press Week 2013!

Will Underwood
Director, The Kent State University Press