View from an Introductory Member Press

At the opening banquet of the 2008 AAUP Annual Meeting in Montréal, Peter Givler announced what came as very welcome and long anticipated news to this editor: that the University of Rochester Press had become an introductory member of AAUP. This recently established membership category for not-for-profit scholarly presses that have yet to meet full membership requirements created an opportunity for our small press to gain access to an organization of our peer presses and the professional benefits offered by that organization.

Although this year's annual meeting in Philadelphia was not my first, it was with some pride that I attended for the first time as a representative of a member press. The University of Rochester Press's location in western New York State, small size, and relative youth have meant some insulation from academic publishing centers in the US, and from a ready source of advice, stimulation, collegiality, and the comfort of nearby editorial colleagues who daily confront and navigate the complexities of our particular brand of publishing and service to the academy. At times it has also meant less exposure to industry news, to marketing and development opportunities, and to the economies of scale provided by a concentration of like entities represented in a unified professional organization.

In just over a year, membership has meant a good deal to the University of Rochester Press. We have already been able to participate in web seminars on pressing topics like open access, the Google settlement, and improving editorial workflow with XML. We have benefited from exposure to sales survey results, have been able to give informed responses to our provost during a time of economic uncertainty, and to gauge our position and performance in relation to presses of similar income and output. Not insignificantly, we have benefited from access to the AAUP job board, which has brought applicants to our attention from around the country with training and experience specifically targeted to our needs, rather than solely from a local and limited applicant pool. And we have had access to cooperative marketing opportunities we otherwise might never be able to afford.

Arguably, however, the most meaningful benefit of membership has been the difficult-to-quantify value it brings to our authors, many of whom require publication with a respected university press as a condition of tenure review and promotion. Just as university presses bring value to the publishing process through strict assessment and certification of scholarship, so endorsement by AAUP puts us in the company of established university presses large and small, innovative and venerable. Inclusion in AAUP also reinforces the work our series editors do year-round, and the commitment of time and expertise our faculty editorial board members regularly donate.

The University of Rochester Press was founded in 1989, and in September will celebrate its twentieth anniversary on campus and in cyberspace. With some 400 titles currently in print and active publishing programs in musicology, African studies, European history, and the history of medicine, we publish approximately 25 new books each year, and several paperback reprints. The origins of the Press were unique in that at its founding the University of Rochester contracted with a commercial academic publisher for production, sales, and distribution support, while editorial discretion has remained solely a function of the provost-appointed faculty editorial board. This arrangement allowed a private university to launch a press in the difficult late 80s (where some locate the genesis of the current crisis in scholarly communication), to grow, and even to prosper through two decades of economic turmoil. The arrangement has further kept the university from having to become a printer, or a warehouse, or a collections agency, but instead allowed it to remain focused on its fundamental missions.

Our future as a member press is by no means certain; in the current economic climate the prospect of adding new employees in order to meet the requirements of full membership is a daunting one, but the rewards vital: AAUP membership—and in particular the annual meeting—vitally augments and complements the support our editorial department receives from its dedicated faculty board and the university administration. It goes without saying that there is no substitute for the deep expertise and collective wisdom concentrated at this meeting each year, the exchange of ideas, and, inevitably, the commiseration—and all this aside from the Chronicle's reliably decadent dessert reception. As it turns 20, reviews its accomplishments, and anticipates its future, the University of Rochester Press hopes and indeed expects to be a productive and reliable citizen of the AAUP for decades to come.

Suzanne Guioda
Editorial Director, University of Rochester Press