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Why University Presses Matter

We are pleased to have Library Relations Manager Rachel Lee blogging for us as part of the University Press Week blog tour! The tour continues today at University of Hawai’i Press, who will address how university presses extend the global boundary of knowledge. A complete blog tour schedule is also available here.

Rachel LeeWhy University Presses Matter
by Rachel Lee

University Presses have long enjoyed a special relationship with libraries. In fact, several Presses function as units of their University Library. Regardless of position at their home institution, all University Presses share a unique perspective as publishers within the academy.

November sees the celebration of University Press Week (11-17 November). In 1978 President Jimmy Carter designated a University Press Week to highlight the good work done by all University Presses. 2012 marks 75 years of cooperation among university presses—not just American, but Canadian, European, and Asian as well—through the Association of American University Presses.

University Press Week provides an ideal opportunity to recognize the work done by University of California Press (and UPs everywhere) for their continued contributions to scholarship as relevant and vital members of the publishing community.

University of California Press has, for over a century, put the publishing of scholarly research at the heart of its mission. As a non profit, our stated goal is the widest dissemination of scholarly research, not a return to shareholders. UC Press is also a key partner for several scholarly societies, publishing journals on their behalf and helping to sustain financial stability for these important organizations.

As Library Relations Manager, my aim is to understand the changing needs and challenges facing libraries right now and to ensure that UC Press provides the best service we can to these vital customers. Talking with librarians at exhibits and conferences, I’m always gratified by the positive response to University of California Press and our publishing program.

So why should University Presses “matter” to libraries? In a nutshell: We are on your side. Not only as a publishers of key scholarly research but as a potential partners in new and innovative scholarly publishing. We remain independent, not driven by financial return.

It is largely true that when a journal moves to a commercial press, the subscription price increases significantly. Because this is a competitive business, keeping and retaining quality journals is a challenge for University Presses. UC Press is continually working with our publishing partners, including scholarly societies, to ensure that we provide the same level of service as a commercial publisher. UPs are able to do this through participation in JSTOR’s Current Scholarship Program and OUP’s University Press Scholarship Online. Through strategic partnerships such as these we continue to provide key research that is discoverable while providing readers with the tools they need to conduct research.

As commercial publishers combine into ever larger entities and as library budgets are squeezed harder each year, University Presses find themselves in a challenging position. We are not only confronting questions that face the industry as a whole, such as the role of Open Access and the future of the monograph, but also shifting attitudes towards humanities as a discipline in the academy.

With challenge comes opportunity and there are places where UPs and libraries can, and should, collaborate. Libraries could benefit from our many years of experience when developing projects such as digital commons, Open Access, and launching and growing new journals.

University Presses deserve libraries’ support, not as a ‘poor relation’ that merits sympathy but as a non-commercial partner engaged in work that sustains academic research without profit driven distractions. We can and want to be a key ally in library’s efforts to provide essential scholarly research to their constituents.

Does your institution have a University Press? You can support University Press Week by getting to know your University Press better. If you’re part of the University of California, or even if you’re a librarian elsewhere in the state of California, you can always drop me a line at rachel.lee@ucpress.edu and find out more about what UC Press is doing to support scholarly publishing.

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