From the Executive Director

Photograph of Peter Berkery sitting in front of a window with a view of office building windows across the street.

It is my pleasure to submit this tenth annual report as executive director of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses), covering the fiscal year 2021-22—our second full year operating under the global Covid pandemic. While the current state of affairs in many geographies appears to be improved over a year ago, much uncertainty regarding the next phase of the pandemic remains. New domestic threats to the rule of law have emerged in many of our member press’s homelands. And Russia’s brutal actions in Ukraine have introduced a chilling new insecurity into the equation. Our community—its members, its leaders, the staff that serves it—has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of all this, and I believe this year’s report once again conveys a singular sense of our strength, individually and collectively.

The Association’s membership grew again in FY22; as of this writing the AUPresses membership stands at 158 presses. During the period, we welcomed four new members, two from outside North America. In general, interest in joining AUPresses continues to expand globally, reflecting, I believe, the wisdom of our ongoing and long-term efforts to connect the worldwide community of mission-driven scholarly publishers, given symbolic heft by our 2017 name change. 

Largely through the efforts of an expansive and dedicated group of volunteer committee members, supported by an exceptional Central Office staff, the Association as a whole works to implement the strategic direction set by the Board of Directors. While the overall strength, collegiality, and dedication of my fellow staff members continues to humble and inspire me, FY22 challenged us in new ways, beyond even the stresses of the ongoing pandemic. We were not immune to the “Great Resignation” and two of our colleagues went on to wonderful (and richly-deserved) new opportunities in the second half of 2021. The remaining team used this occasion to reflect on our membership’s evolving expectations from its Central Office, individual staff strengths and career path progression, and of course the Board’s October 2021 decision to alternate in-person and virtual annual meetings. Through a collaborative and iterative process we realigned roles and responsibilities before recruiting two new team members. The extra work created by two protracted vacancies was taxing, but with two new hires late in the fiscal year we think we are well-positioned for FY23.

On the financial front, AUPresses ended FY22 in extremely strong fiscal shape. The balance in the quasi-endowment stands at a ten-year high. Moreover, the Association posted an annual net operating income of $385,406. This exceptional result is the product of three material factors: (1) timing on recognition of the forgiveness of two Payroll Protection Program loans; (2) net surplus from the 2021 virtual annual meeting exceeding budget, thanks to the participation of over 1,100 members of our community; and, (3) expenses—especially travel-related—remaining under plan, largely due to the ongoing pandemic. As always, I refer you to the Operating Statement and Balance Sheet for complete details of our financial performance.

Over the past year I have represented AUPresses at virtual meetings of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Academic Publishing in Europe (APE), the Library Publishing Forum, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), the International Publishers Association (IPA), the annual Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) Summit, the Society for Scholarly Publishers (SSP), and the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). As various segments of our ecosystem have begun to dip their toes back into the waters of in-person meetings, I also have represented the Association at live events sponsored by Book Industry Study Group (BISG), Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), the Charleston Conference, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), as well as the London Book Fair. Speaking engagements included the aforementioned BISG meeting as well as the annual joint conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and AUPresses member the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL). You’ll find details of other service to partners in the larger publishing and scholarly communities in the Peer Organizations and Global Community sections of this report.

In perhaps one of the year’s most significant developments, AUPresses was admitted to affiliate membership in the ACLS in November. This expansion of our relationship with ACLS deepens our involvement with the scholars who are our authors and readers, as well as the leaders of the learned societies who represent them, affording the opportunity to engage directly in critical discussions regarding the future direction(s) of scholarly communications in the humanities and qualitative social sciences.

Also of note: in March I was elected to the board of directors of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), an organization to which we have belonged for many years, representing an important kindred community with which the Association has been working to deepen relationships. Several member press directors serve on the boards of their state humanities councils, a worthy endeavor for all to consider. Our involvement with this community creates new allies, occasionally leads to unique publishing projects, engages new customer segments, and generally increases awareness of the university press value proposition.

In addition to these external activities, we also managed to organize my participation in three scaled-down virtual press visits during the year, a practice I hope to be able to continue once staff bandwidth stabilizes. I also spoke with our business-manager colleagues for the Financial Officers meeting.

While external and internal circumstances have forced us to slow our program pace in more ways than we’d like—the pandemic has necessitated suspension of our residencies and Global Partner Program, for example—our good work continues in fundamental ways. Two particularly important new activities merit mention here: (1) our Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Committee’s pilot program to create a tool enabling users to gather baseline demographic information on their partners (authors, peer reviewers, editorial and advisory boards, freelancers, and so on); and, (2) the newly-formed SSP-AUPresses Joint Task Force on Career Progression’s work to create a database of standard position descriptions for scholarly publishing. Each in their own way, these critical projects are tangible evidence of our community’s ongoing commitment to living its Core Values. The EJI tool will allow member presses to take the next step in expanding equitable participation in the ecosystem. And the Joint Task Force project is both an essential first step toward greater transparency in and support of career path progression, as well as an important collaboration with a key partner in scholarly communications.

It is my custom each year to end this report with a reminder that the Association stands ready to support and assist any member facing adversity—a reminder that has served at least two member presses during the year in review—and I hope all of you continue to keep this essential member service in mind.

As our community begins, tentatively and cautiously, to emerge from our pandemic isolation, I encourage us all to remember that the stress and loss of the past two years take an ongoing toll, that we have by no means arrived yet at a “new normal,” and that the collegiality and grace that are the hallmarks of our community remain more important than ever.

Remain safe,

Peter Berkery
Executive Director, AUPresses

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