What a year (again). As I finalized my presidential report for AUPresses on Mother’s Day here in the US, I had a hard time remembering everything that’s happened since this time last year—much like becoming a mother in that I’m hazy on the details but know that the labor was both real and infinitely worth it. In reviewing the last two reports written by Niko Pfund (Oxford) and Kathryn Conrad (Arizona), my respected predecessors in this office, I realized that each of us hoped we’d be the last president whose summary of accomplishments would be so wholly colored by the coronavirus. It’s astounding, really, to reflect on the many and continuing ways that we—as a professional community and as human beings—have both navigated and been battered by the past 26 months, not just by the pandemic but also by global events including the ongoing immoral invasion of Ukraine, yet another Big Lie.
In addition to continuing to publish exemplary, multimodal scholarship that can be trusted amid the noise, the AUPresses community also logged deliberate efforts toward creating spaces and scaffolding for career support and conversations; illuminating the business of the Association through sharing more from our Compensation Survey, changes to the board nomination process, and involvement through service. We also announced a significant change to our Annual Meeting strategy to include an alternating virtual format, which is both accessible and environmentally responsible. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we accomplished a good deal under the circumstances, which included the resignation of longtime AUPresses Membership and Events Director Susan Patton last summer. Susan’s unexpected but applauded move on to a new opportunity, followed thereafter by the equally excellent Angelica DeVoe’s departure, compelled Peter Berkery and his team to review the existing organizational structure and make changes that better reflect the current needs of the membership. Every change is an opportunity, but, given other pressures, this one had the potential to disrupt more than it benefited us. However, I’m happy to report that the Central Office is fully staffed as you read this. Massive kudos to Peter, Brenna, Kim, Kate, and Annette for remaining steady at the wheel during a trying time and for their guidance to me during my year in office.
The year began with my recruitment of 19 individuals to lead the Association’s committees, a task that forever changed my estimation of the dedicated service of our constituents. These committees met throughout the year to work toward achieving their bespoke charges and deliver beneficial programming and resources to the membership. I applaud everyone who has served on an AUPresses committee in any capacity. Over the course of this year they’ve hosted a dazzling array of virtual webinars and hangouts that kept us connected and safely distanced; produced critical new resources and recommendations for our use in Equity, Justice, and Inclusion (EJI), Nominating, and other areas; and contributed essential programming to the upcoming Annual Meeting. Notably, the focus of the new Open Access (OA) Committee was immediately strengthened by the award of an NEH grant to the AUPresses in January to study the impact of OA on print sales.
The work of the EJI Committee bears mentioning as well for the completed Demographics Data Survey pilot ably led by Mike Baccam (Washington), Caitlin Tyler-Richards (Michigan State), and the project pilot subcommittee. The pilot involved 18 member presses who, by way of the survey, examined their publishing partners—authors, reviewers, freelancers, series editors, faculty boards, advisory councils, donors—in the context of diversity, representation, and inclusion. A dynamic collaboration lab is planned for the 2022 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, that will feature members of the EJI pilot survey subcommittee and individuals from presses that participated in the pilot. I’m excited to see the resulting toolkit published in the coming year, including a survey template, sample invitation and consent statements, tool and workflow suggestions, and more.
It’s also rewarding to see the AUPresses’s deep dive into equity, justice, inclusion, and accessibility work inform efforts among our member presses and others abroad. In January the Association applauded the EvenUP initiative, a forum for EDI information collection, benchmarking, and training by UK and Irish university presses. Too, on May 17 I joined Taralee Cyphers (Ohio State), Ben Denne (Cambridge), and Gita Manaktala (MIT) on an ALPSP University Press Redux virtual conference session discussing how publishers can use baseline diversity surveys to effect meaningful change. This expanding, evolving work continues to inform and transform our respective and collective press cultures and practices globally, including our signing the Publishers Compact on the UN Sustainable Development Goals in late 2021.
By virtue of the presidential role, I also had the opportunity to represent AUPresses in a number of forums throughout the year, which I hope served to amplify and clarify the critical work of university press publishing. In October I spoke about sustaining the scholarly monograph to the NISO Humanities Roundtable. That presentation turned into a blog post on the AUPresses Digital Digest blog published in the spring. In what’s become an annual tradition for University Press Week, I spoke with Marshall Poe about university press publishing and 2021’s #KeepUP theme on his New Book Network’s podcast on scholarly publishing.
If I’m not mistaken, we also achieved a few firsts, including a virtual Committee Chair Orientation in October, organized and conducted by Peter Berkery, and a Demystifying Board Service webinar that I hosted in January featuring Nadine Buckland (West Indies), Brian Halley (Massachusetts), Kathryn Conrad (Arizona), and Mary Francis (Penn), which covered our individual experiences with volunteer service including committee work, task forces, virtual programming, Annual Meeting participation, and the process for board nomination and election.
In response to requests for increased openness and transparency, at its fall meeting the Board of Directors voted unanimously to support a Compensation Survey design that will allow this vital tool and data to be shared with the full membership (not only press directors) going forward. We also approved the creation of a first-ever joint Task Force on Career Progression with the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). Envisioned and co-led by President-elect Charles Watkinson (Michigan), the task force is already hard at work collecting position descriptions from member presses with the ultimate goal of creating a content bank that identifies the skills needed to both start and advance a career in the current publishing environment. This timely intervention will go a long way toward bridging the gap between the institutional HR resources among our varied members and the commercial publishing industry. I look forward to taking on the co-chair position when Charles becomes President in June and working together to deliver on our charge by early 2023.
When I take the time to pause and reflect on my pandemic presidency, I marvel at the constant recalibration that is the work of our industry and the navigation of our day to day lives under the current uncertainties. AUPresses members are simultaneously resilient, responsive, vulnerable, and creative. We carry on. For that I’m proud to have led this Association for the past year.
Lisa Bayer, President 2021-2022
Director, University of Georgia Press