It is my privilege to submit this eleventh annual report as executive director of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses), covering the fiscal year 2022-23. The period largely saw our community emerge from the covid pandemic, with press staffs navigating new work arrangements and a gradual return to academic conferences, including our own annual meeting in Washington, DC last June—the first in three years! Our community—its members, its leaders, the professional staff that serves it—continues to model the resilience, flexibility, and empathy necessary to remain on this path to a “new normal.”
The AUPresses community grew again in FY23; as of this writing the Association’s membership stands at 161 presses. During the period, we welcomed four new members, representing a wide geographical spread from Guam to Johannesburg. Additionally, one Introductory member converted to permanent membership. As I’ve noted previously, interest in joining AUPresses continues to expand globally, reflecting the increasingly global nature of scholarly communications.
Through the efforts of nearly 200 volunteer committee members, supported by an exceptional Central Office staff, the Association works to implement the strategic direction set by the Board of Directors. (The main vehicle through which this occurs is the annual Charges to Committees consultatively iterated by the new president at the start of each program year.) While I remain in awe of the overall strength, collegiality, and dedication of my Central Office colleagues, staffing challenges persisted throughout FY23. While Alexis Fagan has become a most welcome addition to the team since joining as our events manager in May 2022, we labored under the burden of a vacant administrative position for the majority of the period. Rectifying this has become a key priority as I write this report.
On the financial front, FY23 saw its challenges as well. The year ended with a net operating loss of $188,806 (against a budgeted -$77k). While a number of factors contributed to this performance, the overwhelming driver was the June 2022 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. While the meeting was a success on every other axis, the financial results were $143,129 below budget. No shortage of factors contributed to this result, including increased catering and technology costs, and understandable caution regarding travel and in-person conferences. While we continue to monitor the impact of changing meeting patterns—including our move to alternating virtual and in-person annual meetings—on our financial performance, at this point I think it is accurate to view this as a one-off occurrence. I look back on this meeting with great satisfaction—our community remained safe, and it was invigorating to reconnect in this location, especially at our opening reception in the (for our community, hallowed) halls of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building.
The good news is that the Association’s overall financial position remains strong. Thanks to a sound investment policy developed by our Investment Committee in 2019, the quasi-endowment weathered 2022’s poor market performance comparatively well. And we have accumulated budget surpluses in excess of $400,000 from FY21 and FY22. 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 meetings of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Library Publishing Forum, NISO, the International Publishers Association (IPA), the final Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) Summit, the Society for Scholarly Publishers (SSP), the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), UKSG, the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). I participate in the Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) Association Advisory Council, and serve on the Steering Group of the Coalition for Diversity & Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC) and the Participating Organization Council for Humanities Commons (HC). Speaking engagements included the ACLS Fall Conference of Executive Officers meeting and an academic publishing conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In March I had the pleasure of joining colleagues from across the humanities—including 2022-23 AUPresses President Charles Watkinson—for the National Humanities Alliance’s Humanities Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. 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.
Also of note: in December I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore. Seminary Coop has an intriguing business model—it’s run as a nonprofit cultural institution—and I am committed to doing whatever I can to help nurture it. Moreover, my involvement here is sure to deepen our ties with the critical independent bookseller community.
As you know, Diversity and Inclusion are one of the Association’s four Core Values, and it is a priority to ensure it is included in every conversation. And FY23 saw no shortage of activity in this area. As I’ve highlighted before, a subcommittee of our Equity, Justice, Inclusion, and Belonging (EJIB) Committee has been developing a toolkit that will allow member presses to take the next step in expanding equitable participation in the ecosystem through demographic tracking of authors, freelancers, peer reviewers, editorial board members, and others. After a pilot last year, the final toolkit will be available shortly. I’m grateful for both the dedication the subcommittee demonstrated in developing the toolkit and the rigor they maintained throughout the process.
Turning to other axes of diversity and inclusion, we soon will release the results of our biennial compensation survey with expanded access to core data for all staff at member presses. We know that salary transparency is an important prerequisite to increasing equity, and we hope this change in process, which we believe fairly balances competing concerns, will foster respectful conversations toward meaningful change. In a different vein, the growing globalization of the membership—something we approach with intentionality—brings yet another axis of diversity to the community.
At a moment when Intellectual Freedom, another of our Core Values, finds itself under sustained attack, the Association has worked with its allies in the academy—especially the ACLS and its constituent societies—to oppose efforts to restrict academic freedom, outlaw disciplines and curricula, and undermine the independent governance of the academy. I fear there may be darker days yet ahead on this matter, but please rest assured we will continue to defend a principle essential to the work we do and the authors we publish.
While both internal and external circumstances have continued to impact our programs and services, I am pleased to note the restoration of two important programs: the Week in Residence and the Directors Residency. These initiatives, consisting of $2,500 grants to support travel costs, are a vital source of networking and professional development for the dozen or so recipients, as well dozens more staff at host presses.
We’ve also managed to implement some new services over the period. I’m especially pleased with our new orientation program for staff at newly admitted member presses. The wide array of programs and services available to staff can overwhelm newcomers, and the orientation guides member press staff on where to go first, what to do next, and possibilities for increased involvement down the road. We have even offered the session to new directors at member presses, and to current staff at existing members (subject to capacity constraints, of course); please reach out if this sounds of interest.
It is my practice each year to include in this report a reminder that the Association stands ready to support and assist any member facing adversity; I hope all of you continue to keep this essential member benefit in mind.
As many of you I hope became aware from my retrospective piece in The Scholarly Kitchen, in March I marked my tenth anniversary with the Association. It has been an honor to serve as the executive director of such an amazing organization; my Central Office colleagues inspire and humble me regularly, and the volunteers from our member presses have taught me more than I can possibly express. I am grateful to you all.
Executive Director, AUPresses