AAUP 2013 Roundup: Communication, Connections, and Finding the Positive Potential in Change

By June Silay 

the annual conference of the Association of American University Presses for the
first time was such an intense and enriching learning experience that, to tell
the truth, I’ll still be processing information and tapping into lessons
learned for years to come. Indeed, that is exactly what the Pat Hoefling
Professional Development Grant
was intended to do. I arrived in Boston ready to
soak it all up and looking forward to a high-speed learning experience. I
certainly was not disappointed, but I couldn’t have imagined how inspiring, stimulating,
and even reassuring the large-venue presentations as well as conversations
one-on-one or in small groups during breakfast sessions were going to be. The
grant is also intended to bring these benefits back to the home turf so that
the ripple effect benefits the whole organization and raises everyone up. By
sharing notes and conveying impressions at a brown bag with colleagues back
home, and continuing to expand and develop ideas inspired by a panelist or a
passing remark in conversation with a colleague, the payoff for supporting attendance
at the annual conference will be evident, from all attendees, in big and small
ways, for years to come.

Discussing big publishing ideas at AAUP13 in Boston

Conversations about publishing continued in the lobby of the Boston World Trade Center between AAUP meeting sessions.

I've been told by colleagues that
Pat used to say something like, "Go, learn a lot, and then bring it back
home." She did that in big and small
ways. I encourage all our readers and friends of IU Press to support the Pat
Hoefling Memorial Fund
in any way possible. The payoff for you will come back
in countless ways. This memorial fund and the grant it supports impacts each
attendee and our colleagues. It has an effect on how we do books we are
currently working on, as well as how we still celebrate books that were
finished long ago, and those that we are now only envisioning for the next few
years down the road. As you read on, you will see how. And each time you pick
up an IU Press book, whether it's one you've published with us, one you've
worked on with us, or one you've bought from us, you will have a concrete

We heard inspiring words from the
outgoing AAUP executive director, Peter Givler, and enthusiastic, infectous energy
exuding from the new AAUP executive director, Peter Berkery, who will tell our
story, I am convinced, and convey the far-reaching contributions and benefits
of university presses better than anyone can. A common thread running through
all of the plenary presentations and noontime speeches was the positive energy
and the potential that can be harnessed when so many gifted and deeply committed
people are working together toward common goals. From the drama of saving the University
of Missouri Press
to the warp-speed, concurrent development and production of a
conference and book at Johns Hopkins University Press within two months following
the Sandy Hook tragedy; from preparing authors for what to expect from all of
"us" in this collaborative endeavor so the process goes smoothly for
everyone, to solving the logistics of staying in touch and keeping the work
running smoothly when authors and press staffers are working from afar: this
year’s annual conference was replete with evidence that, in the face of what
may seem difficult tasks and even in the face of the most insurmountable odds,
so much is possible. When impossible
is not an option, you start to see your way toward solutions.

As a project editor, I am by
definition focused for the majority of my work time on the details: the single
project, the small group of individuals working on the book in the process of
becoming—including authors, editors, designers, and typesetters, along with all
our colleagues who are preparing to take that book out into the world to be
read. We frequently forget—or run out of time—to take a moment to look up when
it is all done and take stock of what
did work well, what did contribute to and improve the
process and the book. Many of the panels I attended allowed me to do just that:
in the course of hearing stimulating accounts of how other university presses
are finding solutions to the big and the small challenges of our industry, I caught
myself thinking, "We're doing this and it's working, and it could work
even better if…" or "This is a challenge for us, too. [This UP,
that department] is [bigger or smaller] but if we did this …" I still
have much to mull over, but attending the AAUP conference has brought me
perhaps one of the greatest and most stimulating benefits and that is a wider perspective.
Hearing about all the changes and challenges that other university presses have
met brought me back with renewed energy and ideas for solutions. Even to
summarize the highlights of the most impressive panels would take me far beyond
the attention span or the realm of interest of most readers in this venue (not
to mention the word limit and the due
date). But many panels and sessions will soon be available to view online from
the AAUP website. So much can be gained by taking an Internet detour to listen
and share in the wider perspective on the types of work you do or to gain
insight into the work that others do and how they do it. It brings you back to
your tasks with a greater and deeper understanding of what we all are striving
for in this collaborative endeavor: to make a way for great ideas to come
forth, ideas that stimulate us, that spark a common enthusiasm, and that can
make their way into a great book, in whatever shape or form that may take.