Addressing Emergent Challenges

As the pandemic presented particular challenges to university presses—impacting parent institutions, offices, authors, warehouses, vendor partners, and audiences—Association of University Presses (AUPresses) members looked to colleagues to share and address common concerns. In particular, virtual conversations called Hangouts, pioneered in recent years by our Acquisitions Editorial Committee, proved a valuable model. By hosting 25 hangouts and webinars over the past year—more than twice the number of virtual events supported during the previous year—Communications Program Manager Kate Kolendo and Program Coordinator Angelica DeVoe, along with the rest of the Association staff, have provided numerous opportunities for press directors and members of other professional interest groups in our community to share ideas and develop new strategies.

    • During their spring 2020 meeting, the AUPresses Board of Directors recognized an immediate need experienced by member press directors around the world: how best to manage a precipitous transition to work-from-home. In March and May 2020, the Association sponsored two sets of Directors Hangouts, inviting directors to gather virtually to explore areas of common concern, including short-term and long-term priorities, workflow systems, staff well-being, and financial messaging and budget planning. More than 40 directors attended each session, moderated by then AUPresses President Kathryn Conrad (Arizona) and Board member Anthony Cond (Liverpool); takeaway points were also summarized and made available to all press directors afterwards.
    • These early pandemic Directors Hangouts inspired a new series of virtual conversations for Press Directors around equity, justice, and inclusion work. Organized and moderated by Christie Henry (Princeton), Stephanie Williams (Wayne State), and Gianna Mosser (Vanderbilt), the Activating Directors in EJI Work have been held monthly since December 2020.
    • With the help of consultant Kimberly Schmelzinger, the Association also temporarily tracked sales data on a monthly basis, in addition to the usual quarterly reports, to provide real-time information to member presses about the pandemic’s impact. This practice continued between April and August 2020 until it was suspended based on member feedback.
    • The pandemic’s direct impacts on acquisitions and marketing activities at scholarly conferences; author events; journals publishing; and manuscript editorial, design, and production processes were the subjects of five additional Hangouts, organized by four AUPresses committees to address the needs of their colleagues. Read more about these and the full slate of professional development events supported by AUPresses during the past year.

Also, of great benefit to the Association’s administrative operations and ability to provide stable programming to members, Business Manager Kim Miller tenaciously applied for and received two loans from the federal Payroll Protection Program for small businesses. At this writing, she has also successfully secured forgiveness of the first loan amount.