Like many Americans, I first saw Nebraska from the interstate, zooming through at seventy-five. My early encounters with the University of Nebraska Press were more numerous and more substantial. As a grad student and then editor living in the Northeast and Deep South I saw the Nebraska name on dozens of spines at bookstores and in my professors’ offices, and I read reviews of UNP books in the scholarly and general-interest press. Associations (all of them positive!) were formed. Nebraska – the publisher but also in some meaningful sense the university and the place – became, for me, much more than the pleasant but slightly monotonous eight hours between Wyoming and Iowa.
Here’s another way some non-Nebraskans encounter Nebraska: the book exhibit at scholarly conferences. Since I’m dealing with missing the American Historical Association conference for only the second time in sixteen years – and thinking about my Nebraska colleagues Bridget and Matt, who are off at AHA now – I hope you’ll indulge me as I reflect briefly on this peculiar, potent space.
The University of Nebraska Press displays its books and journals at many conferences and trade shows, concentrating on meetings that are important to scholars in our core publishing areas. You can see the geographic breadth of our conference attendance on this map, which shows where we’ve been in just the past twelve months:
It would be a stretch to say that our booth in the conference exhibit hall is a little piece of Nebraska plopped down in, for example, the Portland Hyatt. But not that much of a stretch. Here conference attendees (often numbering in the thousands) can see and purchase UNP books, many about our state and region, or written by UNL faculty, or reflecting the broad, cosmopolitan strengths of the University of Nebraska. Conference-goers in New Orleans or New York can meet UNP staff – often editors, and always Nebraskans – to talk about their own work and learn more about the press, and by extension the university and the state. It all adds up to getting a sense of Nebraska, including the books and the people but also the visual identity (the logo and such) and the more general vibe.
Until recently I was the guy hanging out at the UNP booth instead of the guy staffing it, and I can say with authority that it makes a hugely favorable impression – that the Nebraska display is as compelling as those erected by temporary neighbors like Yale and California, and that the conversations are at least as exciting. Putting Nebraska into that sort of circulation is, I think, something the university press is uniquely positioned to accomplish. It’s a significant part of what we do.-Derek