Those of us who work for a university press are already well aware that we should count our blessings. Sure, there are frustrations and difficulties to deal with, but for the most part, I think they are common to any job anywhere. However, I find much to make me think that I am extremely fortunate to be in the publishing world and tied to an institution of higher learning.
I was reminded of this great fortune recently when I attended the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues lecture at the Lied Center in Lincoln. The speaker was David Wessel, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and an author himself. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his well-delivered presentation on the financial politics of Washington, D.C. In some ways, though, the topic and speaker were secondary in importance to the sense of opportunity I experienced while sitting among a few hundred people in what is a wonderful auditorium. For me, being a part of a university and being a part of a college town is one of the primary benefits of working for a university press.
The link between a UP and its parent institution is sometimes fraught with tension; other times it is replete with syncopation and trust. We are lucky at the University of Nebraska Press to have an excellent relationship with the university in general, and I think it is imperative that as an employee of both institutions I take full advantage of the possibilities afforded me. Lectures on campus are one aspect; proximity to academic instruction and thought and discourse are another. In recent weeks I have met with faculty members both on and off campus to discuss forthcoming books. Often, the conversation turns to larger academic or subject matters, and I cannot help but appreciate speaking with people who are at the top of their field. Because we publish a good deal of history (my own specialty), I am, occasionally, able to participate in such discussions, but equally often I find myself stretched academically and I value the faculty members’ insights, which further my own thought.
These wonderful benefits of being at a university press are always close to the forefront of my mind. University presses publish books within a university setting, affording us unique opportunities, partly because there are not many university presses. This rarity should remind those of us who work in the field to appreciate what we have and to take advantage of the curricular and the noncurricular activities in the academe and its related environment.
Attending lectures on campus may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I urge anyone within university publishing to discover the sometimes unseen or unrealized benefits and relish the “university” part of working for a university press.