Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Texas Bookshelf: New Ways to Share Scholarship

In the spirit of partnership that pervades the university press community, the University of Texas Press and 36 other presses unite for the AAUP’s second annual blog tour during University Press Week. The tour highlights the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society.

Schedule your week's reading with the complete blog tour schedule here: http://bit.ly/HjQX7n.

Today's theme is 'The Future of Scholarly Communication,' and our Assistant Editor-in-Chief Robert Devens suggests that this future will be built on relationships closer to home:
The future of scholarly communication certainly depends upon looking ever outward, whether it be toward international markets, new modes of collaboration between far-flung research teams, or the formal and technological possibilities of the book itself. I’ve been thinking a lot lately, however, about the exciting opportunities much closer to home. It’s been nearly a year since I arrived in Austin on a 70-degree January day, the rock salt of Chicago still caked on the sides of my shoes, and barely a week has passed without some striking example of the importance and value of strong campus partnerships.
Just a few months ago we announced the Texas Bookshelf, our broadest campus initiative to date. The Bookshelf gathers fifteen scholars from many of the university’s top departments—including American studies, architecture, anthropology, film, history, journalism, and theatre—as well as from UT-Austin institutions such as the Michener Center for Writers, the Harry Ransom Center, and the Blanton Museum of Art. Each of the participants will take on some aspect of the state’s history and culture, and the result will be new bodies of knowledge and interpretations of Texas music, business, race relations, and much else. Though the local components of this project are my focus here, the books in the Texas Bookshelf will be anything but narrow regional histories: most striking about the various book proposals is their stress on the movement of people, culture, and ideas into and out of the state.
The Texas Bookshelf has already benefited the Press in many ways: we have signed new projects by UT scholars who were not previously on our list; we have received considerable support from both the university and private donors; and we have enjoyed a lot of positive publicity on campus, regionally, and nationally. Project participants, meanwhile, are developing their own collaborative approaches. It has been particularly gratifying to see scholars who did not previously know one another sharing information and ideas for their respective books. In coming months, we will be arranging more informal meetings of participants, which will eventually include presentations of work in progress and visits from staff at local archives.
Meanwhile, the development of the Bookshelf promises to have many benefits for the broader community. For instance, university reporters and publicity staff have expressed an interest in joining authors on local research field trips, in order to produce short “making of” pieces along the way, and we hope to sponsor large public forums with participating authors as well. The Bookshelf will be supported by a companion website that will highlight and connect to the rich archives and collections on campus. As well, we are planning special programming and public events in conjunction with the publication of each book for the both the university and larger Austin community. This is just a sampling of the opportunities for scholarly communication before publication! The books themselves will begin appearing in 2017, when we will publish Stephen Harrigan’s narrative history of the state of Texas, and will continue to come out over the following four or five years. By that point, I expect, we will be disseminating the fruits of our authors’ research in all sorts of new ways that have yet to be developed.
—Robert Devens, Assistant Editor-in-Chief
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