Monday, February 24, 2014

AAUP Listening Tour: Q&A with Peter Berkery

Peter Berkery, Executive Director of the Association of American University Presses, visited the University of Texas Press offices in Austin last week as part of his Mellon-funded tour of the AAUP member presses. Peter answered some questions about what he’s learned from his “Listening Tour,” the value of university presses to their host institutions, and advice for young professionals in scholarly publishing.

Follow the Listening Tour on the AAUP Digital Digest, and check out the University of Washington Press's Q&A with Peter from an earlier Listening Tour visit.

Shiori Kawasaki, 2013

Now that you are on the second leg of your Listening Tour, what is the most surprising or interesting thing that you have learned from the Presses you have visited?

It’s arcane, but the most surprising thing I’ve learned relates to my prior experience at Oxford University Press. People generally assume that size is what most sets OUP apart from other university presses. Of course size really does matter, but I’ve come to understand that the biggest differentiator is that OUP in the US is four thousand miles away from its parent institution. Being on campus, a direct part of the ecosystem, makes all the difference—and this is a factor that comes into play for many of our members.

What do you plan to do with all of the information that you are gathering?

Originally, the Listening Tour was intended to accelerate my learning curve. While I still have a lot to learn, I’m now 12 months in and I think people are expecting me to act on my newfound wisdom! So the information I accumulate will have several purposes. First, I will be reporting back to the Mellon Foundation (who funded this second leg of the Tour). Next, I’ll be reporting back to our Board, who will use my input to inform a pending revision to the AAUP Strategic Plan. Finally, I’ll base the specific program decisions we make to further the plan in part on what I’ve heard on the road.

One topic that comes up often among university presses is how to strengthen the relationship with our universities. How can AAUP help those in the academy better understand the role that university presses play in scholarly dialogue?

This is a great question, but a challenging one. First, the direct answer: AAUP needs to strengthen its relationships with other organizations that represent various elements of the academy
administrators, faculty, librarians, lawyers, finance officers, et cetera. It pains me to say this, but we’re barely on any of their radar screens. That said, a lot of the relationship-building work has to occur at the grassroots level, by individual presses. AAUP can equip university press leaders to do this critical work through training and toolkits, but the lifting has to happen on campus.

We have heard about a newly formed AAUP Early Career Group that is connecting young professionals in scholarly publishing for career networking and idea generating. What words of advice do you have for the ‘next generation’ of scholarly publishers?

The best career advice I’ve ever received
and I’m forever trying to put it into practice more myselfcame from a sales manager I worked with at Wolters Kluwer: Listen! The good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth because that’s the ratio He wants you to use them in!

Specific to scholarly publishing, I’d say listen to what’s happening in your ecosystem. It’s easy for us to get lost in the work we do
our elegant designs, our guerilla marketing strategies, the disciplines we acquire inbut more than ever we need to be mindful of how external changes are impacting the scholarly communications process we serve. Pay attention to how technology is changing research, and what that means for our authors and our customers in the future.

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