2021 Cross-Pollination Report: Sarah Wipperman

The AUPresses/Library Publishing Coalition Cross-Pollination program provides registration waivers at both organizations’ annual conferences for members of the other to attend, in order to foster cross-professional knowledge sharing. In 2021, Hannah Brooks-Motl and Maia Desjardins received registration waiver grants to attend the virtual Library Publishing Forum; Robert Browder and Sarah Wipperman received registration waiver grants to attend the virtual AUPresses 2021.

Sarah Wipperman, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Villanova University

I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend AUPresses 2021: It is a conference that has been on my wish list for a while but which I had never had the pleasure of attending. I was certainly not disappointed. 

AUPresses 2021 took place in half day increments over a two-week period, June 7-18, 2021. Given the length of time, the conference sometimes felt like a marathon, but the days themselves were fairly well-balanced. Each day started with a brief welcome message and introduction for the day’s events. This was normally followed by a couple of sessions (plenaries, general sessions, concurrent sessions, interactive collaboration labs), and the day typically ended with a networking event. Most of the conference ran through the Whova platform, which provided a unique yet familiar interface for watching videos, chatting with other participants, asking questions, and creating community groups. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the oddly fantastic music that played while the clock counted down to the start of each session. It was a welcome and energizing interlude between events!

I came to AUPresses hoping to learn more about university presses, but, looking back on the conference, I feel like I actually learned more about the publishing experience, particularly from an author’s point of view. In the Presidential Address, Niko Pfund, the outgoing president of AUPresses, talked about “duty of care.” To me, the conference embodied this sentiment, asking the audience to not only think about publishing as a profession and as an act but also about how our actions, our decisions, and our outputs as publishers affect others. How might we, at every level, think more deeply about our practices and about the experiences of our authors and readers, and how might we take steps to be more inclusive and reduce harm? 

Throughout the conference, we heard from BIPOC, neurodivergent, disabled, and queer authors, and the resounding conclusion is that publishers need to do better in supporting these systemically underrepresented voices and also in supporting authors and colleagues as people with varying needs that may not fit into “traditional” timelines and practices. We also heard from copyeditors, book cover designers, acquiring editors, and others about the steps they are taking to create more mindful, inclusive, and welcoming practices within their particular areas of the publishing process. Many of the sessions additionally focused on supporting individuals working in publishing at various levels in their career— especially early career. These sessions looked at common pressures and issues that many face within the industry and created a space to try and address those issues as a group and to develop more support systems. Together, these shared experiences and practices created a sort of roadmap for how the publishing industry can be and is being reshaped into a better system for more people. It made me excited for the future of this industry but also highlighted just how far we have to go.

Coming to this conference as a library publisher, I was excited to see all of the current and potential collaboration opportunities between scholarly communication teams/libraries and university presses that came up during the sessions, particularly around education and open access publishing. 

Several sessions mentioned the general unfamiliarity that graduate students and early career authors have with publishing processes and practices and noted the need for more education in this area. As a scholarly communication librarian, this resonated deeply with me, and I saw this as a shared pain point that could potentially be addressed through collaborative education programs. For example, I ran a program at my previous university to teach about publishing and related issues. Each semester, I invited editors from our university press to teach a session on their publishing process and answer questions. These sessions were always well attended and were a wonderful outreach opportunity for both the library and the press. I would encourage presses and libraries to reach out to one another to see where these types of opportunities might exist. 

I was also delighted to hear about all of the current collaborations between universities and presses around open access publishing. Many libraries already have infrastructure in place to host and support open access publications through an institutional repository or open publishing platform, so working together to support new open access publications or even to make older university press books and journal articles available through a library platform can be a great way to expand the reach and missions of both organizations. I was thrilled to hear about how some university presses and libraries are finding success in this type of collaboration, and I very much hope to see more of these types of programs in the future. 

AUPresses surprised and challenged me in many ways that I did not expect as a first-time attendee. It made me think more deeply about my own practices as a library publisher, taught me about aspects of the publishing industry that I have not yet encountered, and unearthed new possibilities for collaboration that I hope to use in the future. I look forward to rewatching many of the videos from the conference and applying what I learned to my own work. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I hope to attend this conference again in the future.