University Press of Kansas to continue operating, will implement cost-saving measures such as producing fewer titles

photo by: Sara Shepherd

The University Press of Kansas, 2502 Westbrooke Circle on the University of Kansas' West Campus.

After being under review due to “significant” financial challenges, the University Press of Kansas announced recently that it would continue its work — with some new cost-saving measures in place.

The provosts of Kansas’ six Regents universities, who make up the press’ Board of Trustees, placed Kevin Smith, dean of libraries at the University of Kansas, as the new director of the press. Smith said there was “great potential” for interactions between the press and the libraries and that he was looking forward to exploring ways the two organizations could help each other serve Kansans.

Though the future of the press was uncertain earlier this year, Smith now feels more confident about the future of the press.

“Costs have exceeded revenue at the Press for the past 8 years and, over that time, the Press reserves have been spent down,” Smith wrote in an email to the Journal-World. “Going forward, we must contain costs in order to continue to fulfill the Press’s mission.”

The University Press of Kansas will reduce its annual production from 60 books to about 45 books, Smith said. In previous years, the press tried increasing the number of titles it published to grow revenue, but Smith said that did not work as planned. The new reduction in publication is “an intentional effort to reduce costs,” he said. The University Press of Kansas will continue to publish a 60/40 mix of scholarly work and books intended for general readership.

Additionally, Smith’s appointment as director of the press is a cost-saving measure. He said he would receive a supplement to his base salary for serving in the role, but that the supplement was about one-quarter of the salary the previous director received. Smith did not immediately respond when asked for the amount.

In a KU press release, Shirley Lefever, chair of the press’ board of trustees and interim executive vice president and provost at Wichita State University, noted the University Press of Kansas’ long history of scholarly work.

She said, “The board is confident in Kevin’s ability to serve in this leadership role.”

Smith said some of the potential for interaction between KU libraries and the University Press of Kansas will likely come in the area of digital publishing. He said they wanted “to look at the potential for open access to increase the reach and impact of scholarship and to, we hope, support print-on-demand sales for backlist titles.”

In February, the Journal-World reported that the trustees of the press initiated an independent review of the press to propose direction for its future. An external consultant, Richard Clement, conducted a review and was expected to submit a recommendation by March 1. Clement is the former dean of the College of the University Libraries and Learning Sciences at the University of New Mexico and also worked at KU for 22 years.

Smith said the changes announced Friday were directly based on Clement’s report. He said Clement outlined several options, but strongly recommended the direction the trustees ended up adopting. Smith was pleased with the decision, he said.

“During the review process, we witnessed an outpouring of support for the Press, from faculty at the Kansas universities, from authors, and from others who appreciate the preeminent role of the University Press of Kansas in publishing scholarship by Kansans and about Kansas and the Midwest,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with the staff of the Press to continue that 75-year tradition.”


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