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NU Press Extends Reach On and Off Campus

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April 16, 2008
By Marianne Goss

Collaboration is the key word as Northwestern University Press expands: collaboration with Northwestern schools and other divisions and even with other university presses.

New books are being published with University Library, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and the Kellogg and Medill schools, and NU Press recently announced a joint venture with two other university presses.

"We are pleased that we have been able to expand by working with some areas of historic strength at Northwestern, such as the professional schools," says Donna Shear, who has been NU Press director for five years. "And collaborating with us allows other divisions of the University to use the Press' expertise to make the process of publishing smoother and to reach a wider audience."

The Press' collaboration with University Library is a natural: Since 2002 the Press has reported to the University librarian. Two lavish new books featuring Northwestern libraries are being released this spring: "Deering Library: An Illustrated History" and "Walter A. Netsch: A Critical Appreciation and Sourcebook," about the architect of the main library.

"We looked first to NU Press when we started working on these book projects," says University Librarian Sarah M. Pritchard, who oversees NU Press. "We knew the Press' areas of publishing interest and knew that they had the design and production capacities to issue books of the scholarly and artistic quality we envisioned. In turn, they understood the context for the books, Northwestern's history and campus culture."

"Deering Library: An Illustrated History" came out earlier this month to commemorate Deering's 75th anniversary. Written by University Library staff members Russell Clement, head of the art collection, and Janet Olson, an archivist in University Archives, it documents the building's history, architecture, unique collections and role in Northwestern's research prominence. Today Deering contains many of the University's most distinctive holdings, including the art, music and special collections.

Deering Library was made possible by a bequest from Charles Deering, heir to a Harvester company fortune whose father, William, had been president of the University's Board of Trustees from 1897 to 1906. Collegiate Gothic architecture was flourishing on Ivy League campuses at the time architect James Gamble Rogers chose it for the Deering Library design, which is showcased in dozens of archival and contemporary photographs in the anniversary book.

Standing in dramatic contrast to Deering's architectural style is its avant-garde companion, the main University Library, which is featured in the other NU Press/University Library publication this spring. "Walter A. Netsch: A Critical Appreciation and Sourcebook" is a retrospective on the career of the architect of the three-towered University Library and six other buildings on the Evanston campus. A collection of essays by Netsch's architectural colleagues and professors and excerpts from Netsch's own writings and lectures, the book grew out of a 2006 University Library exhibit on Netsch and the now 38-year-old library. Clement organized the exhibit and coordinated the book project.

Also due out this spring, "Design in the Age of Darwin" is the result of a closer partnership between NU Press and the Block Museum. In the past NU Press distributed the Block's exhibition catalogs, but now it also co-publishes them as well.

"Design in the Age of Darwin" will be published for a museum opening in May and will include more than 50 color plates from that exhibition. Other recent exhibition catalogs co-published by NU Press and Block have included "The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz," "Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature" and "Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film." With appeal beyond those attending the exhibit, the last catalog was distributed to bookstores throughout the country.

"We see the relationship with the Block as an ongoing one that is mutually beneficial," Shear says. "The museum likes the wider distribution the catalogs get from working with us." The Press sells books through its Web site (www.nupress.northwestern.edu), on Amazon and bn.com and sometimes in bookstores, depending on the perceived audience. Its biannual catalog is sent to potential buyers at retail chains and wholesalers.

The Press is also collaborating more with the University's schools. It has always worked with individual professors as authors and editors, but publishing series with the schools is a recent development.

"When I became director, our strategy was to make a concerted effort to play on Northwestern's strengths," says Shear. "That's when we reached out to Kellogg and Medill." The Press now has ongoing series with those two internationally renowned professional schools.

The fifth book published with Kellogg, "Wide Awake in the Windy City: Celebrating a Century of Excellence at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management," is due out this month in celebration of the school's centennial. Author Matt Golosinski, editorial director at Kellogg, traces how the school ascended to its present global reputation by consistently addressing the challenges of the business world and finding innovative ways to remain in the vanguard of management education. The book includes first-person narratives from deans, professors, students and businesspeople along with dozens of photographs in its more than 400 pages.

The Press also collaborates with Kellogg on scholarly books; the most recent was last fall's "Global Corporate Citizenship," featuring original field research by graduate students in the Global Initiatives in Management Program.

With the Medill School of Journalism, the Press publishes the Visions of the American Press series, edited by David Abrahamson, professor of journalism and Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence. Eleven books have already been published and two more will come out in July: "The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media's Role in the Rise of the Right" by James Brian McPherson of Whitworth College and "The Environment and the Press: From Adventure Writing to Advocacy" by Mark Neuzil of the University of St. Thomas.

Expanding its collaborations beyond Northwestern schools and divisions, NU Press is launching a joint publishing initiative with its counterparts at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin. The three presses have received a five-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to publish and promote first monographs in Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian studies by emerging scholars. With its long-term strength in Slavic studies, NU Press will publish six titles to add to its Studies in Russian Literature and Theory series. "This grant will allow us to publish more books by younger scholars," Shear says, "and to offer them more developmental editing, which normally is prohibitively expensive."

Collaboration will continue to be a theme as NU Press looks to the future. The interdisciplinary cooperation for which the University is known may give the Press new avenues to explore. For instance, an anticipated new series in religions is a good fit.

"Since there is much crossover with our strong philosophy and literature lists, we are starting some new series over the next few years in religion," Shear says. "We will continue to publish in what have been our strong areas, but we are looking at interdisciplinary approaches and ways in which there are natural extensions into other areas within the humanities."

Marianne Goss is a senior publications editor in University Relations