Ask A Librarian

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
July 24th, 2014

The West Virginia University Press has returned to its home in the WVU Libraries. After 15 years under the charge of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the Press has returned to where it began.

“We’re delighted that the Press is now in the Libraries and under the leadership of Dean of Libraries Jon E. Cawthorne, who is an energetic and visionary person,” Eberly Dean Robert Jones said. “We think that bodes well for the future of the Press.”

It was a dean of Libraries – Dr. Robert F. Munn – who founded the Press in the 1960s. In 1999, the Press moved to Eberly, where it has been managed by Dr. Pat Conner and then Carrie Mullen.

The Press publishes about 17-20 books each year, as well as four journals, and has received national recognition as an award-winning press. So far this year, three of its titles have won awards.

Foreword Reviews named A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson as its IndieFab Book of the Year winner in the category of Ecology and Environment. Independent Publisher selected Cass Gilbert’s West Virginia State Capitolby Ann Thomas Wilkins and David G. Wilkins as a gold medal recipient in its 2014 “IPPY” Awards contest. The Association of American University Presses 2014 Book, Jacket and Journal Show named Over the Alleghenies: Early Canals and Railroads of Pennsylvaniaby Robert J. Kapsch as a winner in the Scholarly Illustrated text category.

University presses differ from commercial presses in that, rather than pursue profit-making goals, they are driven by serving the public good by publishing works of scholarly, intellectual, or creative merit and helping their institutions fulfill the land-grant mission.

“The University Press has been an invaluable resource for disseminating the latest research and scholarship,” Provost Joyce McConnell said. “I look forward to supporting the Libraries/Press collaboration for years to come. These are both truly University-wide assets.”

Cawthorne welcomes that weighty charge in helping fulfill the University’s mission. He has already delved into studying press operations across the nation and begun the search for a press director.

“The WVU Press is an award-winning press. I anticipate the next few years to be exciting as we work to continue that upward trajectory,” Cawthorne said.

Some of the WVU Press’ first efforts were bibliographies and histories of the coal industry. Over the years, its focus widened to include fiction, history, medieval studies, rural sociology, natural sciences, African-American literature and general-interest trade books.

A few popular books include: Bringing Down the Mountain by Shirley Stewart Burns;Early Art and Artists in West Virginia by John Cuthbert; and Crum by Lee Maynard.

State Senator Brooks McCabe considers the Press one of the jewels of the University.

“The WVU Press serves a vital role in not only presenting new scholarship but representing works of historical significance that are out of print,” McCabe said. “It is extremely important, and I look it more as the state of West Virginia Press.”

He applauds the Press’ collaboration with the West Virginia Humanities Council, titled the West Virginia Classics series, which republishes editions of treasured literary and historical works. One of the first books is West Virginia: Its Farms and Forests, Mines and Oil-Wells, which was originally published in 1865 as a series of studies on mineral resources, observations on agriculture, and interviews with businessmen.

McCabe, a member of the Libraries’ Visiting Committee, is familiar with the materials preserved in the West Virginia and Regional History Center and in the Libraries’ Rare Book Room. He is excited about the seemingly endless potential for publishing endeavors that would benefit state citizens.

“It makes perfect sense to have the Press under the umbrella of the Libraries especially because of the original first editions of works no longer available,” McCabe said.

Peter Berkery, executive director of the America Association of University Presses, agrees that the Libraries are an ideal home for Press operations.

“The decision to align WVU Press within WVU Libraries returns the Press to a nurturing home where it has the greatest opportunity to play an integral role in the Mountaineers’ scholarly communications ecosystem,” Berkery said. “AAUP stands ready to support in every way possible the Press, the Libraries, and the university during the transition and beyond.”

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