I am very grateful to Melanie for the invitation to be a blogger on The Lib Pub. Since she’s asked for introductory posts, here is a bit about me:
My name is Charles Watkinson and I have the currently weird but hopefully more and more common title of “Director of Purdue University Press and Head of Scholarly Publishing Services” in Purdue Libraries, based in West Lafayette, IN. The title means that I am head of a publishing division of a large research library, which is a cool place to be. Dean Jim Mullins’ vision of bringing together the two main groups of information management and dissemination specialists on campus together in one unit shouldn’t be that groundbreaking. But it was fairly innovative in 2008 when the university press was physically moved into the libraries and Press staff were actively welcomed into library committees and initiatives. There are, of course, different business models at work and some “cultural” issues in integration. But the logic is compelling in a period where we see liblishers and pubrarians (not my original idea, I think I first heard John Unsworth use it) adopting new roles that emphasize support for faculty as producers of information, not just as consumers.
Anyway, more about me: Before moving to Purdue in 2009 I was Director of Publications at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2004 – 2009), based in Princeton, NJ, but working closely with my colleagues in Athens, especially Chuck Jones at that time head of the Blegen Library at ASCSA but now based at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU. While I’d always been interested in the intersecting worlds of librarians and publishers, it was Chuck who had me drinking the Kool-Aid. We worked closely together as co-PIs on a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2005-2006 working with our colleagues to try and understand the “information ecology” of what is effectively a small university focused on archaeology and classical studies with its own teaching programs, research operations (two excavations at the Athenian Agora and Corinth), two libraries, an archives unit, and publications office.
I learned a lot about digital data management challenges and the challenges faced by libraries and archives during my time at the American School. The interconnections between the different parts were very apparent, and the urgency of need to bring those components together to help researchers navigate the digital landscape was compelling. Also an eye-opener for me was just how different researcher needs could be within one discipline, and how important it is to try and understand sub-disciplinary as well as disciplinary variation in data management and publishing behaviors.
And before that: After studying archaeology at university, I was happy to have a job at all. I worked for around 10 years in varying capacities for a company called Oxbow Books, at that time a combined bookseller, distributor, and publisher focused on the specialist world of archaeology, classical, medieval studies books and journals. Although Oxbow was based in Oxford, UK, the final three years were mainly spent as manager of the US office, located in an old brass mill building (well-reinforced floors) in Oakville, CT. I think it is true to say that I saw all sides of the book industry during my time at Oxbow and owe a lot to my boss, David Brown, who founded Oxbow after tiring of a career as a curator of Anglo-Saxon antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
So, it’s 2013 now. I have a strong feeling that this will be “the year” of library publishing. The project to start a Library Publishing Coalition is underway, something I hope to be blogging about in the coming months. I am proud to have a role in that as a member of the Executive Group, and particularly pleased that it has developed partly from an IMLS-funded grant project on Library Publishing Services: Strategies for Success that I and fellow blogger Allyson Mower had roles in. And more and more members of the Association of American University Presses, an organization of which I am excited and proud to currently be on the Board of Directors, are seeing the opportunities of library-press collaboration. And at a much deeper and strategic level than previously. Our colleagues at Indiana University, for example, have recently announced an exciting joint office of scholarly publishing that links press and library leadership.
Being from the UK, I’ve always been a big fan of pubs. I’ve also become a big fan of libraries, now I am kind-of a librarian. So, like ponies and parties (what’s better than a pony party!), anything called lib pub is likely to be something I am excited about. Thanks, again, Melanie for taking the initiative.