The Annual Meeting through the Years

by Brenna McLaughlin

Curiously enough, the Annual Meeting of the Association of American University Presses predates the founding of AAUP itself. The seeds of the Association were planted during informal conversations between university press representatives who attended the yearly meetings of the National Association of Book Publishers in New York City throughout the 1920s. These informal conversations gradually became longer and more formal, with agendas, invited attendees, and minutes. In 1928, a group of university presses finally set up their own separate meeting, reserving rooms at the nearby Waldorf-Astoria.

1938AAUPmeeting smA growing (though still unaffiliated) group of university presses continued to meet in New York annually. At the 1937 meeting, they formally affiliated into the Association we still know today—and meetings continued under the new rubric of AAUP.  New York City continued as the annual meeting home until 1946, when Chicago took on hosting duties—a city it seems appropriate to return to in 2012.

Western and Midwestern AAUP members were getting a bit restless by 1944, as demonstrated by the minutes of the January 28 meeting that year. Although members from Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Iowa State were in attendance, the University of California Press sent greetings via telegram to the meeting "cordially [inviting] the Association to meet in California next year." The message continued: "Suggest Chicago as second best place. Let the Easterners get away from home and give us Westerners a break." (The minutes reflect that "the Secretary has responded in appropriate terms"—an ambiguous statement!)

Coincidentally, the 1944 meeting was also unprecedented in size: 66 guests and members (from 23 out of 34 member presses) attended. It is possible that, in addition to concerted lobbying for greater geographic exploration, the meeting simply outgrew any affordable space in Manhattan. AAUP's annual meeting would only return to New York City once in the ensuing decades, in 1974.

Where Have We Been?

1920s to 1945 New York, NY
1946 Chicago, IL
1947 Princeton, NJ
1948 Berkeley, CA
1949 Princeton, NJ
1950 Chapel Hill, NC
1951 Toronto, ON
1952 Ithaca, NY
1953 New Orleans & Baton Rouge, LA
1954 Rye, NY
1955 Seattle, WA
1956 Cambridge, MA
1957 Lincoln, NE
1958 New Haven, CT
1959 Austin, Texas
1960 Pittsburgh, PA
1961 Oklahoma City & Norman, OK
1962 Palo Alto, CA
1963 Cambridge, MA
1964 Chicago, IL
1965 Lexington, KY
1966 New Brunswick, NJ
1967 Toronto, ON
1968 Princeton, NJ
1969 Ithaca, NY
1970 Madison, WI
1971 Tucson, AZ
1972 Notre Dame, IN
1973 Austin, TX
1974 New York, NY
1975 Nashville, IN
1976 New Haven, CT
1977 Asheville, NC
1978 Baltimore, MD
1979 Salt Lake City, UT
1980 Spring Lake, NJ
1981 San Francisco, CA
1982 Spring Lake, NJ
1983 Minneapolis, MN
1984 Spring Lake, NJ
1985 New Orleans, LA
1986 Toronto, ON
1987 Tucson, AZ
1988 Cambridge, MA
1989 Cincinnati, OH
1990 Philadelphia, PA
1991 Naples, FL
1992 Chicago, IL
1993 Snowbird, UT
1994 Washington, DC
1995 Nashville, TN
1996 Snowbird, UT
1997 Indianapolis, IN
1998 Washington, DC
1999 Austin, TX
2000 Denver, CO
2001 Toronto, ON
2002 St. Petersburg, FL
2003 St. Louis, MO
2004 Vancouver, BC
2005 Philadelphia, PA
2006 New Orleans, LA
2007 Minneapolis, MN
2008 Montreal, QC
2009 Philadelphia, PA
2010 Salt Lake City, UT
2011 Baltimore, MD
2012 Chicago, IL
2013 Boston, MA
2014 New Orleans, LA
2015 Denver, CO
2016 Philadelphia, PA

It became the practice for an AAUP member to act as host for the meeting. Throughout the mid-twentieth century, presses gathered in Princeton, Berkeley, Chapel Hill, Norman, Toronto (making the first visit to Canada in 1951), Lexington, New Haven, Austin, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh, and many other press hometowns. Eventually the meetings grew beyond the capacity of press facilities and staff, and the meetings have been located at regional centers on a revolving basis for the past several decades.

Records of the earliest meetings are an entertaining read, with a tongue-in-cheek style that echoes Donald Bean's memos from the 20s and 30s. In addition to quite serious items at that 1944 meeting, such as initial discussions of a joint catalog for Latin American distribution, the dues structure, and member admission procedures, the agenda also listed "beer and skittles" at 4:00 PM. It should be noted that the minutes make clear that the Association business extended until 5:00, at which time "the beer was brought in."

By the 1960s, restlessness was afoot again in the Association—perhaps foreshadowed by the weather report in Oklahoma as the Association gathered there in 1961. "Scattered severe thunderstorms. Hailstorms. Destructive surface winds. Occasional tornadoes." Through the early part of the decade, the meetings were marked by contentious discussions about the insularity of the old-guard governance of AAUP, and the relevance of the meetings to the growing base of membership.

By 1967, changes were being made. The executive ranks of the association were widened and greater representation sought. The University of Toronto Press, hosting the 1967 meeting, organized the first intensive training workshops that have remained a hallmark of the meetings. Toronto also did not stint on a wide array of entertainment and edification for their AAUP guests: highlights included a trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, a talk by Marshall McLuhan, and an exhibition of the notorious Vinland Map from Yale's Beinecke Library.

Controversy, both within the association and in response to the wider political climate, is not unknown in the halls of the annual meeting. At the 1953 meeting in New Orleans, as the shadow of McCarthyism grew, a Committee on Freedom to Publish was formed to monitor and respond to pressure on authors and publishers. Women in Scholarly Publishing (WiSP) was founded at Spring Lake in 1980, to study and report on the status of women in the field and to work in cooperation with the Women's National Book Association on training and advocacy efforts.

The Association was torn in 2000 between questions of fiduciary duty and moral and political responsibility when the contracted conference hotel in Denver, the Adam's Mark, was boycotted by the NAACP and others in the wake of a discrimination scandal and class action lawsuit. Facing a potential $300,000+ loss for canceling the contract, the Board surveyed the membership and deliberated options, eventually deciding that AAUP must join with the NAACP and move the meeting from the Adam's Mark. However, a settlement was reached and the boycott lifted shortly after the AAUP decision was announced, and the meeting was held in its contracted space.

Other meetings left sunnier memories—there was a magical week in Vancouver in 2004, where the (locals say) uncommonly perfect weather and beautiful city enchanted attendees. Peter Milroy reported that he fended off many an applicant to work at the University of British Columbia Press that week—including the joking offer of a famous endowment in return for a chance to stay at UBC in even the lowliest position.

Perhaps the most memorable meeting of the past decade took place in New Orleans in 2006. The shadows over that meeting were not of McCarthyism but of the destruction man and nature had so recently wrought upon the city. Less than a year after Katrina, while there was some unease felt about holding a conference in a city where services were so strained, there had also been no doubt as to the Association's commitment to the city—to bear witness, in a way, but also to provide even the small economic boost of a meeting such as ours. Jim Amoss, editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, spoke at the opening banquet and shared both a visceral and an intellectual understanding of the city's experience and ongoing reality. AAUP will return to New Orleans in 2014.

Looking back at the records and news reports of the AAUP annual meetings provides a quick and broad education on technological progress in the publishing industry, the perseverance of university press missions, and the remarkable endurance of certain challenges. (Frederic Melcher, of R.R. Bowker and Publishers Weekly, was an invited guest at the annual university press gatherings from the earliest days, and the AAUP annual meetings were covered extensively in a PW university press number for many years.) The 1978 annual meeting in Baltimore was a milestone. Held during the "University Press Week" declared by US President Jimmy Carter, the meeting celebrated 100 years of university press publishing in the United States at our host press Johns Hopkins. The year also marked 500 years of university presses globally with the anniversary of the first volume printed in Oxford. Chester Kerr, lead investigator of the influential 1948 Kerr Report (read more in our history of AAUP statistical studies), wryly recounted the most significant problems experienced by presses 30 years earlier: "increased costs, inadequate financing, and the university press's relations with the university." These still strike a hauntingly familiar chord.

In 1987, marking the Association's 50th anniversary, Kerr again reported on the state of university presses for Scholarly Publishing and Publishers Weekly in advance of the Tucson meeting. The increased professionalization of university press practice over the preceding decades was examined, as was the continued growth of regional publishing (noted years earlier by Frank Wardlaw of Texas as something quite distinct from "provincial publishing"), and how shifts in technology, trade realities, and the demands of tenure committees affect both the practice and purpose of university presses.

Of particular note as the Association celebrates and contemplates 75 years of work and cooperation is Kerr's 1987 expectation that conversations between libraries and presses would be among the most important of future decades. "To use a farfetched analogy," Kerr wrote, "the university presses have no more choice in deciding whether to parley with the librarians than the US government has in deciding whether to discuss arms control with the USSR." Conversation with library partners certainly continues to be the order of the day, as AAUP's Library Relations Committee surveys AAUP and ARL members on press-library collaborations and as we look forward to sessions at AAUP 2012 on patron-driven acquisition, the future of digital scholarly communications, and current open access debates. Of course, in 1987 and today, we are still following the path laid down by AAUP's founders who, in 1936, discussed institutional relationships between libraries and university presses.

visit chicagoThe AAUP Program Committee shapes our annual meeting each year, putting together conference agendas on the most pertinent topics and pressing professional needs in scholarly communications. It is fitting to close with the words of the AAUP 2012 committee, who constructed a program addressing "the volatility of our industry, as well as our collective reliance on foundational skills and disciplines that have endured for decades. This year, 75 flames flicker on the candles of AAUP's birthday cake. Watch them and reflect on the past. Then watch them kindle the future."