David Rosenbaum named director of University of Missouri Press

Friday, September 27, 2013 | 6:48 p.m. CDT; updated 1:25 a.m. CDT, Saturday, September 28, 2013

COLUMBIA — David Rosenbaum has been tapped to lead the University of Missouri Press as its new director and address the organization's financial issues, MU Provost Brian Foster said.

Rosenbaum, product development and project management director for the American Heart Association, will begin his role at MU on Nov. 1, according to a news release.

Rosenbaum, 44, beat out two other finalists — Leila Salisbury, director of the University Press of Mississippi, and Clair Willcox, UM Press associate director and editor-in-chief. Rosenbaum will be paid $135,000 annually, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

Experience and passion propelled Rosenbaum to the top of the candidate pool for the position, Foster said, but it wasn't an easy decision.

"If there’s anything, it's his diverse background combined with his passion," he said. "It’s a very hard decision. All three were strong candidates."

Administrators hope Rosenbaum can resolve the financial issues that prompted University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe to propose closing the press in May 2012. Because of public outcry, the proposal was not carried out.

"As you know, the conflict and discussion about the press occurred from questions about the financial viability of the press," Foster said.

The press’s current operating budget is $1.25 million, Basi said. That is a comprehensive figure, which includes such items such as salaries and benefits, operational expenses, utilities, janitorial services and snow removal.

"The university has not determined how much the subsidy will be for FY14 (current budget year)," Basi said in an email. "That decision will be made closer to the end of the budget year," which ends June 30, 2014.

The UM Press, founded in 1958, is one of 132 members in the Association of American University Presses and the only AAUP member in Missouri. Twelve of the 14 Southeastern Conference schools have an institutional press, according to the AAUP's website.

Rosenbaum said that financial difficulties at presses aren’t uncommon but that he thinks with time and effort, the organization’s financial health can improve.

"I haven’t reviewed any detailed financials myself, and I need to do that before I can speak intelligently on the subject, but I'm pretty convinced that there are ways to improve the financial sustainability of the press," Rosenbaum said. "It’s question of time, patience and hard work."

He said he worked with other presses that were self-sustaining and thinks the UM Press could eventually do this as well.

"I think it’s achievable, yes," he said.

Rosenbaum worked at the Iowa State University Press from 1997 to 2003, first as production manager and later as senior publisher. When he was at MU to interview in early September, he talked about working at the ISU Press, which was distinctly different from the UM Press and was eventually sold to a private corporation.

During a Sept. 4 public forum, Rosenbaum said his time with the ISU Press taught him several lessons about university presses. As director of the UM Press, he would focus more on areas relevant to MU and publish titles "on the basis of merit, mission, market and margin."

He said he thinks moving the press to MU's main campus would be a benefit.

"To build those bridges to the community, it's better to be on campus," Rosenbaum said.

Right now, the press is at 2910 Lemone Industrial Blvd.

Foster said that he could see the benefit of moving it to the main campus but that campus real estate is scarce.

"Yes, a lot of people would say that it would be very valuable to have the press on campus," Foster said. "I agree there'd be some benefits. There's been no immediate talk about that, but I expect this issue will be on the table in the future."

Also at the forum, Rosenbaum said that as director, he would hope to maintain ties with authors on other campuses in the UM System but would focus first on MU.

"Start there, and then as we start seeing success and response from that, then we expand out and we look to rebuild those bridges with other universities in the Missouri system," he said. "If we try to fix everything at once, we will successfully fix nothing."

On Friday, Rosenbaum said identifying the niche markets for which the UM Press was suited would help boost revenue and bolster its sustainability.

He also said he thinks the number of UM Press employees might increase.

"My suspicion is that we will need additional (personnel) support, but I don’t think any kind of overhaul is in the works," he said. "If I were to guess, and this is purely speculation, the acquisitions team, based on a refocused editorial strategy, would probably need additional support."

Rosenbaum will move from Dallas to Columbia in late October.

Ned Stuckey-French is an administrator for the "Save the University of Missouri Press" Facebook page, which has garnered 2,841 "likes" since its creation in May 2012.

Rosenbaum's appointment positions the press for a positive future, said Stuckey-French, associate professor of English at Florida State University and adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of the Arts.

"The University of Missouri Press has been through a tumultuous time," Stuckey-French said. "Writers, scholars, librarians, readers and publishers across Missouri and the nation stepped forward to help save the press, and now it is back and stronger than ever."

Rosenbaum, he said, "brings diverse and considerable skills to the job. The future is bright. Missourians will continue to be represented by a great university press."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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