New Location Puts Rutgers University Press at the Center of Campus Life
Changes at the publishing house include the addition of a new editor for clinical health and medicine
Before Rutgers University Press moved into its new location, editors were reluctant to invite authors to the their makeshift offices on the Livingston Campus for face-to-face meetings, which made it harder to compete for the best titles.
“I personally spent a huge amount of time dealing with squirrels and mice in the building and apologizing to authors about the conditions,’’ said Marlie Wasserman, director of Rutgers University Press for nearly 18 years. “Now that we don’t have to worry about wildlife anymore, we can spend more time doing publishing.’’
Rutgers University Press is settling in to its new office in the Gateway Building at the end of College Avenue, next to the New Brunswick Train Station and upstairs from Barnes & Noble. The press is planning a housewarming March 11 to show off the new location.
Rutgers is one of 130 universities with its own publishing house. University presses – common at major research institutions – are important because they disseminate original scholarship that would not be profitable enough for a commercial publishing house, said Nancy Hewitt, a history professor and chair of the Rutgers University Press Council, the publisher’s governing body.
“The role of the university press is to circulate new kinds of ideas in a variety of disciplines,’’ Hewitt said. “Some of them, like women’s studies, take off and now commercial presses love to publish books on women’s history and women’s politics. But without university presses, we would never get to that point.’’
The new space for Rutgers University Press has made a difference in everything it does. The new office includes a conference room that other Rutgers departments can rent, has more room for staff and student interns and leaves room to grow.
A library of the 4,000 titles published since the university press was founded in 1936 is in one central location, instead of scattered about, as it was in the old office. When visitors walk in, the first thing they see is a display of recently printed and award-winning books – a new showcase since the press moved from its former location that was meant to be a temporary space made of trailers, but housed the publisher for 17 years.
Rutgers University Press hopes to take advantage of its new location to raise its profile on campus and in publishing. The press recently hired an executive editor for clinical health and medicine – a position that was created to coincide with the integration of Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
The new editor, Dana Dreibelbis, has experience at the leading medical publishing firms and will work to publish nationally recognized experts in the fields of oncology, cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology and global health. With the addition of the new position, Rutgers will join the ranks of only a few university presses nationwide that publish titles for medical students and professionals. The texts are expected to generate 20 to 30 percent of their sales internationally, which will go a long way to raising the visibility of the university, Dreibelbis said.
“In a couple of years the Rutgers name will be popping up regularly in faculty offices and libraries in China, Japan, the European Union and Brazil,’’ Dreibelbis said.
Editors hope that the more high profile location in the heart of the New Brunswick Campus will help get the word out about what they do.
“People often think we are here to only publish faculty members’ books,’’ Wasserman said.
But that is not the case. University presses specialize in different fields and focus on those areas. At Rutgers, the press is known for books in the humanities and social sciences including anthropology, criminology, sociology, American studies, film studies, Asian-American studies, women and gender studies and African-American studies.
About 90 percent of the authors published at Rutgers are from outside universities. The remaining 10 percent are Rutgers faculty and, occasionally, journalists. The Rutgers University Press is also known for publishing books about the region, which turn out to be some of its well-known titles. This includes Jersey Diners by The Star-Ledger feature writer Pete Genovese, which sold more than 15,000 copies. Two novellas, Quicksand and Passing, by Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen sold more than 160,000 copies, making it the press’s best seller.
Editors are also planning to ratchet up their publication of e-books as they settle in to the new location. The press publishes digital books with each new title and wants to work with Rutgers faculty on a new initiative of short publications averaging 75-pages that will be their first electronic-only publication.
Moving into the new location has given the press “a new lease on life,’’ Wasserman said.
“It makes our authors feel more secure, it makes our staff feel happier, it’s easier for us to meet with university administrators – it’s almost as if we have changed jobs and gone to another publishing house, that is how wonderful it is,’’ Wasserman said.
Dreibelbis agreed that the new location was ideal.
“What could be better than to be a publisher over a bookstore on campus next to the trains to New York and Philadelphia,’’ he said.