Journals Manager, The Pennsylvania State University Press
Please tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).
I currently live in State College, PA, but my journey started in Newton Falls, OH, a small town of 5,000 people, where I grew up and attended high school. I was one of four in my graduating class of 145 who went on to college. I studied humanities education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, and became the first certified humanities teacher in OH. After graduation, I made Cleveland my home before moving to Philadelphia, PA. I lived in the heart of Center City, enjoying a convenient lifestyle – no car, living and working in the city, and either walking or taking public transportation. From Philadelphia I made my way to central PA, where I currently reside.
Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.
I am the journals manager for The Pennsylvania State University Press (PSUP), a non-profit publisher. PSUP is self-sustaining, meaning we generate 90% of our operating revenue and receive 10% from the university. I manage a staff of six people and forty-seven journals. My staff consists of three people in production, one marketing manager, and a managing editor. I am responsible for acquiring new journals, the profitability of the program, establishing pricing, and increasing/maintaining subscribers. The journals program has grown from 13 journals when I started in 2011 to 47 for 2016. We work with our book colleagues, but are a department unto itself.
What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?
My first publishing job was writing humanities curriculum for elementary school children. Unfortunately, it only lasted about two years. But it taught me how to think about publishing for a different audience. My foray into scholarly publishing started with the W.B. Saunders Company (now part of Elsevier) as their Director of Production. I saw an ad for the position in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer. This was before the internet and social networking. I was responsible for the production of 90 titles and managed a staff of 45 people. I established and met my annual production budgets, and made sure our society- owned journals published on their publication date. I missed one mail date in eight years and that was because a heavy snow storm closed the printer and the post office. The journals department wanted to show how electronically savvy we were so we told authors we would accept their manuscripts on either 4” or 3-1/2” floppy disks. The department had three 10-megabyte computers that the production editors shared to edit on disk. It actually took longer to edit electronically than on paper, but it prepared the department for the future electronic world.
If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.
This is a tough question because I have been very fortunate to work with many people from whom I’ve learned a great deal. But to choose one that provided a pivotal moment in my career, I would choose a former human resource manager. I seemed to be at loggerheads with my boss most of the time. I was very frustrated because I didn’t know how to work with her. One day he gave me a sheet of paper that had Ten Rules to Manage Your Boss. As soon as I took a step back and figured out how to work with her, my work life became pleasant. A simple example was my monthly report. I provided her with all of the information I thought she needed to know. What I didn’t realize was I was burying important information in paragraphs within the report. I started doing an executive summary – bullet points of the highlights and important information. Something this simple made our working relationship very pleasant.
What tools, web sites and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?
I have found the Society for Scholarly Publishing invaluable when searching for a new position. It was always my go to place to look. I keep current with scholarly publishing through the “Scholarly Kitchen,“ All Things Digital, and the digital offerings of Penn State University’s libraries. I find LinkedIn a great resource for networking.
What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?
The biggest lesson I learned was everyone is replaceable. I’ve been the victim of downsizing and reorganization at both commercial publishing companies for whom I worked. I don’t play politics very well, but am really knowledgeable about scholarly publishing. Sometimes, doing a good job isn’t quite enough, but it never deterred me from doing the best job possible. I would rather do an excellent job and find myself unemployed than to do a mediocre job, play politics, and be employed in a miserable position.
What do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about copyright law and how to explain why using borrowed material, especially from a website, isn’t necessarily fair use. Some authors think that if they find it on a free website, it is OK to use the material, image, poem, lyric in their manuscript without getting proper permission to do so.
What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?
People interested in a career in scholarly publishing need to keep asking questions so that they can become more knowledgeable about the field of scholarly publishing. I found that the more I knew, the more comfortable I was asking questions. Some people think if they ask too many questions, others will think they don’t know anything, which is not the case. It just means they value the opinion of the person they are asking the question. I don’t think scholarly publishing professionals do as good a job at mentoring people entering the field as we once did. So I would encourage young professionals to adopt a mentor and ask lots of questions. I’m sure managers don’t want to hear this, but I would also encourage young professionals to change jobs, or positions, every three to five years. They will learn new skills with each new position and learn how to adapt to different working cultures. It is also a way to potentially get larger pay increases.