Kevin L. Smith Named Director of University Press of Kansas

The University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees, which is composed of the provosts from each of the six Kansas Regents institutions, has confirmed University of Kansas Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith to serve as director of the University Press of Kansas (UPK). Smith joined KU Libraries as dean in May 2016. He previously served as the director of copyright and scholarly communication at Duke University.

During his tenure at Duke, Smith advised faculty, staff, and students on issues of copyright, intellectual property licenses, and scholarly publishing. He played a vital role in coordinating online publishing, offered instructional opportunities on copyright, and increased awareness surrounding intellectual property and open access to the Duke community and beyond.

Smith earned a J.D. from Capital University Law School, a master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, and a master of arts in religion from Yale University Divinity School. Prior to his work at Duke, he was the director of Library and Instructional Resources at Defiance College. He has also worked as an instructor, reference librarian, and assistant librarian.

UPK: What are your first orders of business as the UPK Director?

Smith: The first thing I need to do is to get to know the Press staff. I have been very impressed by their dedication and professionalism during the past few, very stressful months, and I am looking forward to learning about them and from them. Of course, I need to take a deep look at UPK’s finances and operations. And, then, we need to start planning our first steps toward the new initiatives we will undertake in digital publishing and open access.

What do you look forward to most in your new role as director?

As my previous answer indicates, I am looking forward to working with the UPK staff. I also anticipate some creative and exciting conversations about how UPK and the libraries, at KU and at the other Kansas Regents’ universities, can find new ways to collaborate.

How do you plan to balance your responsibilities as Dean of Libraries and Director of UPK?

Appointing Kelly Chrisman Jacques as Managing Director of the Press was a big step. I do not have either the time nor the expertise to oversee the daily operations of the Press, although I expect to learn a lot about how UPK works in the coming months, so Kelly’s new role is essential. Obviously, I will be spending a good deal of time meeting people, talking about the Press, and exploring new ways for the Press to fulfill its mission. Fortunately, the KU Libraries have a very strong leadership team, and I can lean on them quite a bit.

How can UPK collaborate with the KU library system and the library systems at the other Regents universities?

This is something we will need to explore together. The different libraries at the Regents’ universities have different approaches to digital publishing, so as we seek collaboration in that area, we will need to discuss how each of the libraries can work together with the Press, and what the most important objectives are in those collaborations.

A major point of focus moving forward will be developing an active Open Access program with UPK titles. Can you describe how that process will be implemented? What will it look like in 5 years?

It is much too early for me to start predicting the future, five years down the road! But an important goal for us will be to help the faculty at each of the Regents’ universities gain access to publishing expertise and to take advantage of the benefits that open access offers to scholars and scholarship.

The reorganization of a program and new initiatives can take time to implement and review; can you expound upon the anticipated timeframe for this process?

I would like to spend the rest of the spring and summer talking with people and learning about current processes and future possibilities. I hope we can have some basic planning in place by the start of the fall semester in order to facilitate outreach to the faculties at each university.

The Press receives a subsidy from the state of Kansas. That subsidy has not increased in 10 years and will decrease for the next fiscal year. What type of challenges does that present for UPK?

There are financial challenges facing us across higher education right now, and that is very likely to continue. Frankly, I am pleased that the subvention will continue. A big part of the reorganization plan adopted by the Trustees is cutting costs, and it will also be critical for us to identify project-based subventions to help with that goal. Overall, the challenge and the necessity is for the Press to live within its means.

While the Press was being reviewed by Rick Clements, public support for the mission of UPK swelled. How do you address supporters of the Press and instill confidence in the new direction?

First, I am very grateful for all of the support that was expressed for the Press, and I know that the staff is as well. All of the messages encouraging that the Press continue to fulfill its mission really did have a significant impact. The new directions we will be pursuing together are adjustments, efforts to take advantage of new technologies and opportunities; they do not alter that fundamental mission to publish excellent scholarship in the traditional areas of the Press’s expertise. Also, each of these newer trajectories are actually well-trodden paths, and we have lots of colleagues in the Association of University Presses and the Association of Research Libraries who are very willing to think with us to design successful plans.

How can we leverage this enthusiasm and support long-term? What fundraising plans do you have for UPK?

The 75th anniversary of the Press this year is a great opportunity to leverage the attention and support that the Press has received to build a firm foundation of supporters. I see three prongs to our fund-raising work. First, we will collaborate more closely with the KU endowment association to develop a fund-raising strategy.  Second, we will intensify our efforts to identify sources of project-specific subventions. Finally, we will look more closely at grant opportunities in the areas of digital publishing and open access. The Mellon-funded Kansas Open Books project that is currently underway actually advances us a good deal in the arena of digital publishing and open access, and it can serve as a model for what we can accomplish with the assistance of research funders.