A Virtuous Circle of Scholarship

If I were to read three books published by Cornell University Press (CUP) for every week this year, I would be keeping up with its current rate of production. But I would still be leaving untouched CUP’s legacy of nearly 7,000 titles published over the last 150 years.

Cornell University Library has always had a strong relationship with CUP. In 1869, Daniel Willard Fiske was both the first university librarian and the first director of the press. Since then, the title of university librarian has been named in honor of Carl A. Kroch, a legendary bookseller, library supporter, and Cornell alumnus, who died in 1999.

I was appointed Carl A. Kroch University Librarian in August 2017 and inherited the press from the vice provost for international affairs on January 1, 2018. I think CUP director Dean Smith’s new reporting relationship to me suits us both very well. Certainly, academic libraries have always depended heavily on the expertise and output of university presses. Not only do presses provide much of the content that libraries then make available to patrons, but they also help libraries understand what attracts the attention of experts in different disciplines. This insight, in turn, inspires the library’s collection development initiatives.

Conversely, authors published by university presses are able to find useful material for their research in libraries and archives. And this virtuous circle becomes complete when these authors’ works are acquired by the library and then become sources for new scholarship.

There are many other reasons why the anniversary of Cornell University Press should be celebrated. One is reputation. It is not easy to identify reliable knowledge by searching for it in the wide world of the web. A book from CUP, on the other hand, has undergone a rigorous process of review before it ever arrives in your hand or on your device. It is a quality product. Thanks to CUP’s reputation, built over a century and a half, you know a lot about its publication’s contents even before you begin reading. In a world increasingly vulnerable to half-truths and misinformation, that in itself is surely worth celebrating.

Feb 28, 2019

Gerald R. Beasley
Carl A. Kroch University Librarian
Cornell University

A version of this piece appeared as a preface to Our First 150 Years: Cornell University Press, Est. 1869, by Karen M. Laun.

Views expressed are the opinions of the author and do not represent endorsement by Cornell University.