The Utah State University Press will retain its imprint and publishing program even after significant budget cuts threatened its future.

That’s because the Utah State University Board of Trustees voted late last week for USU Press to transfer its assets over to the University Press of Colorado and join the University Press of Colorado consortium as a member. USU is the ninth member.

The agreement was also finalized by the University Press of Colorado Board of Trustees. A transition period began in early January 2012, with full implementation targeted for later this month.

“It enables the press to carry on to continue publishing books under the USU imprint,” said Richard Clement, USU dean of libraries. “Most people will see no change at all. With the budget cuts, it really looked like there were no options. So this is a very innovative and, I think, forward-looking option.”

Founded in 1972, USU Press has earned a reputation as a good small press that has managed to make significant contributions in composition studies, folklore, poetry, environmental studies and the history and culture of the West, according to USU. It publishes about 20 books a year.

In recent years, annual sales have been two to three times the amount that USU has provided. Sales income has been dedicated to balancing all direct costs of publishing, plus additional salary costs that the press’ USU-funded budget was not covering — and some other overhead costs.

The University Press of Colorado and USU Press are both members of the Association of American University Presses. USU approached Colorado with the idea of merging.

Clement said the University Press of Colorado would “undertake all of the business operations,” paying the salaries of all USU Press employees, and maintaining production costs.

Under the arrangements, University Press of Colorado will take over the financial obligations and sales for USU Press, but USU Press will continue to publish books under its imprint and will continue to be housed in the Merrill-Cazier Library in Logan.

Also, the current USU Print faculty oversight committee will continue to direct and approve new publications, but will require the concurrence of the University Press of Colorado Trustees. Three USU faculty will serve on that board.

The USU Press imprint will remain the property of USU.

For officials at University Press of Colorado, taking on a Utah school is a new venture for them. The press’ director, Darrin Pratt, flew in from Colorado personally to propose this plan to USU library officials.

“The University Press of Colorado is very pleased to have Utah State University as a member of our consortium and USU Press as a publishing partner,” Pratt said in an email. “USU Press is a well-run business with strong scholarly lists that both dovetail nicely with our own (regional history) and also take us in new directions (communications and folklore). By joining forces, we hope to create economies of scale that will benefit both the UPC and the USUP list over the long-term.”

The USU Press had been on the chopping block in previous years during the recession. In 2009, according to a report from Inside Higher Ed., USU Provost and Executive Vice President Ray Coward acknowledged that there had been discussions about ending support for the press or merging it with another university press.

Most recently, the press came under the chopping block this past summer, when USU President Stan Albrecht announced in a campuswide letter that it might be affected as a result of the $4 million budget cut USU received in the 2011 legislative session.

USU budgeted $125,000 including benefits to USU Press per year in recent years.

“It’s a program we valued but could no longer afford,” Coward said. “This business plan allows us to save money and to keep the press.”

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