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New UW Press director named

June 11, 2008

Sheila Leary has been named director of the University of Wisconsin Press, Martin Cadwallader, dean of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Graduate School and vice chancellor for research, has announced.

Leary, an 18-year veteran of the press, has been its interim director since September 2005.

"As interim director, Sheila has done a wonderful job of leading the UW Press," says Cadwallader. "After conducting a national search, I am convinced that she is the ideal individual to guide the press to even higher levels of excellence."

Leary is not the first woman to lead the press, but she is the first to hold the title of director. When the university’s Board of Regents founded the UW Press in 1936, Livia Appel was hired with the title executive editor.

UW Press is a $4 million operation. Only about 9 percent of its budget comes from tax appropriations, with the rest coming from sales, subscriptions, grants and gifts. The press has about 1,280 book titles in print, 650 books in digital format and more than 1,000 journal back issues available via online archives. In 2008, it will publish 51 new books and 32 journal issues, and it will distribute 30 new books and CDs for other publishers that include Wisconsin museums, UW–Madison programs and small Wisconsin publishers. In addition, all of the journals and an increasing number of books are offered in digital formats.

"My approach has been to publish somewhat fewer new books than in the recent past, but with an increased emphasis on intelligent editing, attractive design and production, and active marketing to make each book a success," says Leary. "Digital technologies also are making it economical to keep older works available through print on demand and in digital form, and to distribute books and journals globally through increasingly varied channels.

"We’re interested in growing our journals division and recently took on publication of an international journal about African journalism," Leary adds. "Another recent initiative was licensing Google to make the content of our books and journals searchable by their search engine."

During Leary’s interim tenure, the press received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to publish English translations of three Holocaust novels and a five-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to publish first books by junior faculty in Slavic and Eastern European studies. Among many awards won by both books and journals was an American Book Award for the memoir "Butterfly Boy" by Rigoberto Gonzalez and a Best Midwest Regional Book Award for "Around the Shores of Lake Superior: A Guide to Historic Sites" by UW–Madison historian Margaret Bogue.

"Our mission encompasses three aims," Leary says. "We publish important scholarship for a worldwide community of researchers, teachers and students; document the culture and heritage of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region; and strive to publish general-interest works that contribute to a literate culture and an informed citizenry."

Leary is a native of Rice Lake, Wis., where she took courses at UW-Barron County during high school before earning a B.A. in linguistics from Stanford University. She has worked in academic publishing for 25 years, beginning her career at the University of Chicago Press and joining the UW Press as assistant marketing manager in 1980. She also worked as marketing/sales manager and then as development director for UW Press before serving as interim director.