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UNM Press books headed to Tennessee

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University of New Mexico Press warehouse manager Susan Coatney leads former UNM interim President Chaouki Abdallah on a tour of the UNM Press warehouse last summer. The Board of Regents voted Monday to outsource the warehousing and distribution of the books. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico Press’ books are bound for Tennessee.

UNM’s Board of Regents on Monday approved a contract with Longleaf Services Inc. to assume the warehousing and distribution functions that the UNM Press currently handles in-house.

While some critics have blasted outsourcing – which requires moving the inventory to Tennessee – UNM officials contend it’s necessary for the Press’ long-term viability.

“We’re not closing down the Press,” interim senior vice provost Rich Wood said. “This is a move to allow the Press to continue to exist and thrive.”

UNM has typically not provided a direct subsidy for the Press, instead covering its year-end shortfalls. But those shortfalls have repeatedly topped $500,000, and UNM has searched for ways to stabilize the operation.

Interim Press Director Richard Schuetz expressed his support for the outsourcing, saying he sees it as the next step “in our three-part plan to get our Press on solid financial footing.”

Previous measures included cutting staff and reducing the number of titles published.

But UNM emeritus professor Enrique Lamadrid had a different take, complaining about the many recent changes.

“The rallying cry I heard at the level of deans and administrators is how they are saving the Press, when in actuality they’ve done everything possible to dismantle it,” Lamadrid said.

The contract with Longleaf begins July 1. It will cost an estimated $250,000 for the first year and $260,000 each of the next four, but it could vary depending on the number of books sold and stored, according to materials provided for the meeting.

UNM says it will save more than $200,000 in annual fulfillment costs by outsourcing – something many universities already have done. Scheutz told regents that UNM is “about one of 13” academic presses that still handles distribution in-house.

But some have warned that the move could hurt the larger New Mexico book community. UNM Press is the state’s largest publisher, and about 30 third-party publishers piggyback onto its warehouse service. Those contracts yield about $220,000 in annual revenue.

Melissa Vargas, director of operations in the provost’s office, said UNM would determine soon “on a case-by-case basis” which publishers it would continue distributing for under its new Longleaf arrangement.

The Press’ existing warehouse has about 845,000 units, including about 300,000 from other publishers. She said UNM anticipates sending a three-year supply of each title, though nothing is final.

The outsourcing affects five jobs. At least two will be transferred to support the University Libraries and Learning Sciences – which recently took the Press under its umbrella – but “no decisions have been finalized on the other three,” Vargas said in an emailed response to Journal questions.

She said UNM could start sending inventory to Tennessee next month, with a goal of emptying the Albuquerque warehouse by mid-August. Longleaf will cover costs of moving the inventory.

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