The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) has recently launched the online title resource "Books for Understanding," which offers a comprehensive listing of university press books that shed light on current events. "Were hoping it will be useful to booksellers
who have people coming in and asking Where can I learn more about these topics?" said Brenna McLaughlin, communications manager for the not-for-profit AAUP. "[The list] gives booksellers knowledge -- the ability to recommend relevant books to their customer."
"Books for Understanding," was created in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks as an online bibliography to direct booksellers, teachers, scholars, journalists, and librarians to university press books relevant to the tragedy. The idea was sparked by a call from Sanford Thatcher, director of Pennsylvania State University Press, to AAUP. He said there was a tremendous surge in interest on terrorism, and wanted AAUP to poll its members to find out the most pertinent books on the subject.
"We sent out an email to our members and thats how we created the initial list," said McLaughlin. Within a week after the tragedy, the initial list was placed on its Web site, www.aaupnet.org. That list quickly grew to include over 650 books ranging in topics from U.S. foreign policy to Islamic thought and culture. "There was an urgency [for relevant information] after 9/11," said McLaughlin.
Jean Srnecz, senior vice president of merchandising for Baker & Taylor, concurred. "Theres been an upswing in interest in books relating to Islam, the Middle-East, and terrorism," she said, adding that consumers were also interested in books on coping and spirituality.
Of course, times and news headlines change, and, accordingly, so has "Books for Understanding" since its initial online posting.
The AAUP has created a "Current Topics" listing, which presently includes university press titles relating to civil liberties and to the Enron scandal. Additionally, at the suggestion of both Baker & Taylor and Ingram, the list now includes ISBNs, to make it easier for booksellers to stock relevant titles. AAUP is also planning a "Recommended By" feature, in which scholars, writers, booksellers, and librarians will be asked to offer their choice of university press titles on particular topics.
"We want Books for Understanding to be a constantly expanding, relevant source of the information and resources available in the world of university presses," Peter Givler, AAUP executive director, said in a statement. "Authors [of university press books] are often in the position of having already published books on subjects central to our understanding new and difficult situations."-- David Grogan