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June 7, 2012 Volume 33, No. 32

Missouri Press to close after 54 years

The University of Missouri Press, publisher of such books as The Collected Works of Langston Hughes and Mark Twain and His Circle, will begin phasing out its operations in July.

Funding the press became a challenge in recent years, UM System President Timothy M. Wolfe said May 23 in a statement about the University’s shifting strategic priorities. 

In fiscal 2012, the press received a $400,000 subsidy. But as state funds for higher education have declined, the University has had to make tough decisions to balance its budget.

Opened in 1958, the press has published more than 2,000 books on a variety of topics, such as world history, biography, journalism, women’s studies and creative nonfiction. The press was a leader in scholarship on native sons Twain, Hughes and Harry S Truman.

Other university presses have also closed as states struggle to balance their budgets during the nation’s extended economic downturn. In 2009, Eastern Washington University, the University of Scranton and the Southern Methodist University shuttered. The following year, the Southern Methodist University Press closed. 

System officials say the press may be revamped in some way for online. But nothing concrete has been decided. In the May 23 statement, Wolfe said that leaders are “exploring new models for scholarly communication, building on its strength in journalism, library science, information technology, the libraries and its broad emphasis on media of the future.”

Scholarly online publications may include “much more than text, such as simulations, audio and other elements,” Wolfe said. 

The closure announcement has sparked national attention.Efforts are being made by some supporters to save the press. 

The University of Missouri Press closure will affect 10 press workers. Its official closing date has not yet been determined.