MHS Press can weather short shutdown

  • Blog Post by: Laurie Hertzel
  • July 5, 2011 - 2:21 PM



If you follow Minnesota Historical Society Press director Pamela McClanahan on social media, you might have seen her chipper "Frugal State Worker" postings, which she has been writing daily since Friday's shutdown.

The Press gets only about 20 percent of its funding from the state; the rest comes from earned income, grants and endowments. But the Society gets more than half of its funding from the state, and the Society is closed, and so when midnight came on June 30, the Press shut down too.

The Press, McClanahan said today, is in good shape for weathering a shortish shutdown. "We crammed about a summer's worth of work in June," she said. July is usually a quiet month for books. But there is still plenty of work that's not getting done. "We can't respond to professors' exam copy requests, we can't start or complete our publicity work for our fall books. This is the time that that background work happens."

The Press's website is still up and running (in a somewhat limited way). "We are still selling books through our distributor, and through Bookmobile, which handles all our e-book commerce," she said. "And that decision was made because they're offsite and aren't state employees. But we are not editing, designing and printing books."

The fall lineup is OK for now, she said, with the exception of one book, which is tied to an exhibit at the State Historical Society (which is, of course, also closed). But if the shutdown goes beyond July, it's harder to predict. Now is the time when they should be meeting to decide on next spring's lineup--not just which books, but how, and what they will look like, and how they will be promoted.

"We earn 45 percent of our total revenue from the front list," she said. "And if any of our fall books are delayed--if we miss a month--we'll really see an impact."

After we talked, McClanahan sent a follow-up message: "The Press surpassed our annual sales goal again this fiscal year," she said. "We are a good return on investment for the state, both culturally and fiscally, and we'd hate to see that impacted negatively by a prolonged shutdown."

I think we can all agree with that.


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