The recent death of Mark Saunders, director at University of Virginia Press, was a great loss to the university press community. Although I never worked with Saunders, I knew of him through various other associates and through the work I’ve done here at UGA Press the last two decades.
Saunders’s contributions remind me of how each member of a given staff can contribute in big ways to the dissemination of scholarly information—sometimes in ways that are behind the scenes and that go unnoticed by the wider community.
One such person at our press is David des Jardines. Once, long ago, David worked at a trade house in New York, but he’s been here at UGA Press now for decades and has worn numerous hats through the years.
Once upon a time, he worked as an acquisitions editor, acquiring one of our all-time best sellers, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. It is experience that he still puts to use sometimes, coming up with ideas for books or finding old books that somehow fell out of print but that remain timely and in need of a publisher. One example in the last few years includes Ruth Benedict’s Race, due out this fall, a work that seems especially relevant today with the rising visibility and power of the alt-right. He also rediscovered Arthur Koestler’s Reflections on Hanging, republished in March of this year, a work about the debate of capital punishment whose arguments seem as pertinent today as they were when Koestler first made them in the 1950s. He also came up with the idea for a set of themed anthologies based on the Press’s Flannery O’Connor Award series and guided an intern in putting them together, anthologies that have gotten a lot of attention from booksellers since their release earlier this year.
In the time I’ve known him, he’s been a crucial part of the Press’s marketing department, taking a hand in writing catalog copy, gathering blurbs, disseminating metadata, and even running the department for a number of years—whatever was needed at the time. During his most recent stint as marketing director, David spearheaded the Press’s seventy-fifth anniversary celebration in 2013, coming up with trivia contests and a list of out-of-print backlist titles to reprint in commemoration.
On a social level, he’s made wonderful contributions to the Press. He once hosted a holiday party at his historic home (designed by Leila Ross Wilburn) that featured Noteworthy, UGA’s all-female a capella group. And when a visitor from another press came through town on an AUP Week in Residence fellowship, he and his wife were the ones who spent part of their Sunday helping me greet her and make her feel at home.
In his oversight of the Press’s metadata, he researched and helped make a decision about what database would replace our aging FileMakerPro system. After the Press settled on Biblio, he’s helped coordinate the dissemination of learning tools with other presses, posting questions and offering advice in Biblio University on Basecamp. He also recently led the charge in revamping the Press’s website, and he was a key player in the Press’s strategy for e-book production when e-books first became a thing presses needed to be doing. He’s the go-to guy for a lot of technical know-how at the Press, this despite the fact that he, like many of us, knew very little of these technologies at one time. I remember, years ago, having a conversation with him about SEO keywords, something that was confusing to both of us at the time, as blogging was something the Press was just beginning to do. Staying on top of ever-developing technology in this industry is tough, but David has proved a true asset in helping the press spread its scholarly influence.
Jon Davies is assistant director for editorial, design, and production at UGA Press. Lisa Bayer, UGA Press Director, also contributed to this post.