About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 26, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 32
JHU Press Names New Director

Kathleen Keane

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Kathleen Keane's M.B.A. thesis was titled "Pricing Scholarly Books: A Supervised Business Study." She says the project gave her an "excellent introduction" to practical economics, and to university press publishing. If that was indeed an introduction, the subjects certainly made a very good first impression, as they would become the cornerstones of her distinguished career.

Keane, who has more than 20 years' experience in health sciences and scholarly publishing, has been appointed director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, effective May 1. She has served as interim director since Jan. 1, when James Jordan stepped down from his post of more than five years to become director of Columbia University Press.

Keane joined the JHU Press in September 2002 as director of finance and operations. In that role, Keane had direct responsibility for accounting, information systems and Hopkins Fulfillment Services, the Press' book distribution service center.

Winston Tabb, dean of university libraries and director of the Sheridan Libraries, chaired the search committee, which was aided by a leading recruitment firm in the area of publishing executives.

Tabb says that the group was unanimous in its belief that Keane was the ideal person to lead the Johns Hopkins Press. "Her experience both at the Press and in the area of commercial publishing before she came to Johns Hopkins seemed to provide the ideal preparation for someone who must be sensitive to the needs of scholars and scholarship while also keeping the Press operating on the soundest possible financial footing," Tabb says.

Keane earned her master's degree in English, with a specialization in modern English literature, from Catholic University of America. She received her M.B.A. from the Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia.

Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, Keane served as executive vice president of operations and chief publishing officer at Harcourt Health Sciences in Philadelphia, a division of Harcourt Inc.

At Harcourt, Keane was responsible for all its health sciences books, including major textbooks and reference books in medicine, nursing and allied health; journals; and database publishing.

She began her professional career in 1974 at the National Endowment for the Arts, where for three years she administered a multimillion-dollar federal grant program for symphony orchestras. From 1980 to 1991, she was business manager and vice president for finance at J.B Lippincott Co., a medical book and journal publisher, that was a subsidiary of Harper and Row Publishers. She joined Harcourt in 1991 as its executive vice president for operations and senior vice president for operations for W.B. Saunders, its health sciences division.

JHU Press is the oldest academic press in the country. Founded in 1878 at the behest of Daniel Coit Gilman, it began its life as the Publishing Agency, an entity created to provide scholarly journals for the fledgling Johns Hopkins and its faculty.

To date, the Press has published more than 5,000 titles. Today, in addition to scholarly books, journals and monographs, the Press publishes works for a general audience, including health, regional history and trade reference books.

In 1995, the Press, in collaboration with the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, launched Project Muse to offer the full text of its scholarly journals via the Web. Currently, Project MUSE offers nearly 250 journal titles from more than 30 scholarly publishers, covering the fields of literature and criticism, history, political science, the visual and performing arts, and many others.

Keane says she was initially drawn to the JHU Press because of its wide breadth of offerings, both in the sciences and the humanities.

As to what direction she plans to take the JHU Press, Keane says that it will continue on its current course but that she would like to see the journals program and Project MUSE grow.

"The trend in scholarship is moving toward greater reliance on those kinds of resources," she says.

Keane says that one particular challenge that all academic publishers face is the ability to maintain the proper balance between commercially viable activities and books, and particular monographs that are essential scholarship but increasingly hard to subsidize.

"The work embodied in those books is not reaching very many people, and I would like to find a way to expand that reach and make them more read," she says. "It's an area we can't ignore."

Provost Steven Knapp, to whom Keane will report, says that Keane understands the vital contribution the JHU Press can make to the university's mission of bringing knowledge to the world. Specifically, he says that the new director will seek to strengthen the financial viability of its book component and more closely integrate the Press into the fabric of the university.

"Currently only 12 percent of the Press' authors are Johns Hopkins faculty," Knapp says. "Of course the Press is not just a vehicle for Johns Hopkins authors; it provides a forum for excellent scholarly work produced around the world. But we do want to look for ways in which the Press can be more fully integrated with the divisions and can help develop and promote some of this university's unique academic strengths."

Keane says that she realizes she becomes director at a pivotal moment in the Press' history.

"The Press just last year celebrated its 125th anniversary, and that event brought its past successes into the minds of many here at Johns Hopkins," she says. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to lead us forward into the next era. Certainly, we can't replicate the past — the markets are different, and the world is different — but I think there is a strong base and plenty of room to enhance what is here."


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |