In July, Leila Salisbury took over as director of University Press of Mississippi (UPM), replacing the retiring Seetha Srinivasan. Salisbury is a Virginia native, who grew up and spent her early career in the Bluegrass State at the University Press of Kentucky (UPK).
However, she has had a long personal and professional relationship with Srinivasan and her family, and UPK and UPM offer many similarities. So, for Salisbury coming to Mississippi seems a lot like going home.
Born to publish
“I guess I was just a unique child,” Salisbury said with a chuckle. “If you had asked me when I was 13 years old what I wanted to do when I grow up, I would have said, ‘I want to be in scholarly publishing.’ How many 13-year-olds would have said that?”
At age three, Salisbury and her family moved from Virginia to Kentucky. She attended school in Lexington. She went on to Davidson College in North Carolina, where Salisbury graduated with a degree in English.
At Davidson, she was introduced to the Srinivasan family. Srinivasan’s sons were at Davidson, and helped show her around. The relationship would grow from there.
Salisbury had started grad school at the University of Georgia when she answered a phone call about a position with UPK. Salisbury applied; she was named an assistant to the director in 1994, and said that position and subsequent ones gave her a “big picture” look at the running of a university press, laying a solid foundation for her career.
In 2001, Salisbury was named director of UPK’s marketing department.
This position had Salisbury attending many industry gatherings, and because UPK and UPM were so similar — both consortium publishers and roughly the same size — the two groups often had side-by-side booths, which offered Salisbury to cultivate a relationship with Srinivasan.
Salisbury said all of this made her decision to come to UPM much easier.
“Seetha has long been a professional mentor,” Salisbury said. “I knew that (UPM) was in good shape under her leadership.” She added that this was especially important considering that UPM operates on a cash budget, and because it is not affiliated with an institution of higher learning, cannot go back to the parent organization if there is a budgetary shortfall.
Turning the page
On July 14, Salisbury officially took over as director of UPM, completing yet another Mississippi connection.
“Dr. Thomas D. Clark was a historian in Kentucky,” she remembered. “He was a native of Mississippi, and always talked about how great Mississippi was. He lived to be 101 years old. I started on July 14, which was Dr. Clark’s birthday.”
Salisbury, who comes to Mississippi with her husband and two-year-old daughter, is excited about the future at UPM. She has spent the last month getting to know new faces and names, and is looking forward to a coming out party when she will be featured at an upcoming BOOKFRIENDS gathering August 26 in Jackson.
Salisbury said she is very excited about a mammoth UPM project. UPM is currently planning to publish an encyclopedia of Mississippi. It represents years of work — Salisbury projected the book’s release in 2010.
UPM currently employs 18 full-time staffers and a couple of part-timers. Founded in 1970, it is supported by Mississippi’s eight state universities. From its offices in Jackson, UPM acquires, edits, distributes and promotes more than 60 new books every year.
Over the years, it has published more than 900 titles and distributed more than 2,500,000 copies world wide, each with the Mississippi imprint. The University Press is the only not-for-profit book publisher in the state.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.