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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Meet the APH Press Advisory Board

Larry Marotta, Executive Editor, APH Press

I was skeptical.

It was October 4, 2018, and I was an APH veteran for all of 10 days. I was going to meet the APH Press Advisory Board for the first time. The board is comprised of respected teachers, learned professors, and well-known authors. These experts were going to help APH Press identify the sorts of books needed by professionals who work with people who are blind and visually impaired.

But I was ready for something different.

Experience had taught me a hard fact: put a group of brilliant and passionate people in the same room and you will have trouble. Carefully crafted meeting agendas are no match for cumbersome egos, conflicting ideologies, and intellectual hairsplitting. Although I tried to be positive, 20 years in K-12 textbook publishing had me suspicious that instead of leading APH Press down new roads, an Advisory Board was more likely to be a roadblock.

I quickly learned that I was wrong.

As board members and APH Press staff piled together into cars to travel to APH, the tone was immediately down-to-earth and friendly. Dr. William R. Wiener—a man with the intimidating-sounding title Brenda Brodie Endowed Chair in School of Education at North Carolina Central University—introduced himself as “Bill.” On the drive over, Dr. Danene Fast and I discovered that we both live in Columbus, Ohio. She invited me to visit her at Ohio State University in order to learn more about OSU’s programs and to meet her students.

Sitting at the conference table, it was easy to feel intimidated by the expertise of our 14 board members. Debra Sewell was Curriculum Director for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, while George Abbott was Chief Knowledge Officer for the American Foundation for the Blind. But as the board got down to work, the tone was clearly kind, humble, and supportive.
Since then, I have had many chances to interface with our 14 board members in meetings, e-mail exchanges, and phone conversations. I have been energized by the enthusiasm each expert brings to our interactions. This spirit of camaraderie has surpassed my expectations. Similar to conversations among friends, sometimes an idea suggested by one board member inspires a long, spontaneous, and enthusiastic chain of e-mails. I just sit back and learn.

Beyond informal discussions, the entire APH Press Advisory Board will meet quarterly. However, the board has identified three key areas for study, and has established subcommittees to address them. Each subcommittee meets as often as its members decide. One committee, chaired by Dr. Sharon Sacks, is thinking about the process by which authors can submit proposals for new books. The second, chaired by Dr. Karen Ross, is identifying what sorts of books people in the field want to buy. The third, chaired by APH’s Director, Resource Services and NIMAC, Julia Myers, is examining the existing market for APH Press books.

I am grateful and honored to have the input of these 14 passionate experts. Far from being a roadblock as I once suspected, they are truly opening up new avenues for APH Press. One of APH’s stated core values is growth—continuing to improve the quality of our offerings, and working to identify and meet the needs of customers beyond our existing markets. The APH Press Advisory Board gives us a real advantage as we aim for that goal.
A stack of AFB Press books

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