U of I Cuts Back on Campus Printing Operations

June 30, 2011

Thursday, June 30th is the last day for ten jobs at the University of Illinois Urbana campus.

That day marks the end of large offset press operations at the campus printing department. The department will continue to print stationery, posters and small, digital printing jobs for the campus for one more year. But Director of Printing Barbara Childers said the shutdown of offset, letterpress and bindery operations ends a printing tradition that began at the Urbana campus in 1918.

"It's extremely difficult," Childers said of the cutback. "And we have maintained a close relationship with our retirees. So there are a number of old printers, who've come back in the last month or two to visit, just to see the operation while the presses were still running."

Childers said changes in the printing industry have led to an overall decline in offset printing around the world.

"There was a change in the tax rules that made it --- certainly not for the university but for other people --- less attractive to warehouse printed materials," she said. "And so, digital came on in a big way, because it provides a more instant printing. And as the quality in digital (printing) got better, offset volumes fell even further."

But Childers said she disagrees with assumptions that outsourcing all campus printing work beginning next summer will save the U of I money. Still, she said there are many fine private printing operations in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities that can take up the work they do.

One of the final offset printing jobs at the U of I Urbana campus printing department is the biennial compilation of board of trustee minutes. Childers said that is a publication that dates back more than 90 years, to the printing department's first year of operations. One of the other final campus offset printing projects is the July issue of WILL's Patterns Magazine. Beginning with the August issue, Patterns will be produced by Premier Print Group in Champaign.

Meanwhile, Childers said there plans for continued use of the printing department's letterpress. She said the Soybean Press hopes to use the letter press for both its own printing projects, and for training students in fine letterpress printing. The four-year-old Soybean Press is a joint venture of the University of Illinois' Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the School of Art + Design and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Story source: WILL