Interview with Frances (Fran) Gale, APT Bulletin Book Review Editor
How and when did you get involved with the APT publications committee?
I joined the APT Board of Directors sometime around 2007. Soon afterwards, I was invited to co-chair the Publications Committee with Anne Weber, and then Book Review Editor in 2009. My predecessor Bob Young provided background materials that I could carry forward. We overlapped with books in process, so I started with his legacy and moved it forward. I’ve always loved working on the publications committee, as I’m a long-time book lover, and Mount Ida Press – who is a fabulous partner for us - has been a joy to work with.
What has it told you about APT and it professionalism?
We’ve reviewed quite a wide variety of books suggested to us by APT members, publishers, and book review editors – and nearest and dearest to our hearts are books written by APT members. The subjects represent a wide variety of issues and topics that appeal to our readers. It has been a pleasure to match the books with our reviewers who have the appropriate expertise and to get a good fit. The reviewers really step up and give their (often limited) time to provide these reviews. We try to be understanding of the difficulty and value of their time commitment, as we really appreciate their service.
What constitutes a good review?
A book review reader wants to learn not only about the book, but about the topic, so a good review is by a person who’s familiar with the context. What makes it different and why it would be of interest to APT readers. It is not easy to write book reviews. I prefer those that thoroughly address the book’s topic – on its own merits and in a broader context. A good review references other applicable publications that also cover the subject.
What trends have you seen in preservation-related books?
During the time I’ve been book review editor, there have been many more books about sustainability and climate-change related topics. And books about cultural landscapes. The challenge in coordinating reviews is trying to match them to special bulletin issue topics, and cajoling reviewers into completing their reviews in a two-month period. We certainly have tried to tie book reviews into special bulletin issues. There was an issue on cultural landscapes a couple of years ago and we tried to get at least one of our reviews to be on that topic.
Do you think the profession is producing high quality resources?
I do. Every now and again, I’ll receive a book that doesn’t seem to be appropriate for a review in our publication; but that is a rare occurrence. And every now and then, the review process reveals that the book isn’t a good fit for APT readers. It always surprises me how many new books come out in a given year, especially in a day and age when we supposedly don’t read as many books. Generally, it is amazing that there are so many good books.
Has our profession gotten into e-books?
I see that coming more and more. Right now, there are several books that are also available as e-books and, of course, we make that known to our book readers.
What drives you?
It’s a good way for me to keep current with new books that are coming out. I took over the book review position shortly after I joined the University of Texas Historic Preservation Program, so it really is a way to for me to keep up-to-date with new publications. And I share new books that I think are important to preservation with our Architecture & Planning Library, so I make sure that they are aware and willing to purchase copies for our library.
Any final words to share?
I have loved being the Book Review Editor, but am a strong believer that it’s a temporary position, that no one has ownership of. It evolves with each person based on a change in time, in style, and interests. And I look forward to the Lee Nelson Book Award by APT every four years. Each of the jurors reviewing the nominated books is in a perfect position to provide a review of the book for the bulletin.
Lastly, almost everyone we approach about doing a book review already has a full-time job, and the review is extra, so I always feels that we need to be gracious and allow some leeway.
The APT Publications Committee is grateful to Fran Gale for her inspiring work over the years and her continued professional commitment to APT. Let’s join her in extending gratitude to all those who’ve written book reviews for the APT Bulletin and for those who will in the years to come! As the new Book Review Editor, I look forward to working with you and remain indebted to the legacy of those before me. Thank you, Fran Gale.