Kathy Borkowski, the executive director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Press for the past 13 years, is stepping down.
Borkowski, who will leave WHSP on January 11, has been hired by the Children’s Theater of Madison as its development director. Editor-in-chief at WHSP Kate Thompson has been named interim director there; she will remain in the post until a permanent director is hired this spring.
The 163-year-old press has, during Borkowski’s tenure, doubled its annual output from 10 titles to 20. Revenue, correspondingly, has also gone up. Sales have more than quadrupled since 2004’s $210,000, leveling off in recent years at $800,000-$850,000 after a peak in 2009 of more than $1 million. WHSP has six full-time employees, and 10 part-time employees
Borkowski ascribes the upward trajectory in the press’ fortunes to aggressively pushing the press in new directions. She has worked to change the image of the press as a stodgy publisher of antiquarian titles for the regional market to one with a more varied focus.
In recent years, WHSP has put more of an emphasis on books for the K-12 educational market, like the textbook Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story, which is in its second edition and is used each year by more than 45,000 fourth-grade students in Wisconsin’s public schools.
Under Borkowski, the press has also shifted toward the trade. WHSP has focused in the past decade on publishing personal narratives with universal themes, such as Mexicans in Wisconsin. It has also released homages to the Badger State’s popular culture, with titles like Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars, which has sold almost 11,000 copies. The press’ bestselling title, Indian Nations of Wisconsin, has sold 30,000 copies to date.