Spring/Summer 1996, Volume 13.2
Neila C. Seshachari
Last week, at the beginning of Spring Quarter, I happened to see our campus Arts and Humanities Bibliographer, who quarterly initiates my students into the mysteries of electronic research in the library. "I see your latest acquisition is an ear-stud," I said. "It's becoming on you."
"It's a chip—to update my memory," he said, eyes twinkling. "Ten megabytes?" I asked, in mock seriousness. "Not quite," he answered seriously. "It's only four for now—just an aid to my own memory, but in another decade, I'll have to upgrade to ten megabytes."
I have upgraded my memory too; only it's directly on to my Macintosh, which not only formats this journal but ventures cautiously and reluctantly into e-mail and internetworld wide webs, home pages, and CELJ's EDITORIAL-L@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu. I am grateful for the facility, but I also know that reading e-mail alone takes up as much as half-hour of my time daily.
Cybersurfing or netscaping, in its generic sense, is the new frontier of our times, opening up exciting surfing horizons or escape opportunities appropriately called MUD, "multiple-user dungeons," of virtual reality or imaginative landscapes, which can drown the unwary in mire. Our children are now spending more time in front of PC screens than TV screens. Respectable evangelists are broadcasting sermons via internet. Some of my colleagues are experimenting with teaching courses entirely on e-mail. And, of course, journals are being released on electronic media.
I have resisted the temptation to even think of releasing Weber Studies electronically. We'll make one exception, the special issue on "Technology and Literature" (January 1997), which will be released both in print and on-line as a special issue of ebrelectronic book review (http://www.altx.com)
Weber Studies has so far not succumbed entirely to the Net. We consider only hard copies of manuscripts on snailmail. We insist authors send us approved manuscripts on disks sent again via snailmail. Only recently, a colleague at Cornell swept me off guard into the electronic vortex by sending me his file on e-mail. I freaked, and I protested (on e-mail, of course), but before his disk arrived two days later, I had already discovered how litter-free and quicker electronic mail can beand how easily it transferred on to our pages. (We never used his disk.) Will electronic journals eventually replace the ones we eagerly stack at home, years after we have read them? The only dubious advantage: we would not be able to accumulate a combustible clutter of journal stacks. But the delight of thumbing through a magazine or book, curling on the sofa or glider with a journal in one's lap, or carrying a book in the purse while boarding a plane cannot be replaced by the pleasure of playing with a mouse. Reading a journal like Weber Studies is a necessary substitute for what we would fain have—the delight of listening to the writers themselves read their works.
It is ironic that even as I am halfway through writing this column I am told gently by my Dean that Weber Studies' budget will be slashed 30 percent in FY97. I am appalled. Why such a devastating blow to a small campus unit? Cutting $6,000 constitutes a very large chunk of its lifeline budget. For a relatively small investment in it, Weber Studies brings the campus so much in return—it is truly an ambassador-at-large for the institution, making its presence felt wherever it reaches three times a year! Even a 30-second primetime TV ad would cost so much more! You could print two issues perhaps? the Dean asks. In this morning's mail, there was a request from FAXON to supply Harvard University Library a two-year-old issue of Weber Studies (Spring/Summer 1994) missing from its shelves. Georgetown University and Utah State Archives had similar queries—evidence that Weber Studies has dialogic relationships with universities and libraries that directly enhance the image of Weber State University.
Falling back to two issues a year is no option, I tell myself, as I start walking back to my office. I have promises to keep. We've got to raise money to print a third issue. All that this plucky little journal needs is one large-hearted benefactor—a genuine lover of literature and Weber State University—who will underwrite printing costs for one issue of Weber Studies per year. It's a hope I don't want to give up. Perhaps we may have to stretch out our hat to anyone who will drop pennies in it. Begging for a good cause does not taint the soul, I tell myself, but I am not sure at all. I feel depressed. (As the journal has burgeoned, I have yearned for a fiction editor and a poetry editor to spell me out. Will taking on the added responsibility of raising money for a third printing year after year break my spirit? Does this cut mean that the administration sees the journal as superfluous to its mission?) But I pull myself up as I look at the majestic mountains that keep watch over our campus—I have to. Can't give up now.
We may not be able to reach out in exuberance and print a larger-than-normal issue for a long time, until rising enrollments and administrative bounties restore our lifeline. But we promise our readers and writers that they will see three issues of Weber Studies a year.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue. Freed from the necessities of a "special issue," this one will delight you in its variety and splendor.