DRAFT of Minutes, Edith Wharton Society (EWS) Board Meeting Saturday, 24 May, 2014
11:00 am Hyatt Regency Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Present: Alan Price, Donna Campbell, Rita Bode, Melanie Dawson, Meredith Goldsmith, Irene Goldman, Sharon Kehl Califano, Emily Orlando, Myrta Drizou, Sharon Kim, Hildegard Hoeller, Carole Shaffer-Koros, Paul Ohler
Minutes taken by Paul Ohler, secretary
President Meredith Goldsmith called the meeting to order at 11:10 am.
Meredith discussed the undergrad student prize. We had a high number of submissions and Meredith was asked to adjudicate between the top two candidates. She stated that she is not so sanguine about grad student submissions and that we should rethink the status of the prize. The prize includes publication without peer review, a practice that may have to be revisited.
Meredith mentioned that the Beinecke is under renovation and this spurred a conversation about what to do with the Beinecke research prize. One suggestion was that we might cycle the prizes, enabling prizewinners to work at the Lilly Library or The Mount while the Beinecke remains closed. This conversation led to Carole suggesting that the society’s awards might have to be curtailed due to its financial status.
Treasurer Carole Shaffer-Koros then presented the Financials to the group:
Total in account: $27,465.43
Meredith spoke about the new version of the EWR. She stated that we are in a bit of a bind with the cost of the new journal as we now pay for perfect binding; we have raised membership fees a little bit and this offsets the increased production costs somewhat.
Donna spoke about increased traffic on the society Facebook page. Sharon Kehl Califano suggested that we must remind members of the need to renew memberships. The membership directory has been posted so people can check their status.
Carole expressed her opposition to lifetime memberships, a matter taken up subsequently.
The discussion returned to the cost of the EWR and the income available to the society. Meredith informed the group that her institution has agreed to donate $500.00 a year toward the cost of producing the journal.
Irene drew attention to the need to examine the income streams available to the society.
A conversation about lifetime memberships ensued. There are approximately 70 such memberships. Those with “lifetime” memberships have not paid dues for many years and have been receiving the journal at no cost and discounted rates for conferences. Meredith and others advocated explaining to these members that the society would benefit greatly if they would begin to pay regular dues.
Sharon Kehl Califano suggested sending out a fundraising letter and asked about the cost of the journal for one volume. Meredith noted that the production cost is approximately $3000.00 per volume.
Carole spoke about appealing personally to individuals for donations and Myrta raised the possibility of offering a two or three year membership option.
Meredith then discussed options for journal and cost. One option is moving to a university press that has a second tier of membership for low circulation journals.
Donna asked about the consequences of going online using Digital Commons; there would have to be access for subsequent editors. If we go to Project MUSE then we would have to embargo everything.
Emily expressed concern that online only publications do not count for rank and tenure in the same way as print journals. Hildegard raised a similar concern about online journals. This led to a discussion of the optimum format for the EWR.
Sharon Kehl Califano argued that we have to be responsive to changes in academic publishing. Donna pointed out that Project MUSE has a certain cachet and that we might consider sacrificing access to back issues for this.
Meredith voiced her concerns about access if we go with the Project MUSE model.
Irene suggested that there might be grants for journal production.
Donna suggested that partnerships could help solve the problem. With Project Muse the society would receive royalties from back issues and we could see how people are using the journal.
Meredith stated that she is willing to explore this idea but reiterated her commitment to open access, talking about Digital Commons as a norm at many institutions. Digital Commons relieves a lot of copyedit production and this is important given that the execution of the journal is done by Meredith and two students.
Sharon Kehl Califano encouraged people to think carefully about the split between print and digital, for there is a new wave of scholars much more familiar and comfortable with digital publishing.
Meredith stated that we are also in an environment of declining funds for journals.
Hildegard mentioned that ProQuest could be a compromise, and reiterated that, realistically speaking, the electronic versus print form is indeed an issue in terms of tenure and promotion.
Melanie asked about revenue possibilities available through association with Project MUSE, and Meredith replied that there is revenue for downloads of journal articles, adding that we need to balance prestige and revenue.
Meredith stated that her first choice would be to go to a digital repository. Donna asked if we should put the question/issue out for a membership discussion and vote.
Irene expressed concern over how European scholars might be affected by the changes being discussed.
Sharon Kim suggested having publishers advertise the journal as they have funds for promotion. She mentioned Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, as EW friendly presses.
The ProQuest vs Digital Commons question was raised Meredith, who expressed that she is not comfortable with signing away rights by going with university presses.
Donna asked whether Digital Commons links to full texts, citing her experience with students who go to Project Muse for the linked full text versions of articles.
Meredith stated that we will put up meeting minutes to make this issue visible, and Irene suggested that we might also reach out to the membership at large through the listserv.
Melanie addressed the question of best digital format by mentioning that a hybrid option might be best.
Carole reminded the group that a lot of older members might not be able to access the journal in electronic form. This was the last statement on the issue.
The meeting turned to the issue of nominations: Sharon Kim was welcomed in her role as new at-large board member. Paul stated that we still need one at-large board member
Emily introduced the topic of the next Edith Wharton conference.
Melanie is the director of the conference. She informed the board that there is a William and Mary site in DuPont circle in Washington, D.C. that would be free of charge. Melanie also mentioned that a co-director would be approached. A few ideas for conference events were raised. We might have art historians from the Freer Gallery of Art speak at the conference, and we should consider cultural context and other connections to Wharton that Washington might offer. Emily discussed tacking the EW conference onto the ALA conference.
The meeting then turned to the question of topics for the next ALA Wharton panels.
As Vice-President, Emily Orlando will solicit topics. Emily recalled that there had been some conversation about Wharton and the Great War last year and that this might be a good topic for next year.
A number of possible topics were suggested: Wharton on War, Wharton’s Imagination, Wharton and periodization, Wharton and the long nineteenth century, Wharton and Modernism, Wharton and film. Hildegard suggested Wharton and cultural exchange, including issues of cultural boundaries and translation.
Irene spoke about The Mount. Programming is going well, but The Mount is several million dollars in debt. It is reliant on the generosity of a few donors. Irene mentioned that it is important to renew memberships in order to maximize support.
Irene also spoke about the library holdings at The Mount. She informed the board that conservators had been hired to write a report on Edith Wharton’s library. This report will be forthcoming and will result in a request for funds.
Irene also mentioned that Laura Rattray will speak at The Mount and that people who wish to speak are welcome to approach the organization.
Donna suggested that we use Survey Monkey to ask about the important question of print versus online format for the EWR. We agreed to solicit feedback in this manner.
The meeting adjourned at 12:15.