The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 136
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The early June visit of two members of the Online Encyclopedia of
Guam team-Nicholas J. Goetzfridt and Helen O'Mallan-provided the
opportunity for us to reflect a bit on almost four and a half years of
intense activity since publication of the New Handbook of Texas in six
large volumes in 1996. We had to pause, catch our breath, and do a bit
of housecleaning before we could proceed. Then we went through a
series of planning meetings with the intention of charting our course for
the next five years. What would we do now that the Handbook, a four-
teen-year, all-consuming effort, was completed?
We knew that the Handbook had not been finished in any real sense;
we would maintain a modest staff to keep it updated and would some-
how publish the revisions. The 2ooo census figures would have to be
incorporated, and there would be the usual complement of new articles
to write each year. But we were not at all sure what shape the Handbook
of the future would take, for by then computers had become something
more than a shiny new toy, and we began to look seriously at digital dis-
tribution of some kind-CD ROM? Internet?
Fortunately, these conversations led us to Director Harold Billings of
the UT Austin General Libraries. His staff was involved in this cutting-
edge technology, both theoretically and in reality, for the UT General
Libraries maintains one of the best web pages around. They consult and
serve on international library technology committees and bring the best
home to UT. Associate Director Mark McFarland and web designer
Aaron Choate led us through a series of discussions that soon resulted in
a trial version of the Handbook of Texas Online that we decided initially to
make available to the public without any announcement. We wanted to
test our program and servers before the public announcement. We
knew we had a hit on our hands when the test site received almost
60,000 hits, including queries from sixty different foreign countries,
during the first month-before it was announced.
Before that public announcement, we had to decide whether the
online Handbook would be "free or fee," and convened an advisory com-
mittee to help us weigh the pros and cons. The association has a tremen-
dous intellectual as well as cash investment in the New Handbook, which,
like the original Handbook, we anticipated would sell steadily over the
years and provide a modest but more or less reliable income stream,
which would come in handy when the bills for the necessary updating
and new material came due. So several on the committee recommended
that only TSHA members have free access to the information, that non-
members be required to pay a small subscription fee or "per use" fee,
which would help with the costs of maintaining the project. But others
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/144/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.