Yearbooks are not relevant in college

Mark Hammontree

Yearbook signing day may have been one of the best days of the year in high school and especially in junior high. For an entire day, and usually a day or two after that, the whole school would seemingly be concerned with nothing other than flipping through the pages of the annual, laughing with 
classmates with nostalgic reflection of the closing year.

I have them all somewhere, every yearbook from K-12 in the Mountain Brook school system, and I’ve certainly gotten a kick on multiple occasions from tracking the evolution of notes in the back pages, from the smiley faces and childish signatures of elementary school to the classic “HAGS” wishes of junior high to the more thought-out and meaningful 
messages of high school.

I don’t have them down here at college with me, but I’m glad to still have them all. I’m sure someday I’ll get a kick out of seeing my kids flipping through them too. I hope they’ll have their own hardbound collections to reflect on as well. It would be a sad day if high schools and elementary schools stopped producing yearbooks for their students to sign and pore over.

I experienced no such sadness when I heard production of The Corolla had finally been ended. For 122 years, The Corolla was printed and made available to students in much the same way my high school yearbooks were. The University’s annual probably brought forth a lot of chuckles and smiles over that time period, and I know many alumni were sad to hear of its end.

While I’m certainly sympathetic to all those who once worked for The Corolla – it’s always sad to see something you spent a great deal of time and effort on end – I’m honestly surprised it survived this long. It’s not that I think printed yearbooks are unable to meet the demands of an increasingly web-based society. Nor do I think The Corolla’s downfall can be wholly attributed to the general downward trend of print media, especially on college campuses. Sure, those factors certainly play a role, but I think the real reason for The Corolla’s death is the constant growth of the campus.

Who really would want to buy a yearbook tasked with a campus encompassing of over 30,000 students and hundreds of groups and organizations? Well, apparently only 24 people, because that is how many people bought the 2013-14 edition. The Corolla has lost over $225,000 since 2007, and it’s not because yearbooks are no longer relevant in the age of social media. Yearbooks still do fine in a lot of high schools and 
elementary schools.

Yearbooks are no longer relevant to universities as large as ours. I have no desire to pay big money for a book that I may personally know a handful of people in. There are other publications on campus that do an adequate enough job of recapping the year, like The Crimson White’s year in review issue – and that’s free.

I love my yearbooks from grade school, and I know I’d be sad if Mountain Brook decided to stop producing them. But I knew the names of just about everyone in those books, or at least the people in my class. Having a university-wide yearbook was great 15, 20, 50 years ago, but today, with this many students enrolled here, there’s just not really any point.

Mark Hammontree is a junior studying secondary 
education language arts. His column runs weekly.