Our university’s student yearbook (Serpentine) seems to be on its last leg. A large part of its decline can be directly linked to the overall decline in campus yearbook sales. A 2011 study found that the yearbook publishing industry experienced nearly 5% losses per year for several years in a row. (I can’t locate more recent industry-wide data, but several individual campuses have noted that their recent yearbook sales have dwindled. Some have even abandoned the print format for yearbooks or have entirely shut down their yearbooks.) There’s lots of speculation about why this broad “Death of the Yearbook” is happening. Is it social media, which allows students to share their fondest memories of campus life immediately? Is it the e-reader, diminishing the need/desire for print books? Is it the increasing cost of yearbooks? Maybe it’s none. Maybe it’s a tiny bit of each of these. We’ve also had a great deal of turnover in the past decade or so – much as you would with any student organization. Combined with the other contexts, it’s meant that the staff morale and general campus awareness of the yearbook are both down.
This is where I’m coming in. Beginning this semester, I am serving as the adviser for the Serpentine. The incoming editor and I have the opportunity to turn this yearbook around, albeit in a limited timeframe. I have ambitions for the organization. I have concrete plans for the students this year and beyond.
I may be a bit of a Pollyanna here, to think I can turn the tide. Still, I’m going to give it a try, and I’m going to chronicle it here. My next few posts will detail our biggest challenges as an organization and how I’m working with the students to meet those challenges. In the meantime, if you have ideas – especially if you have experience working with a student yearbook – I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.