Beaver Yearbook struggles to stay alive
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013 03:01
The Beaver Yearbook office is in a forgotten second floor corner of Snell Hall. The walls are lined with yearbooks, arranged chronologically, and with posters from decades past promoting yearbook sales.
A glance at the book spines quickly shows a trend: The newest books are the thinnest. A chart on the wall tracks sales, showing the team’s goal and sales this year. So far 125 books have been sold.
Beaver Yearbook has been around since the early 20th century, having originally been called “The Orange.” The yearbook, since its beginning, has chronicled happenings around the university, as it changed from Oregon Agricultural College to Oregon State University. From changing fashions to changing clubs, it is a capsule of an ever-changing institution.
But the Beaver has fallen on hard times as of late. Last year, only 168 books were sold, and an external review of student media — of which Beaver Yearbook is a part — called for the complete elimination of the yearbook.
“The hardest part is selling the yearbook,” said Samara Simpson, editor of the Beaver yearbook. “It’s normally an easy sell once people know about it, but a lot of people don’t even know it exists.”
This slide toward irrelevancy and diminished sales has been sudden and irreversible over the last four to five years. New social media, like Facebook, has made the idea of a yearbook antiquated and unnecessary to many students. And with only three paid student staff members to put it together and sell it to a student body of more than 25,000, the staff has been unable to convince many to buy the yearbook.
“The biggest part is just getting people to know about it,” said Carly Chandler, Beaver Yearbook business manager.
Currently the yearbook has submitted three options to the Educational Activities Committee for continued operations. One is to continue operations as they have been, producing only a printed copy. The second is to produce a digital-only copy, having three staff members spending the year documenting and taking photos of events and students. The third would be to produce a digital-only version that would be available to all, and also to print a limited run of 40 copies.
“My original recommendation was Beaver Yearbook had grown past its lifespan and we should look at a digital-only publication,” said Julia Sandidge, director of student media. “But after talking to the library and university archives, we realized that eliminating the yearbook would affect research at the university.”
An external review of student media completed last spring said the program should be eliminated entirely and its disappearance would be missed or noticed by few on the campus. And with miniscule sales, elimination of things such as student portraits, and a staff who say they receive little help from professional staff, it’s not hard to see why such a recommendation was made.
“The problem is decades in the making,” Simpson said. “It’s hard having the professional staff question us when they know how hard we work.
“When we talk to them, [the professional staff members] say they’re going to help us and have good ideas, but it’s all talk and we don’t see any action,” Simpson said. “Nobody notices there’s a yearbook here.”
Whether the program is eliminated or transformed into a digital only publication remains to be seen. But in the meantime, Chandler and Simpson are determined to meet their sales goals and to make the best yearbook they can.
“This used to be a big deal at OSU, it’s been around for 100 years,” Simpson said. “The university used to be smaller and it used to feel so personal, but now we don’t have the staff to do it. ... It’s impossible to cover 26,000 students.”
Don Iler, editor-in-chief
On Twitter: @doniler