We recently updated a web page at the library with a listing of all of the school yearbooks we have at the Dayton Metro Library. This got me thinking about yearbooks in libraries in general.
At our public library, there is not much consistency in our yearbooks collection. By that, I mean that it is a bit of a hodge podge. Oh sure, we have a collecting policy: any yearbook from a school in the area is welcome. But it is kind of “random” as to what we actually have available. This is because our yearbooks are primarily acquired through donations. I suppose this is probably the case at many public libraries (if they have yearbooks at all), and it leads to a very spotty collection. Patrons come in looking for yearbooks and are often disappointed that we don’t have the school and year combination that they need.
For instance, I frequently get requests for Roosevelt High School yearbooks. We have exactly three Roosevelt yearbooks: all from the 1920s (shortly after the school was built), even though the school operated up past the 1970s and was only just recently demolished (in 2008).
I don’t think people really understand when they come to the library looking for something like a school yearbook, and you have to tell them that you don’t have it; and you suggest they try the school, and they say they did, and the school doesn’t have it either (or won’t let them see it). And then it’s a dead end.
It’s unfortunate that these interactions have to take place. But it’s just the way it is that the library doesn’t always have “everything.” We get most of our yearbooks through donations, as I said before. So it’s very “hit and miss” as to what we actually have. Sometimes, we librarians will go out in search of yearbooks at used book stores or antique shops, but it’s still “hit and miss.” (We have done this at the Dayton Library, and I know the Greene County Public Library has acquired some yearbooks that way as well.)
Why don’t we collect a yearbook from every single high school every year, you might ask? Well, that’s a very good question. I’ve thought about it myself. Part of having a good archives is being proactive and collecting things when they are available — when they’re “new” but letting them “grow old” in your archives. So 50 years from now, they’ll be there.
But how should we go about collecting current yearbooks from every school in that meets our collecting criteria (based mainly on geographic area)? The Dayton public schools alone have 6 different high schools. There must be 30+ public high schools in this area, not to mention private schools. (And let’s not even talk about middle school or elementary school yearbooks – yes, those exist too.) And at $50+ each (I’m estimating), that is over $1,500 – which is a lot of money to devote from our local history book-buying budget every year, if we were to order them directly.
I wish the schools would have the forethought (and of course the available funds – I know times are tight) to order an extra and send it directly to the library every year. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? We promise to take good care of it!
Or, wouldn’t it be great if we were able to setup some sort of “adopt a high school yearbook collection” program? Individual donors could sign up to be responsible for procuring (i.e. ordering, paying for, and then donating) an annual yearbook for a particular school. For example, if I adopted Vandalia-Butler, I would order a copy every year and donate it to the library, to make sure the library had a copy. This seems like something alumni would be interested in. I know I would. Hmm… This makes me want to do this for my high school and local library in my hometown. (I wonder if they even collect yearbooks? I can’t remember if I ever asked…)
I am interested to hear how other libraries handle yearbooks – collecting or otherwise acquiring them. Donation programs or success stories? Horror stories? I’m curious. Drop me a line!
And, if by chance, you have any old (or new!) school yearbooks lying around gathering dust, please consider donating them to your local library. You’ll be welcome to come visit them again anytime (well…anytime we’re open!).