Blue Book returns, for now

Administrators reversed a decision to stop printing the Blue Book beginning next fall.
Administrators reversed a decision to stop printing the Blue Book beginning next fall. Photo by Harry Simperingham.

Despite last fall’s announcement to the contrary, Yale College’s printed course catalog, affectionately termed the “Blue Book” by students and faculty, will come out for at least one more year.

Administrators announced last September that the Blue Book — formally titled the Yale College Programs of Study — would no longer be available in print after this academic year, as the Registrar’s Office works to develop an improved online course listing system that incorporates all the information from the YCPS. But University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski said Wednesday that his office has not yet finished the online design, so the change to the printed Blue Book will be postponed.

“We were not really comfortable that we had the design that would meet everybody’s needs yet,” Olszewski said. “We figured we could put the ceasing of the printing off until we knew that we had the right pieces in place.”

While the YCPS is available online through the Yale College website and the most up-to-date course listings are on the Online Course Information system, Olszewski said his office will need to make “radical changes” before the online information is “as usable as the paper Blue Book.” He said that the paper version of the Blue Book is especially useful for faculty advisers because it details the requirements and curricula of different majors, adding that this is not readily accessible from OCI.

In the next week, students will receive a notice about the Blue Book, Olszewski said. They will be able to opt into receiving a printed copy either by mail this summer or when they arrive on campus. Olszewski notified faculty of the change in an email Wednesday evening.

The Blue Book has not been automatically sent to students since 2009, when administrators announced that students would need to opt in ­to receive a copy — a step they said would be more environmentally friendly and save money. When Yale College Dean Mary Miller told the News last fall that the Blue Book would no longer be printed at all, she said cost was not a major factor, but that the change was motivated by students’ preference for the online system.

Nine of 12 directors of undergraduate studies said they were happy to hear the Blue Book would be printed again, calling it particularly helpful for advising purposes.

Kirk Wetters, director of undergraduate studies for Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Stanley Eisenstat, director of undergraduate studies for Computer Science, said they much prefer using a printed Blue Book during advising meetings rather than looking at online information.

Kurt Zilm, director of undergraduate studies for Chemistry, called OCI “cumbersome” when advising students on issues such as what semester they should take a course and what programs of study are possible, though he added that the Blue Book has become less useful as it has eliminated information about when classes meet. Unlike in previous years, the 2011-’12 Blue Book did not list class times. Olszewski said this is because too many class times tend to change after the book goes to print.

Beatrice Gruendler, director of undergraduate studies for Modern Middle Eastern Studies, said while the Blue Book is “always behind” OCI in terms of accuracy, it is an “indispensable” and quicker means of finding general academic information. She and several other professors said they believe the option to receive a Blue Book should always be available.

Eleven students interviewed all said they predominantly rely on online course listings to plan their schedules. Six said they enjoy having the ability to leaf through a physical course catalog, but they said they rely on OCI for updated, reliable information.

“Just being able to have [the Blue Book] has some type of sentimental value, to have a record of the classes that were available during the year,” Sohini Bandy ’13 said. But she added that she does not regularly use the catalog in its printed form.

Lauren Toler ’14 said she finds the Blue Book a more convenient way to look through all the courses a particular department offers, rather than having to sort through the fall and spring listings separately on OCI. Bijan Aboutorabi ’13 said he believes the Blue Book is important for disseminating information on Yale’s academic regulations, which he said students often “don’t go to the trouble of looking up online.”

But many students said they do not see a reason to keep the Blue Book in print.

“If administrators work more on making the online version more efficient, I don’t think we’d have to look back at the Blue Book,” Jose Limon ’15 said.

This year, 1,359 Blue Books were automatically reserved for freshmen and 1,631 other students opted to receive the catalog in print, Laurie Ongley ’81 GRD ’92, managing editor of Yale College Publications, told the News in September.

Comments

  • controlforconfounds

    Excellent! The sentimental value is worth it. If they are worried about costs, maybe they could start charging a nominal fee instead of discontinuing the print version altogether.

  • what

    I don’t really think it was *affectionally* termed “Blue Book,” just that it sounds better than other descriptors like “Thick Book” or “Paper Book.” And I really don’t get why we don’t just improve the online version, the book seems pretty obsolete

  • newsjar

    The Blue Book is an important, living artifact of the Yale experience and the history of the University. I wish it would be continued until students demonstrated that they just didn’t want it anymore rather than being forced to do without. I know I wouldn’t have minded paying $5 for it. Given all the other money being shelled out for college at Yale, that wouldn’t have been a factor. Take your time on that online redesign. I like my book!