Blue Book sees second life at B&N

Although a new online version of the Blue Book was released in July, the administration has continued to release hard copies of the course catalog.
Although a new online version of the Blue Book was released in July, the administration has continued to release hard copies of the course catalog. Photo by Maria Zepeda.

Although administrators heralded the death of the Blue Book several years ago, the publication continues to be a fixture of shopping period.

The Yale College Programs of Study, more commonly known among students as the Blue Book, is available to Yale students again this year, despite the administration’s announcement in September 2011 that the publication would be permanently discontinued after that academic year. Since then, Yale continued to print the book, mailing it to all freshmen and interested upperclassmen, until the University stopped all mailings this year and chose to offer the books to students on campus instead. Although the Registrar’s Office launched a new online version of the Blue Book in July, University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski said his office does not have any plans to discontinue the print version.

“I will continue to print it because I know there is a need,” Olszewski said.

Freshmen received a copy of the Blue Book during orientation, and upperclassmen could pick up a free copy at the Yale Bookstore, where a clerk said that demand became so high that employees stopped swiping IDs and giving receipts, and asked simply to see a Yale ID before sending Blue Book-wielding students on their way.

Olszewski said the new online version of the Blue Book will seek to improve upon several current systems: ybb.yale.edu, Online Course Information and Online Course Selection.

“It will truly be a Yale College Programs of Study online,” he said. “It will show all the regulations, all the department front matter, the name of the [Director of Undergraduate Studies], names of the faculty, the requirements for the major and a list of all the courses being offered this year.”

For some professors and students, no matter how polished and efficient the online version becomes, a computer program will be no replacement for the annual 700-page paper tome.

Rushing to a Blue Booking session with freshmen on Tuesday night, Emily Van Alst ’16, a peer liaison with the Native American Cultural Center, stopped at the bookstore to pick up her hard copy. Even though she uses an online version to find classes, Van Alst said she felt the physical copy was much easier to use when perusing courses in a group.

Blue Booking sessions are a Yale tradition, and for many this tradition loses its touch when hard copies are absent.

Other students also cited a nostalgic value that comes with the physical book. Richard Lee ’14 and Emery Schoenly ’14, both devotees of online versions and their extensive search functions, still took the time to venture by the bookstore and pick up their free copies.

“I think it’s good they still have the Blue Book,” Lee said, adding that in 25 years he will not be able to find the same nostalgic value in OCS as in the worn and weathered pages of the Blue Book.

Still, several professors and students criticized the print Blue Book’s wasteful nature.

Professor Amity Doolittle, director of undergraduate studies in environmental studies, prefers the Blue Book and continues to find it the easiest way to search classes. But she noted that annual printings of the catalog raise sustainability issues and represent “a huge expense and a huge use of resources.”

Melissa Goodall, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability, expressed confidence that the transition to an online-only course catalog would take place as soon as possible. While commending the Registrar’s Office for greatly reducing paper use in recent years, she acknowledged in an email that with something like course selection, “it is more important that the University do things like this correctly rather than quickly.”

Asked which version of the Blue Book he prefers to use, University President Peter Salovey said he turns to the online version.

“I would say there is a tension,” he said. “The tension is between a greener Yale and the romantic image of curling up with the Blue Book, or sitting around and Blue Booking with friends without the presence of a computer screen. We’ll just have to see which gather more support among students.”

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