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Yearbook – an annual documentary, historical, or memorial compendium of facts, photographs, statistics, etc., about the events of the preceding year, often limited to a specific country, institution, discipline, or subject. Yearbooks, like other annuals assume various formats and interchange names. Exact definition of “yearbooks” as well as related terms, such as “directories,” “handbooks,” “guides,” “advances,” and so forth and the word “annual” in general, vary according to where, how, and by whom they are used. However, enough agreement exists to obviate major objections in defining various types, although this divergence of opinions needs to be taken into consideration. For example, the Yearbook of Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture is not a yearbook (although it is called so): it is a monographic series, issued annually. In like manner, Statistical Abstracts of the United Nations is an example of a yearbook. In some instances familiarity with these works is the only means of identifying the work as a “yearbook.”


As a type the yearbook appeared as early as 1711 with the publication of Abel Boyer’s Political State of Great Britain. The English Annual Register of World Events covering history, literature, and politics began in 1758 and is still published.


There are two categories of yearbooks: general and representative. The general yearbook covers, as the title suggests, the past year’s activities. The best known of this type is the simple updating of a set of books, a service provided with many encyclopedias, such as Encyclopedia Britannica. In this instance the yearbook is used as a "fluid vehicle" to bring new information to the static set: it is a supplement to the encyclopedia, that is used to check names, dates, statistics, events, and almost anything else that might be noticed in the past year. General almanacs, as well as newspaper indexes, from National Newspaper Index to The New York Times Index, often serve the same purpose, as does the weekly Facts on File.


Almost every area of human interest has its own subject compendium, or yearbook. What follows, then, is a representative group and more particularly, those “basic” or “classic” works that cross many disciplines. Representative yearbooks emanates from academic groups, industrial organizations, commercial dealers, government bodies, as well as numerous professional societies who publish year’s work surveys for both general and specific fields.


The variety of yearbooks is extensive. The MLA (Modern Language Association of America) International Bibliography exemplifies a bibliographic yearbook, which provides in compact form a means of ready access to works on subjects covering all aspects in the fields of languages and literature, having appeared in hundreds of periodicals during the year. In effect it is an in-depth index for that particular field.


Yearbooks serve to give detailed information and are used to find data and background material on places, people and things that changed or made the news in the previous year. For example, the history of Russia will be found in an encyclopedia, but where one wants to check the current population of Russia a yearbook would be best.


The historical value of yearbooks lies in the presentation of recent events from a present-day perspective, thereby crystallizing the contemporary attitudes for the historian of the future. The “joys and sorrows of the times” is usually preserved, and this is especially true of school yearbooks: the graduating class in photographs.





Irregular Serials and Annuals: An International Directory. Issued biennially by R. R. Bowker, this is classified guide to some 14,500 current foreign and domestic serials.




Bergland, B. (1979). What’s to eat?: And other questions kids ask about food. The United States Department of Agriculture Yearbook: US Government Printing Office.

Buell, V. (1994). Standing orders: The serialist’s stepchild. The serial librarian, 24, 203-207.

Katz, W. (Ed.). (2002) Introduction to reference work. Boston: Mc-Graw-Hill.

Kent, A., & Lancour, H. (Eds.). (1968-2003). Encyclopedia of library and information science. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Reitz, J. (2004). Dictionary for library and information science. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.


David Turshyan