Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Algol: Out of Print, Though Memories Linger

<st copies of Carleton’s yearbook, the Algol, rolled off the presses at Heatwole’s Steam Printing House in Northfield. Named for the “demon star” (famed for its rapid fluctuations in brightness), the Algol tracked student life at Carleton with characteristic quirkiness.  Mirth fills old Algol’s- far more than a collection of class lineups, they contain fanciful poetry about Dundas, photos of seniors atop the water tower, uncensored quotations, and sketches of the Hill of Three Oaks.

But in 2011, the Algol ended publication. Following a trend of thinning Algols and waning student interest, the 2010 Algol marked the end of the Algol club.

The ending of yearbook publication in the 21st century is a “widespread issue”, says Carleton Archivist Eric Hillemann. Many institutions have stopped publishing yearbooks.

The Algol was published later and later in its last years, finally distributed after graduation.  When asked how student life would be recorded in the archives without a yearbook, Hillemann responded that “We will not lack for information about the years 2011 and on” due to the abundance of online sources that the college produces.

Indeed, the Algols themselves have become online sources; in 2011, the Library Digitizing Team collected all the Algols from the Archives and the Office of Alumni Relations, selecting clean copies to scan. While the library considered scanning the yearbooks in house with student labor, doing so was expected to take about three years, whereas a professional scanning facility in Minnesota could complete the scanning in three months. The Office of Alumni Relations provided partial funding and the Algol was digitized and online before the 2012 reunion.

Alumni Relations frequently uses the Algols to connect with former Carls. Class webpages include links to their years’ online Algol and reunion committees review them to plan events for their years. Web traffic data  from the last six months suggests the Algols of 1964 and 1984 are currently the most popular.

Online records do not replace the physicality of yearbooks, however. “The feeling I get when I leaf through a photobook… and pause here and there is a little different than the one I might get looking at photos on Facebook or my computer photo folder,” said Dr. Monica Nicosia, class of ‘85, who still treasures her Algol’s.

“As a lover of history and photos, I think that the college yearbooks are a wonderful memento of my own life and my generation’s past,” she says, “I am glad I have the yearbook and I am sorry that recent and future Carls don’t have them.”

But is the end of the Algol’s publication proof that current Carls do not really want a yearbook? Senior Aly Wisekal wishes it were still published. “It’s more important than a diploma,” she says. “50 years down, we’re gonna want to remember the little things.” Aly discovered part way through college that her great aunt studied at Carleton.

Curious, Aly searched for and found her relative in the Archives. While Aly searched, it was jarring for her to see photos taken in front of old buildings, some of which have been torn down and others that now define the Carleton space.

Though the Algol may seem a victim to Digital Age, one mustn’t forget that it was not an annual publication until 1923. Perhaps the Algol will return, even in a new form. Archivist Eric Hillemann says that the namesake, the Variable Star, leaves room for the possibility.

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