December 14, 2001 / Staff Management / Winter 2001

All say “Hooray” for a smooth Distribution Day

Written by Susan Massy


It’s the moment of truth.
The culmination of a year’s worth of work
Well-ordered chaos…if you are lucky. Distibution Day. Hold it a minute, you say. Distribution Day?
It’s not ’til August, or September or it could be May.
I’ve got proofs on my desk, stories on disk.
How dare you add a complication! You are taking a risk.The photogs are revolting, the writers are bolting
and the last time I checked, my editors appeared
to be molting.Distribution day! I refuse to think about it. Go away.

It’s March Madness at my school and that has nothing to do with basketball. The final deadline is a heartbeat away for those who have spring delivery books and summer/fall delivery books are in full production mode. It hardly seems like the time to be thinking about handing out a book that is not even finished, but do you really think things will be less busy when distribution day rolls around?

Don’t even go there.

Stop for just a moment. Close the door to your office or stick your fingers in your ears, which ever works best. Sure, some of your staff members are busy, but look around – there might be a few sitting there. They are between interviews, waiting on photos or just in a writer’s funk. Put that teacher gleam in your eye, pull your fingers out of your ears and put them to work.

Have I Got a Job For You!

The distribution list is the most important piece of equipment you will have during distribution day. Start the process by making sure you know the name of every student who has purchased a book.

If you are still selling books, be sure to identify who has purchased a book after the list-making process was begun so these students can be added to the list prior to distribution day.

Poplar Bluff H.S.
Poplar Bluff, Mo.Poplar Bluff gives special recognition to the yearbook staff with a spring assembly.The yearbook staff is introduced, and they take a moment to tell students about the awards they have won in the past. This is followed by a slide show of pictures (with music) taken throughout the year. After the assembly, which is at the end of the school day, students who wish to pay $1 and get their yearbook early enjoy an autograph party with refreshments and music.
“We’ve found this to be a good way to give the yearbook staff some much-earned recognition and it’s a good way to earn a few extra dollars,” Libby Brown, adviser, said. “We distribute books to the rest of the school the next day, so everyone gets their book in a timely fashion.”

You may want to consider cutting off book sales when you begin creating the distribution list. Students who purchase books prior to the cut-off day could receive an “early bird” price (your regular book price) and everyone else would have to purchase books on the day of distribution at an increased price.

Before students can begin preparing the list for distribution day, you must decide how the books will be distributed.

Will students come to pick up their books in one central area?

Will they come by class, grade or randomly?

Can you deliver the books to homerooms or to classes during a particular hour of the day?

Once this has been determined, the list organization decision can be made. If students will pick up the books in one central location, an alphabetical list by grade level may be most effective. If the books will be delivered to specific classrooms, the list should be broken down by the teacher’s name and the students should be listed in alphabetical order.

For name-stamped books, you will also need to make sure that those who are to receive them are clearly and emphatically marked on the list to avoid handing out a non-stamped book to a person who was to receive a personalized one. Mistakes in this area during distribution can quickly diminish the number of extra books available to those who wish to purchase one.

Remember, the list should serve not only to indicate who has purchased a book, but also as a record of those who have received their books. Consider leaving space for students to sign their names on the list, indicating they have picked up their books. The signature will also give you a record of who picked up books for whom.

The Galleon
Silver Creek H.S.San Jose, Calif.A multi-media stroll down memory lane makes the countdown to yearbook distribution especially fun at Silver Creek High School.
Students and staff prepare a slide show with audio and music, video clips, and a photo gallery to entertain students at the end of the year. The show is done on a weekday after school, with a small cover charge. After the show, extra yearbook photos are displayed and sold for 25 cents each, or five for $1. Seniors are able to pick up their yearbooks the day of the show, three days earlier than the scheduled distribution date.”The show is great for including things that didn’t make it into the yearbook,” adviser Laurie Weckesser explained. “It lets students relax and have a laugh looking back at the school year. It also gives the yearbook staff something to do once the book is complete.”

Because of the high mobility of families today, we often have students picking up books for friends who have moved or left school. If students have signed for the books, it is easy to establish who picked up a book and for whom. Students who are picking up books for another student should be asked to bring a note granting permission. The yearbook staff should plan to keep those notes in an organized fashion as another way of solving any disputes.

The final step in creating the distribution list is to delete any students who have left the school and received a refund for the yearbook. Again, the mobility of families has caused this to be more of an issue today than in the past.

In many schools, the building bookkeeper handles the actual refund transaction and then notifies the yearbook staff. Yearbook staffs may want to set a date after which yearbook sales are no longer refunded.

Even though you may not be distributing the book until summer or fall, consider cutting off sales/refunds to allow an accurate list to be created and double checked before school ends.

Although the list is by far the most time-consuming part of preparing for distribution day, it is hardly the only thing to be done.

Start Thinking About the Day the Book Arrives at Your School

The truck pulls up, you unload the boxes and put them…where?

Even if the books arrive only a day or two prior to distribution, they will still need to be stored in a safe, locked and perhaps secret place in the building.

Does the yearbook room have lockable space? Maybe the darkroom would work as a temporary storage room, if it can be locked.

Holland, Mich.Students at Holland High School dance the night away and hang out with friends for a night of yearbook signing.As soon as they know when Walsworth is delivering the yearbooks, the staff schedules a lock-in. Staffers come to school (usually on a Friday night) and stay overnight preparing the delivered books for distribution. The following evening, there is a dance with a DJ, which doubles as an end-of-the-year party. A small admission fee offsets the cost of the entertainment and building usage.”After the dance, students who want to get their yearbooks move into the school’s second gymnasium, and can spend the rest of the evening enjoying and signing the books with friends,” Christopher Sisson, adviser, explained.

What about the room where your school stores paper goods? What about the dressing rooms behind the stage?

Be creative as you consider possible storage alternatives, but do keep security always at the forefront of your consideration.

One school stored yearbooks in the locked gymnasium overnight and lost several books. The next year, they again left the books out in the gym ready to be distributed, but this time, with the help of the custodians, shrink-wrapped the tables the books were on. No stolen books! Now there is a mental image!

Make a list of all the support personnel you will need to assist you in preparing and setting up for distribution day.

Speaking of Custodians…

Will the custodians need to find extra tables and chairs for you to use? Will you need carts to deliver the boxes of books to classrooms? What about trash cans to dispose of the paper that is packed in with the books?

The school secretary will probably receive a number of calls with questions about distribution day. Can you provide her with the information she may need to answer them?

Try this for the beginning of a FAQs list:

  1. When will the yearbooks be distributed?
  2. If I haven’t purchased a yearbook, can I purchase one on the day they are given out?
  3. My child will be a) out of town; b) at an orthodontist appointment; c) otherwise unable to be there when you hand out the yearbooks, may we pick ours up early? If I can’t pick it up early, when can my child pick it up?
  4. My child forgot to pick up his/her yearbook, when can we pick it up?
  5. We have moved, can you send the yearbook to me?
Bear Tracks
Summersville, W.Va.The yearbook staff at Summersville Junior High School utilizes the school’s “Responsible Student Program” to hand out yearbooks.The school has a “Just for You-No More Than Two” fun day for students who have had less than two violations of any kind or less than two absences over at last half the school year. The “fun day” is a full day of inside and outside games, refreshments and drawings for great prizes donated by teachers, local businesses and Partners in Education (including mountain bikes, computers, CDs and T-shirts).”I have found this day to be a great time to distribute yearbooks,” Jean McCutcheon, adviser, said. “The students have time to look and talk to each other about the books, and they have time to do their signing without disturbing classes. Students also know what day to expect their books!”

There will probably be other questions more specific to your school and the method of distribution that may arise. Try to predict them and provide answers the secretary can give.

Will you need faculty or administrative supervision during the distribution process? In today’s lawsuit-hungry society, it is probably mandatory that more school personnel than just the adviser supervise students during distribution.

At one school, a student was standing near the edge of the stage, conversing with friends, when she fell off the edge of the stage, breaking bones in her hand. The family filed a negligence suit against the school district alleging that insufficient adult supervision was present.

Simply placing a few teachers and administrators in and around the area could have prevented this situation from occurring. Think about the potential for problems in your distribution plan. The fact that no problems have ever occurred does not mean none ever will.

How will students be notified of the distribution day?

If your book is delivered during the school year, you will want to put a notice in the PTA or school newsletter, the student newspaper and the daily announcements. You may want to send a copy of this information to teachers as well.

Teachers can help by going over the information during a specific class period so that even those who do not listen to the announcements may hear it. If distribution day occurs during the summer, perhaps the local newspaper and radio stations would be willing to post a notice. Many schools now have official web sites that could serve as yet another way of getting the word out.

What kind of information do you need to be sending out via these methods?

Obviously the date and time of yearbook distribution, but do not forget to tell students if they will need to bring their receipt or a form of picture identification to pick up their books. If books will be on sale on distribution day, how much will they cost and to whom should the check be written? Will there be an opportunity for students to sign books after receiving them? Will there be food? Does it cost anything?

Think about the traditions that surround yearbook distribution day at your school. Be sure that even those new to the school know all the details.

Remember to have supplies. Be sure you are well-stocked with pens, highlighters, tape and posterboard. The pens will be used to allow students to sign for their books. The highlighters will allow those handing out books to cross out those who have picked up books. The tape will be used to secure lists to the tables and signs to the walls. The posterboard will be used to create signs to direct students to the appropriate line to pick up their books. Assign the making of these signs to someone creative.

Diagram Your Plan for Distributing Books

We hand out 1,800 books in about 25 minutes each year from the stage of our school.

To do this, nine tables are placed in the distribution area with two students manning each table. The distribution list is divided into eight equal parts and two copies of each part are placed at eight of the tables.

One copy is taped to the table facing those who will be distributing books.

They will mark the name of each student who receives a book off of the list with a highlighter after checking the student’s school identification or drivers’ license. The second copy of the list is taped to the table facing the students picking up books. Before they can receive their books, they must sign that list next to their names. Approximately 350 students enter the auditorium every five minutes.

But what about that ninth table? This is the problem table. Any student who fails to bring a picture i.d. or whose name does not appear on the distribution list is sent to the problem table. If an identification is the only problem, we ask the student to look up his or her picture in the yearbook for identification. If the student’s picture is not in the yearbook, he or she is asked to find a teacher who will serve as identification for the student (most teachers actually get a kick out of this).

When a name is not on the distribution list, we can check the back of his/her student identification, which indicates whether or not a yearbook has been purchased (our yearbooks are sold as a part of the student’s fees). Schools who do not have this luxury can check their own sales records to clear up a dispute of this kind, but be sure to have them readily available at the distribution site.

It takes far more than 18 students to distribute 1,800 books efficiently. In addition, students should be on the scene to keep those who are handing books to students well supplied with fresh books. These students need to open the boxes and stack the books in an orderly fashion near those who are actually distributing them.

The empty boxes need to be placed out of the way and the paper that comes in the boxes needs to be thrown away or recycled. Consider letting faculty members know that you will have lots of boxes to get rid of that day.

In some schools, faculty members actually stand in line to cart the boxes away as they are emptied because yearbook boxes are so sturdy.

Then There is Clean-up

Where will the extra books (if you have any) be stored? Who will carry the boxes of books to the storage area?

The lists must be organized and assembled in notebooks, so students who did not pick up their books can pick them up over the next few days. Who will do that and when will books be distributed to these students?

Today, today, today is Distribution Day!
It could be August, maybe September or perhaps even May.

You’ve got a printout on your desk, the back-up safe upon a disk,
and there’s no talk of complications or even a risk.
The books are uncrated, responsibilities stated.
Quite frankly, every problem has been anticipated.

Distribution Day?
You’ve got it under control. It’ll be okay!

Comments are closed.

Susan Massy

Susan Massy is the yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kan., where her Lair yearbook staffs have been demonstrating excellence in writing and design for the past two decades. The Lair recently won its 18th Pacemaker award from the National Scholastic Press Association under Massy’s guidance. In 1999, Massy was chosen the National Yearbook Adviser of the Year by the Journalism Education Association. In 2013, Massy was inducted into the Kansas Scholastic Press Association Hall of Fame.