Tag Archives: book index

Professional or DIY indexing?

I see this frequently on Twitter and other social media. Academics indexing their own books is a bit like them being asked to sort out their own toilet when it gets blocked. Just because you’re an experienced user, it doesn’t make you an expert on fixing or creating them. My Society of Indexers colleague Dr Tanya Izzard has written a very useful summary, which I see no need to repeat. She covers many of the issues and gives some helpful links if you are an academic thinking about indexing your own book.

Professional indexers

  • don’t need a list of terms or important people before they start. They’re quite capable of doing that.
  • are open to dialogue before they start and once they’ve sent you the index. After all, we want you to be happy with the index.
  • won’t take on work that’s outside their area of knowledge, unless it is very basic and for a lay audience.
  • don’t like their work being ‘improved’ by editors or authors without being involved. It’s a bit rude really.
  • are skilled at what they do

Not everyone who claims to be a ‘professional’ indexer is actually trained and has been assessed as competent. Members listed in the Directory of the Society of Indexers are both trained and assessed. They’ll be happy to discuss your requirements and make a great index to your book.

The Book Index – 22 & 23 June, Oxford

A two-day conference at the Weston Library, organised by Dennis Duncan and the Centre for the Study of the Book, Oxford University. 22nd-23rd June 2017. An opportunity for academics and professionals to meet and and talk about indexes.

I must admit to having been slightly sceptical about booking for this event. It was timed to follow on from the Society of Indexers’ annual conference, could I bear to be sitting around for another two days? Who were the speakers, would they all be dry-as-dust old duffers? (With apologies to Oxford dons, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt, I know what they can be like.) Would it all be too esoteric for a jobbing indexer to understand?

I needn’t have worried on any count. The lecture theatre in the Weston Library is a great place. The seats are comfy, the tables are welcome, the sound is mostly good and the screen clear. I sat in a chair named after the Duke of Wellington.

The speakers were all young academics in the early stages of their careers and they were full of interesting material, delivered in a clear and enthusiastic voices. Young in this context means younger than me. The full programme is available here. You can see the programme covered topics including: indexing in 19th century China, Heidegger and Cassirer, indexes to the Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden, satiric indexes, Richard Hakluyt and the Indexes of Francis Daniel Pastorius. See Paula’s excellent blog for reviews and summaries of the talks here. There really isn’t any point in me covering the same ground.

The availability of wi-fi to check out some things as some of the speakers spoke – who were Hakluyt and Pastorius? Why might they be of interest to indexers? – was very useful. The speakers didn’t always have time to give the background that might be obvious to students of old books and manuscripts, but wasn’t for some of us. While some of it may have gone over our heads, I think when we read the articles when they are printed, we will understand more.

Two days flew by. The lunches were yummy. Attendees were also invited to the opening of the Jane Austen exhibition at the Weston Library, which was lovely too. A good time was had. Academics became aware of indexers, and indexers were made aware of the range of scholarship which is taking in aspects of indexing. Ruth made a Storify of the event using Twitter tweets, which is here. When can we do it again?