Sam Leith, who is described as a journalist, columnist and novelist in his Wikipedia entry, has recently accepted the position of “President of the Society of Indexers”. This news has made me absurdly happy. While the outgoing post-holder, Professor John Sutherland, has often commented on the absence of indexes in books he has seen, such as Salman Rushdie’s memoir, entertained Society of Indexers members at our annual conferences over the years and been a stalwart supporter of all we indexers do, he’s obviously “old school”. Nothing wrong with that, he was born before WWII after all, but at a time when indexers are struggling to find their way into the 21st century and make our skills relevant for readers at this time, it is brilliant news that a young(er than me), media savvy person with quite a big following, has seen it appropriate to accept the role of “President of the Society of Indexers” into his portfolio. I’m hoping to see a lot of Tweets from @questingvole, Sam’s Twitter tag, and other media mentions in the publications he writes for that help to raise the profile of the society and the relevance of the work of indexers to 21st century readers. And I look forward to meeting Sam at the Society’s conference in York next September, which we’re holding jointly with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
Since the start of the year while I’m waiting for some pdfs to arrive for indexing, I’ve been dabbling in Twitter to see what kind of things get said about indexing and thinking about how to engage with non-indexers and the comments they make. However, it’s not always so easy to find tweets about indexing of books, or other paper-based resources, as the term ‘indexing’ has been hijacked by computer search engine indexers and the Twitter search facility doesn’t always help to discriminate between the two sorts. Maybe it’s time to reclaim the word for ourselves, but it might be too late.
I have found examples of the following behaviours:
- ‘The Washington Read’ – people looking themselves up in indexes and expressing their joy at finding themselves, for example
- Readers praising indexes for the choice of words they have found, for example
- Readers being frustrated because the book they are reading doesn’t have an index or they can’t find what they want in the index
- Emphasis on the value that a professional indexer can bring to a book and the book creation process for example
- Indexers advertising their skills by mentioning praise they’d got from clients, for example