Great Intentions

In Cal Newport’s latest book, “Digital Minimalism”, he describes how the Amish use technology intentionally.

When a new technology arises, the whole community closely observes a first adopter and tries “to discern the ultimate impact of the technology on the things the community values most. If this impact is deemed more negative than helpful, the technology is prohibited. Otherwise, it’s allowed, but usually with caveats on its use that optimize its positives and minimize its negatives.”

Over thirty years ago, indexers were adopting a new technology when we switched from index cards to indexing software. No doubt at the time there were positives and negatives to be thought through.

Looking back now, and especially for indexers who started after the age of cards, it’s hard to imagine there were negatives.

But are we optimizing the positives?

Learn some new tips and habits at the ISC/SCI Conference in Ottawa May 24-25, when Gale Rhoades (Macrex) and Maria Sullivan (Cindex) give you their best advice to help you optimize your use of your indexing software.

Visit the conference page here.

The Professional Treatment

In 1997, John E Simkin, a founding member of the Australian Indexing Society, wrote about the “technical vs. professional aspects of the practice of indexing” and argued that “indexers must take professionalism seriously if they are to raise their own status or contribute to the development of modern information management.” You can read the article here in The Indexer Volume 20 (4) https://www.theindexer.org/files/20-4/20-4_178.pdf

Simkin must have said something controversial, because in the following issue (Vol 20 (1)), there were three “counterblast” letters to the editor. What were the concerns? Well, one of them was this throw-away statement “If all you’ve ever bothered to learn is how to knock off an index to a book on some well-known topic — gardening, biography, cookery …”.

You just don’t knock off a biography, exclaimed the letter-writers. Carol Barlow, a scientist, wrote that indexing biographies is “demanding, time consuming, and uneconomic” and added “I therefore leave these to the experts.” Hazel Bell directed the readers to her book “Indexing biographies and other stories of human lives” for  the contrary case.

Biographies and memoirs can be fascinating to index and are within anyone’s capability with some training. At the conference in Ottawa May 24-25, Kendra Millis will help us grow professionally when she shares her expertise in this rich and engaging genre.

And now a reminder that special pricing deadlines are approaching fast. Early bird pricing on conference fees ends Monday April 15. The discount on room rates at the 90U Residence on the University of Ottawa campus ends April 11. The Lord Elgin room rate discount ends April 22.

Get the details and links are here.

Indexing in the Scholarly Niche

Of the all the book titles published in Canada, scholarly books make up less than 3% (Statistics Canada, 2016). For indexers, however, scholarly publishing is a significant category and can be an important source of work. But, as many indexers know, the niche has its challenges.

Enid Zafran calls scholarly indexing “one of the most ‘brain-challenging’ types of work for indexers. Authors can wander, repeat, and be obscure as they write for others in their subject specialty.” Join us at ISC/SCI Conference on May 24-25 in Ottawa, as Enid presents “Scholarly Indexing of Books: Go Deep”. In this presentation, Enid will discuss how to approach these works, the importance of author relations, and the future of the scholarly niche.

By the way, Enid’s Sunday workshop on indexing names is now filled. However, you can add yourself to the wait list when you register for the conference.

Construction plans

Writing an index can be like building a magnificent backyard storage shed one brick at a time, with no blueprint and no idea of what the finished product will look like.

Initially, the work proceeds cautiously and slowly; many decisions are made by feeling. Enthusiasm turns to discomfort as the growing structure begins to look awkward and messy. We push through it. As we approach the final chapters, the layout becomes apparent, and the speed picks up as we reach the end of the book. Or, perhaps nothing is clear until we step back and edit the whole thing.

Is there a better way? Fred Leise, renowned indexer and Berkeley course instructor, points out that indexers are often advised to “mirror the structure of the text” but we are not told how to do that. Fred will show us how at the ISC/SCI conference in Ottawa May 24-25.

Behind the screen look at decolonization of terms

Last December, one of the topics that came up on the ISC-L list was the need to decolonize terms in the library classification system. In the ensuing thread, we heard that work was underway, driven mainly by the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA-FACLA).

So, what is this work? Following up on the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the CFLA-FACLA formed a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to advance the Calls to Actions. In 2017, the Committee delivered an 87-page report. The report presents 10 over-arching recommendations and many detailed recommendations along four tracks, designed to help libraries in their efforts to advance reconciliation.

Work is indeed underway. We are thrilled to have the Chair of the Committee, Camille Callison, join us at the conference on Ottawa May 24-25. Camille will be accompanied by Katherine Kasirer, Senior Librarian at the National Film Board. They will give a joint keynote presentation on a special decolonization project: “A Behind-the-Screen Look at the Indigenous Knowledge Materials Classification Schema (IMCS) Implementation during the Creation of NFB’s Indigenous Cinema”.

You can register for the conference here.

Parliamentary information

House of Commons
Credit: Makaristos on Wikipedia

The House of Commons, Canada’s lower house of Parliament, is steeped in tradition. But progress carries on. When television cameras were installed in the 1970s, news coverage was changed forever, and arguably so were debating styles and citizens’ impressions of politicians.

Now renovations on the House of Commons original workplace have begun. When Centre Block reopens after 10 years, every aspect of the building and its systems will have been upgraded. Who can guess at the impact of these changes?

A recent change that has had a deep impact is the development of the House of Commons’ integrated system to record, publish, and manage parliamentary information. In our conference in Ottawa May 24-25, Alexandre Grandmaître and Martine Rocheleau from the House of Commons will explore how this technological change has turned indexing into information management, how business processes were adapted accordingly, and what challenges they face going forward.

An elegant niche

Example of Index Locorum
A page from “Substantial Knowledge: Aristotle’s Metaphysics” (Reeve)

Ever since Kate Mertes offered to talk about “indexing locora” at the ISC/SCI conference, we’ve been curious.

“Index locorum” literally means index of places. Other indexes with Latin names include index rerum (subjects), index nominum (names), and index verborum (words). It’s unlikely that you’ll see a book with any index named so elegantly, except for the index locorum…which is not an index of places in the everyday sense.

So, we wondered, what does an index locorum look like? We found one in Substantial Knowledge: Aristotle’s Metaphysics by C.D.C. Reeve. You’ll see it in the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. This book has 300 pages of text, a 9 page Index Locorum and a 3 page General Index.

Kate says there is a growing demand for these types of indexes, but they are finicky. Learn how to work in this elegant-sounding niche at the conference on May 24-25 in Ottawa.

ISC/SCI Conference Program Announced

The ISC/SCI has set the program for the 2019 conference taking place in Ottawa on May 24 and 25.

In keeping with the conference theme, Beyond the Page—New Platforms, New Realities, the program offers a variety of topics that are timely and informative for new and experienced indexers alike.

Sessions on indexing practices include working with scholarly texts (Enid Zafran), biography and memoirs (Kendra Millis), structuring indexes (Fred Liese), and editing indexes “from the get-go” (Anne Fifer). Kate Mertes will talk about a growing and profitable market that you’ve probably never heard: of the indexing of locora.

Special sessions taking us “beyond the page” include

  • solutions toward decolonizing access and classification presented by a panel from the Indigenous Matters Committee of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (they raised this issue in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report)
  • a step into the world of parliamentary information—an underpinning of informed democratic engagement—with Martine Rocheleau and the House of Commons indexers on intelligence-based search
  • a discussion of ethics presented by Christine Jacobs and a panel of indexers and editors
  • business practices by Pierre Joyal
  • techniques that will change the way you work—physically and mentally—to restore energy and reduce stress, in a mini-workshop given by Ruth Paulauskas, founder of BreathWoRx

Following the conference on May 26 is a full-day workshop “Names: The Challenge of Indexing” by Enid Zafran.

Conference packages are available for Friday-only, Saturday-only, or both days. Full-time students receive a special reduced rate. As a reminder, we have discounted rates for accommodations.

Early Bird pricing is on now until April 15. Visit the conference page for the full conference agenda and links to the registration form.

Registration Now Open

The annual ISC/SCI conference in Ottawa is now open for Early Bird registration.

Take advantage of these early bird rates until April 15:

  • Members (including ASI, ANSZI, SI, all other affiliates and Editors Canada): $291 for full two-day conference, $159 for one day
  • Non-members: $344 for two-day conference, $211 for one day
  • Special rate for eligible full-time students: $158 for the two-day conference and $80 for one day.

And on Sunday we have a workshop “Names”, presented by Enid Zafran, $105.

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

The program so far includes expert indexers on indexing scholarly work, indexing biographies and memoirs, and for our technical tool bag, structuring indexes, editing without pain, and indexing software. Specialty topics include Kate Mertes on the practice of indexing locora and the Ottawa Hansard indexers on the intelligence-based search engine for parliamentary information. We also have a number of special guests who you’ll hear more about soon.

Register now before Early Bird pricing ends April 15.

Does it spark joy?

Folded towels and Marie Kondo's bookMarie Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, teaches a method to help us deal with the material items in our lives. In her Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, she helps desperate unhappy people who are wallowing in clutter by showing them how to get their houses in order once and for all. Her method includes techniques, such as folding laundry, as well as approaches toward material things, like thanking an item for its service before you discard it. To decide what to keep and what to let go, you ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”

Indexers know well the joy of finishing an index. It’s an intense process that can get away on you if you’re not careful. You’re not done just because you’ve typed in all the entries. You still have the editing, and that’s where it’s easy to go over budget. You’re conscientious about your work and you’re not going to turn in an index that doesn’t spark joy for your client.

Anne Fifer has a way to make editing less grueling. She is going to give us techniques, approaches, and more when she presents “Editing without pain: Getting your index in shape from the get-go” at the conference in Ottawa, May 24-25.