2017 Tamarack Award: JoAnne Burek

Many of our members volunteer in various capacities, however one person in particular stood out this past year.  At our awards banquet in Montreal on June 2, JoAnne Burek was honoured as our 2017 Tamarack award recipient .

JoAnne is deserving of this award for many reasons: JoAnne has a “yes, I’ll do that” work ethic and has shown dedication in improving the experience of members in our Society. In her creative and skilful style, she has crafted compelling and well-researched promotion pieces for our Society. She has taken the time to be present at events in order to promote the benefits of ISC/SCI. Finally, JoAnne continues with the detailed assignment of our website renewal project.

We are honoured to have JoAnne as a member of our Society. Congratulations to her!


Three Indexing Courses

Three indexing courses are being taught by ISC/SCI members:

  • Indexing: Theory and Application (University of California at Berkeley Extension – taught by Heather Ebbs, an ISC/SCI past president, as well as U.S. indexers Sylvia Coates and Fred Leise and Australian indexer Max McMaster)
  • Indexing for Books, Journals, and Reports (Ryerson University – taught by Mary Newberry, past ISC/SCI co-president)
  • Indexing: An Essential Art and Science (Simon Fraser University – taught by Audrey McClellan and Iva Cheung)

These courses represent excellent opportunities to learn from experienced members of the Society. For more information on these and other indexing courses, seminars, and workshops, please go to the Education and Training section of the Resources page.

Conference 2017 :: Congrès 2017 – Montréal, QC

Reflect, refresh, and celebrate 40 years of indexing

We came to Montreal to learn from the experts, meet and chat with colleagues, and celebrate our 40th year—our Ruby Anniversary!

Considérez de nouvelles approches, renouvelez vos énergies et célébrez les 40 ans de la Société d’indexation

Nous sommes venir à Montréal pour apprendre des experts dans votre domaine, rencontrer vos collègues et célébrer le 40e anniversaire de la société.

[…]Conference 2017 :: Congrès 2017 – Montréal, QC

Magpie Pins for Sale

ISC/SCI Magpie PinAt the ISC/SCI annual general meeting and conference in June 2009, Katherine Barber, founding editor-in-chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary department of Oxford University Press, gave a fascinating talk on the history of the word “magpie” and what it has to do with indexing.

The magpie-indexing connection

The English language is flavoured by the many cultures that have held sway in that country over the course of time: Celts, Saxons, Romans, Vikings, French, and that motley crew of people known as “English”.

The French tended to squish Latin words that came into the language by removing consonants. So the Latin “pica” (magpie) became “pia” in French and then “pie” in English. We added “mag” so that now we have “magpie” to refer to the bird that collects bits and pieces of this and that to take to its nest, much as indexers take pieces of the book and put them in their index nest. So indexers are like human magpies.

The pie we eat is related, because pies began as a collection of many foods baked together in a crust. Reference books of feast days, themselves not unlike indexes, were also called “pies”, possibly because the black ink on white pages was reminiscent of the bird’s colouring.

One last surprising connection between indexes and magpies. A type of geographical index is a gazetteer. The word is derived from “gazette”, a 17th-century tabloid-style newspaper sold in Venice for a gazeta (penny), a word derived from gazza. You guessed it: gazza is Italian for magpie.

How to buy the pins

You will be able to buy them at local meetings and the national AGM and conference, and you can also order them by mail. For the last, shipping costs will comprise the price of a small bubble-wrap envelope and whatever Canada Post charges to mail to your area of the world; for specifics, and to order, contact Heather Ebbs.


Charging for Indexing Services

“How much?”

It’s one of the first questions from clients and new indexers. But as with almost any fee for service, there is no hard and fast answer.

In a survey done by ISC/SCI in spring 2008, members were asked what they charge, and how, and the answers varied widely (see Bulletin, Vol. 30, No 3 [Summer 2008], p. 28-32), with hourly rates ranging from $20 to $65, typeset page rates ranging from $1.85 to $10 and manuscript page rates ranging from $3 to $8.

That broad range reflects the wonderful variety of work that indexers do in a full array of media (books, journals, websites, databases, etc.) and the breadth of clients (trade publishers, university presses, national organizations, governments, legal services, web-based services, etc.). It also reflects the immense variety of document, database and website designs and the varying levels of experience among indexers. Per-entry charges, which seem to be common elsewhere, do not seem to be common in Canada.

All that said, one is still left with the question: “How much?”

Advice for indexing clients

In Canada, editors, project managers and publishers seem very willing to share this type of information. The best thing to do is to contact colleagues and ask what they paid for similar projects: 300-page trade autobiographies, 400-page scholarly works, 100-page technical manuals, 10 000-entry databases, etc.

Advice for indexers

Again, the best thing to do is to contact colleagues. Also, think realistically about what you want to earn and what level of quality you can provide.

  • What do you want to earn annually?
  • What do you want to earn per hour?
  • How many hours a day can you effectively index?
  • What is your level of experience?
  • What depth of indexing does the client want?
  • How many pages per hour can you index at that depth?

For example, if you can index 15 pages per hour of this type of book and you want to earn $60/hour, then you need to charge $4/page at a minimum (remember that you spend other hours on your business that are not directly reimbursed). If you can index 10 pages per hour in this type of book, then you need to charge $6 per page. That said, if you know that you are a bit slower than others (perhaps because you’re new to the field, or you’re just getting used to the software, etc.), then you may need to recognize that you will earn less per hour until you are up to speed. For example, if both you and the client know that the normal rate for a 300-indexable-page trade non-fiction is about

$1 350, or $4.50 per page, then you charge the $4.50 per-page rate and recognize that you will be earning less per hour until you get up to speed.


For back-of-the-book indexes, a per-page rate is probably the most common. It enables both the indexer and the client to know at the outset how much will be paid. Generally, one doesn’t “sweat the small stuff”. In other words, if the indexer is expected to begin indexing with page 1 and finish indexing on page 312, then the indexer charges $x/pg for 312 pages—there is no fussing over half pages and blank pages and so on. You may also find some indexers who charge by the hour, particularly for scholarly or niche-market books.


For periodical indexes, some people charge by the hour and some by the journal. Similar questions to those above also apply here: How fast can you index (which may depend on how well you understand the subject)? What is the normal size of the journal? Are you expected to use a thesaurus/controlled vocabulary (as this will slow you down)? Are you going to be expected to turn the final journal around in a few days because of the publishing schedule?

Other factors

Your personal rate will depend not just on how fast you can think through the entries, but on how fast you can type accurately and on how well you can use the shortcuts offered by your indexing software. These two seemingly minor things are critically important to your earnings. If you have never learned to type properly, then do so now—it can make the difference between your earning $60,000 or $80,000 per year by working 35 hours/week or earning that only if you work 50–60 hours/week. And learn your software—the same concept applies.

Language considerations can make a big difference:

  • Is this a stand-alone English document? French document?
  • Are you indexing a document in one language and expected to correlate with an index for the same document in another language?
  • Are you adapting an index from one language to another?

Conclusions and resources

So the questions are many: What do you want to earn? What is your indexing speed for the particular document or item? How does the design affect your indexing speed: how much white space is there, what size is the type, are you expected to index endnotes, how many pictures or tables are included, are you indexing the pictures and tables? How well do you understand the subject? Are you using a controlled vocabulary? How fast can you type accurately? How knowledgeable are you about your software? What depth of indexing is required?

The American Society of Indexers (ASI) offers other considerations and other ways to think about how to translate your desired annual earnings into per-page indexing rates. See the 2016 report on Professional Activities and Salary Survey.

Ultimately, your best resources, whether you are a client or an indexer, are each other.

Conference 2016 :: Congrès 2016 – Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois, USA

June 17–18, 2016

The Indexing Conference for 2016 was an international event! The conference was jointly hosted by the Indexing Society of Canada (ISC/SCI) and the American Society for Indexing (ASI) in Carl Sandburg’s “City of the Big Shoulders,” Chicago.

The sessions were held at Conference Chicago University Center. You can find the program below.

[…]Conference 2016 :: Congrès 2016 – Chicago, Illinois

2016 Ewart-Daveluy Award Recipient: Mary Newberry

Mary Newberry was presented with the Ewart-Daveluy Award for Indexing Excellence at the awards banquet of the joint conference of the Indexing Society of Canada (ISC) and American Society for Indexing (ASI) in Chicago, IL, on 16 June 2016. The award honours Mary’s indexing of The Letterbooks of John Evelyn, volumes 1 and 2, edited by Douglas D.C. Chambers and David Galbraith and published by University of Toronto Press.

The Letterbooks of John Evelyn is a two-volume work with 1,150 pages and almost 900 letters between Evelyn and his 315 correspondents. John Evelyn, FRS, was an English writer, gardener and diarist of the late 1600s. His diaries are the usual source material for scholars, but like his diaries, Evelyn’s letters cast considerable light on the art, culture and politics of the time.

Making this letterbook material accessible to scholars was the job of the indexer, but it was not an easy job. The sheer volume of the material was one issue; another was the archaic diction and writing style of the seventeenth century. A third was the need to serve the scholars who were undoubtedly already familiar with the extensive index created for the 1955 publication of Evelyn’s diaries and would expect some correlation, while also serving modern indexing standards and user expectations. Interestingly, the index is not only printed in the books themselves but is also available online in clickable format. Despite these and other complications, Mary created a comprehensive index that demonstrates outstanding indexing expertise, analytical competence and index design skill. More than that, it exemplifies the index as a work of art.

An excerpt of the index is available here, courtesy of the University of Toronto Press.

Mary Newberry also received the 2016 Tamarack Award, for her services to the Society.

Conference 2015 :: Congrès 2015 – Victoria, BC

The Business of Indexing: Doing it Right

Our 2015 annual conference will take place on 28 and 29 May at the Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. Registration is open, see below.

L’Indexation côté affaires : les bonnes pratiques

Notre congrès annuel de 2015 se tiendra les 28 et 29 mai, à l’hôtel Harbour Towers à Victoria en Colombie-Britannique. Vous pouvez vous inscrire dès maintenant.

Registration is now closed.

Calling all lovers of books, chocolate, coffee and tea!

Schedule and rates :: Horaire et forfaits

Member rates:

$325 two day regular rate
$175 one day regular rate

Note: Member rates apply to members of other indexing societies, as well as to EAC/ACR and PEAVI members.


$375 two day rate
$200 one day rate


Conference schedule

Wednesday 27 May, 6 pm onwards

Please join us on Wednesday night for an informal dinner at Swans Brew Pub. Located in the heart of Old Town Victoria by Market Square, Swan’s is a landmark pub featuring an on-site brewery with award-winning beers and delicious meals in a heritage setting. We’ll be there at 6pm, so come for a drink or dinner or just to say hello.


Thursday 28 May, 8:45 am to 4:45 pm

Sylvia Coates: Keynote speech

Heather Ebbs and Thérèse Shere: Making Time: Work Wisely So You Can Play More

Annual General Meeting

Raymond Frogner: Building Houses of Memory: Rewriting Professional Standards

JoAnne Burek: Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness for Freelancers

Stephen Ullstrom with Mary Newberry: Cross-Border Indexing: Regulations and Considerations

Gillian Watts: Watching the Pennies: Finances for Freelancers

Friday 29 May, 9 am to 5 pm

Lucie Haskins: Jumping on the Embedded Indexing Bandwagon – Or Should I?

Sylvia Coates: The Business of Indexing – Indexing Efficiency, Speed, and Earnings

Alan Walker: Order and Chaos in Indexing, Editing and Publishing

Kendra Millis: Marketing Your Indexing Business

Julie McClung and Rosalind Guldner: Ethical Indexing Practices: The Indexer as Intermediary

En français : Congrès SCI 2015_francais

ISC/SCI Banquet, Thursday 28 May, 6:15 pm

The ISC Banquet will be held in the Legislative Dining Room of the historic Parliament Buildings. Facing the Inner Harbour, the “People’s House” is one of the most beautiful and architecturally significant buildings in British Columbia. Banquet attendees will be able to view the art and interior of the building before proceeding to the Dining Room to enjoy a three-course meal. The Parliament Buildings are a 10-minute walk from the conference hotel. Hope to see you there!


Sessions details

Thursday May 28

Keynote (9-10 am)  Sylvia Coates, an indexer since 1989, developed and teaches the UC Berkeley Extension indexing course. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

10:15-11:45 am

Title  Making Time: Work Wisely So You Can Play More

Description  Are you happy with your effectiveness during the workday, or are you less efficient than you’d like to be? Are you bored, overwhelmed, scattered, or distracted? In this lively session we’ll talk about how to recognize and resolve focus and productivity problems. We’ll share practical tips, tools, and strategies for making the most of your working hours and creating more time for all the other things in your life.

Presenters  Heather Ebbs has been indexing, editing and writing for more than 30 years. She is a past president of ISC/SCI, the Editors’ Association of Canada and her local curling club.

Thérèse Shere has more than 500 indexes to her credit, as well as several articles and presentations on indexing. She likes to spend non-work time botanizing and playing with her new grandson.

12:45-1:45 pm  Annual General Meeting

2-3 pm

Title  Building Houses of Memory: Rewriting Professional Standards

Description  Archives safeguard and present material that reminds us of our identities: the memories and traditions that combine to create our collective history. Establishing access points to these unique, interrelated records is important to building the collective memory of our society. Digital documents, multicultural societies, distributed and localized governance — the changes in modern society must be reflected in the standards used to arrange and describe our cultural records of enduring value. This talk looks at some examples of how the Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) is meeting these challenges.

Presenter  Raymond Frogner is an archivist at BC Archives. M.A. University of Victoria; MAS University of British Columbia; University of Alberta Archivist (10 years); RBCM Archivist 3 years. Executive Canadian Council of Archives. Winner Kaye Lamb Prize, 2011; Alan D. Ridge Award, 2011 (archival awards).

3:15-3:45 pm

Title  Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness for Freelancers

Description  No business is immune to disasters, and businesses that depend on information technology are particularly vulnerable because of the wide range of problems that can affect them. A disaster or other adverse incident can lead to financial losses and a diminished reputation. Freelance indexers should be concerned about these same things. We will learn the framework that organizations use to assess and reduce their exposure to risk, and apply these principles to the life of freelance work.

Presenter  JoAnne Burek is a new indexer specializing in business and general non-fiction. She recently retired from the information technology industry after 36 years.

3:45-4:15 pm

Title  Cross-Border Indexing: Regulations and Considerations

Description  Canada can sometimes seem like a small pond, unable to provide enough work to sustain full-time indexing. One solution is to look for clients in other countries. But how do we report foreign income on our Canadian tax returns? What are our tax responsibilities in these other countries? How do we deal with overseas payment and exchange rates? These and other pertinent questions will be considered.

Presenter  Stephen Ullstrom has been indexing for four years. In 2014 he won the Purple Pen Award for best new indexer. He currently lives in Edmonton.

4:15-4:45 pm

Title  Watching the Pennies: Finances for Freelancers

Description  This session offers financial tips for indexers who are self-employed, and will be especially valuable for those who are new to freelancing. It stresses the importance of having a financial plan for your business and then watching the bottom line. The focus will be on keeping track of your business’s income and expenses, including invoicing, paying the bills, basic bookkeeping, banking, and tax considerations.

Presenter  Gillian Watts has been a freelance editor and indexer for 18 years and treasurer of several organizations, including ISC/SCI, for even longer.


Friday May 29

9-10:30 am

Title  Jumping on the Embedded Indexing Bandwagon – Or Should I?

Description  What is embedded indexing? What’s the big deal? How is it different from back-of-the-book indexing? Why should I bother with it? Will I be left behind if I don’t? What work is there for embedded indexers? How much will it cost and how much time will it take for me to learn? This session addresses all these questions and more.

Presenter  Lucie Haskins became an indexer in 2000 after a long career in corporate America and specializes in embedded indexing and in computer- and business related topics.

10:45-11:45 am

Title  The Business of Indexing – Indexing Efficiency, Speed, and Earnings

Description  A successful indexing business requires both good indexing skills and excellent business skills. This presentation will include a general overview of the business aspects of indexing, including professional development, business decisions, and client relationships, but the primary emphasis of the discussion will be on indexing speed. Specific indexing techniques designed to increase efficiency and speed, without sacrificing quality, will be discussed and then practised with a series of hands-on exercises.

Presenter  Sylvia Coates, an indexer since 1989, developed and teaches the UC Berkeley Extension indexing course. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

12:45-1:45 pm

Title  Order and Chaos in Indexing, Editing and Publishing

Description  This session looks at the responses of indexers, editors, and publishers to the challenges of information management during the scientific revolution of the 17th century, making a comparison with our own responses to the current, digital information revolution.

Presenter  Alan Walker is a former President, a three-times Medal winner, and an Honorary Life Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers.

2-3:30 pm

Title  Marketing Your Indexing Business

Description  The main focus of this presentation is how to develop a marketing plan and marketing materials. Topics will include branding, methods, formats, introductory letters, and follow-ups. Attendees will leave with ideas about what their marketing materials will look like, a list of the materials they plan to use, and ideas for how to put it all together. We will also touch on ongoing marketing throughout your career.

Presenter  Kendra Millis, who lives in Maine, has been indexing full-time since 2008, and has expanded her services to include copyediting, proofreading, and project management.

3:45-4:45 pm

Title  Ethical Indexing Practices: The Indexer as Intermediary

Description  As intermediaries for the text, indexers make decisions about how to accurately reflect source information for future retrieval. An awareness of ethical practices in indexing both serves index users and enhances professional credibility. This session will examine content that challenges indexers: multi-authored works, personal bias, differing points of view, disorganized or poorly presented text, and the power of indexers to distort or censor information, with examples drawn from the indexing of political debates.

Presenters  Julie McClung and Rosalind Guldner are experienced indexers of political debates at the British Columbia and Ontario Legislative Assemblies.


2015 Ewart-Daveluy Award Recipient: François Trahan

2015 Ewart-Daveluy Award Recipient: François Trahan

For Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge, by Nancy J. Turner, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. This two-volume ethnobotanical work reflects forty years of research into the people-plant interrelationships of the First Nations in British Columbia. The two indexes can be viewed here.