Music while you work

A popular topic on ISC’s email discussion list this month was music to index by. It was generally agreed that it should be instrumental, or at least no English lyrics. Yet, as someone mentioned, when we were kids we found it easier to do our homework with the radio on. Is it younger brains, different tasks, or a bit of both?

Writers might do their best in a bustling coffee shop. Crafts and trades people, if they don’t have a radio playing, might whistle. Why do we seek out constant noise to keep us in the flow?

A few years ago, the founder of Focus@Will, a scientifically-based music streaming service, was in an interview. (I can’t find the podcast, otherwise I would link to it.) He painted a vivid picture of a prehistoric person, shall we say, sitting on the savannah, steadily chipping away to make a tool. Every several minutes, his subconscious notices the quiet. It prods him to break from his task and look around. If his brain didn’t keep interrupting him like this, he’d be taken down by a predator. It’s impossibly to prove, of course—but it’s a lovely image of what might be going on your brain when you need to focus.

It suggests that when indexers have music playing while they work, their subconscious is kept occupied, freeing the brain to stay focused for periods longer than several minutes—which is what we strive for when indexing.

Productivity and efficiency tricks are just some of the things we talk about on our email discussion list. It’s a great place to get help from our peers on all kinds of indexing and business issues. If you’re an indexer and you haven’t yet joined one of these lists, do so now.

And do think about coming to the ISC Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland June 12-13. Not only will you get more help and ideas—you’ll get to meet and hang out with these peers.

The indexer’s holiday gift guide

Did someone ask you want you want for Christmas?

If you’re like many people, you prefer experiences over material things. So, why not ask for help with your conference travel to St. John’s, Newfoundland next June?

Or more specifically, how about a ticket to the pre-conference event—a boat tour with Iceberg Quest? This award-winning tour will allow you to witness humpback whales, icebergs, puffins, and views of the island landscape from the sea. It’s on June 11 and runs for two hours starting at 4 p.m.

Our poster for the event

As a conference attendee, you and your travel partner will receive a discounted price if you book through the link on the conference page by April 11. Booking and payment can be made now or when you register for the conference (before April 11).

Why not visit the link now—or send your loved one there with credit card handy. Gift problem solved!

North America’s oldest community

St. John’s, Newfoundland is said to be the oldest city in North America. John Cabot, whose real name was Giovanni Caboto, was working for Henry VII of England when his ship sailed into the harbour on the Feast of St. John the Baptist in 1497. Centuries afterward, Newfoundland was governed and defended by the British as a fishing outpost. The people of Newfoundland narrowly voted to join Canada only in 1949.

From 1764 to 1820, the colonial government discouraged permanent settlement by placing restrictions on construction. Buildings were mostly small and wooden. But after some devastating fires, they encouraged switching to stone and brick.

One of the new large stone buildings was the Murray Premises, a warehouse for exporting fishery products and importing other goods. It survived the Great Fire of 1892 and it’s one of the few buildings from its era that survives today.

Even Bowring Brothers promoted tourism (Colonial Office photographic collection, National Archives UK)

In the 1970s, the Newfoundland Historic Trust and St. John’s Heritage Society led the restoration of the 1846 building, turning it in to a modern commercial complex while retaining much of the original character. The complex, which is a National Historic Site, houses our conference venue, the Murray Premises Hotel.

What better way could there be for us conference-goers to experience the coastal community and ambience of historic St. John’s on June 12-13, 2020 than to have our sessions in this special hotel? And better than that, the hotel is offering special room rates for conference attendees. To make your reservation and to read about other accommodation and travel tips, visit the conference page.

2020 Conference: June 12-13, St. John’s, Newfoundland

The ISC/SCI is thrilled to announce that our next annual conference is taking place on June 12-13, 2020 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The reason why we’re so excited is because Newfoundland is like no other place in the world. Ask any Canadian mainlander about Newfoundland, and it’s either on their list of places to visit, or they dream of going back.

What’s the draw? Number one might be the legendary hospitality of the Newfoundlanders and the unique and robust culture—Newfoundland English even has its own dictionary. There’s also the art, the music, and the picturesque fishing villages and colourful houses. And, of course, there’s the dramatic scenery and spectacular wildlife on and around this island that is so far east into the Atlantic that it was once home to Vikings.


Over the coming weeks, we’ll give you tips and resources for planning your trip, and we’ll tell you about the conference speakers and the program. The conference committee is working on some big surprises.

In the meantime, check out the conference page. You’ll see the preliminary schedule and a starting list of accommodations. You’ll also find out how to reserve the Murray Premises Hotel, our conference venue, using your conference discount.

New Executive for 2019-2020

The new ISC/SCI Executive for 2019-2020 was voted in at this spring’s conference in Ottawa.

As of June 2019, the new President is Alexandra Peace and the new Vice-President is Pierre Joyal. They will be holding these positions until June 2021.

Check out the full Executive Committee list. If you have questions about the work of the ISC/SCI, feel free to contact your Regional Representative, or any member of the Executive.

Another Successful Conference

Our May 27-28 conference in Ottawa was attended by 66 people from across Canada and parts of the US. We met old friends and made new ones as we laughed, learned, and shared experiences and encouragement. You can find more photos in our conference album on Flickr.

Several speakers made their handouts available to our members. If you’re an ISC/SCI member, log in and find the handouts here. If you’re not a member but attended the conference, visit this page and use the conference password.

Thank you to the conference committee headed by Heather Ebbs, with Alicia Peres, Barb Cuerden, Frances Curry, JoAnne Burek, and Nancy Wills, for all your work in planning and organizing this successful event.

Thank you, all you wonderful donors, for providing door prizes. Your contributions helped make the conference fun.

Beth Macfie
Clive Pyne
Heather Ebbs
Margaret de Boer
Ruth Pincoe

Thanks also to the Lord Elgin Hotel and the University of Ottawa residence.

Thank you, attendees, for your enthusiasm and participation. And an extra-big thank you if you filled out the conference survey. Your input and comments will be of enormous help to next year’s conference committee.

And speaking of next year’s conference, we’re headed to St. Johns, Newfoundland! The dates are June 12-13, 2020, so start thinking about your plans now.

DReam to Index Scholarships

In 2018, the Friends of Dave established a fund to honor David K. Ream who passed away at the end of 2017. Dave, who was well known throughout the indexing communities of the world, provided computer-programming, database construction, and typesetting to indexers and abstractors for more than 30 years. Dave gave so much to the field of indexing and was especially interested in helping indexers succeed in their work. That is why we have chosen to honor him by recognizing new people coming to the field and helping them on their indexing journey.

The scholarships enable newer indexers to attend a national indexing conference. In 2019, each winner receives $500 USD toward the expense of her conference registration and travel.

We are pleased to announce the two winners for the 2019 DReam to Index Scholarships:

Siusan Moffat

AElfwine Mischler

Both Siusan and AElfwine took the UC Berkeley Course for introductory indexing training. They have registered to attend the Ottawa Conference of the Indexing Society of Canada (ISC).

Siusan lives in Toronto, Canada, and AElfwine lives in Cairo, Egypt.

We look forward to their ongoing growth as indexers!

In 2020, the DReam to Index scholarships will be offered again using the same criteria – for more information, about Dave Ream and the scholarships please see

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.

Bursary for Structurally Disadvantaged People

We were able to secure funding from the Special Projects committee for our very first bursary!

The Bursary for Structurally Disadvantaged People is for one person, and it will cover fees for an indexing course, two years of ISC membership with listing, and entry into the Mentorship program.

The Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity committee (TIDE) is a very small committee and we will be needing more people to join in to help develop and organize the bursary. Please get in touch to help out! siusanmoffat (at.) gmail (dot) com