We in the Society of Indexers (SI) have designated Thursday 30 March 2017 as the inaugural National Indexing Day as part of our diamond anniversary year celebrations. Inspired by the recent National Proofreading Day on 8 March, my fellow SI member Ruth Ellis pondered whether we should set up our own National Indexing Day and I suggested 30 March after discovering that this was the original SI foundation date in 1957. We have since pulled this together in the intervening three weeks. Luckily we’re all good at working to tight deadlines.
For more on #indexday, see the official SI press release below (written by Paula Clarke Bain with input from SI Chair Ann Kingdom). Our diamond anniversary logo/flyer was designed by the dream team of Martin Bain and PC Bain.
Happy #indexday! 💎
You can see a Storify summary of the day here.
‘The Joy of Indexes’, The Spectator Books Podcast by SI president Sam Leith with Dr Dennis Duncan. Something of a victory lap after #indexday.
Other #indexday press articles and blog posts:
‘In our Google era, indexers are the unsung heroes of the publishing world’ by SI president Sam Leith for The Guardian.
‘Index, a celebration of the’ by Dr Dennis Duncan for the Times Literary Supplement (TLS).
‘Have You Hugged Your Indexer Today?’ by Porter Anderson for Publishing Perspectives.
‘Key to book content is a skilled, organised and analytical indexer’ by SI member Moyra Forrest for The Scotsman.
SfEP blog by SI/SfEP member Paula Clarke Bain for the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
Byte the Book blog by Paula Clarke Bain for Byte the Book.
‘The joy – and importance – of the analytical index’ blog by Dr Francis Young.
‘Happy Indexing Day!’ blog by Meghan Brawley for Potomac Indexing.
‘Indexing, National Day of’ blog post (and indexer appreciation) by Kattullus for MetaFilter.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Indexing Day, Thursday 30 March 2017
The Society of Indexers is celebrating its diamond anniversary in 2017 and has designated 30 March as the first National Indexing Day to raise awareness of this little-known but essential profession. The date marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Society, which was formally constituted at the premises of the National Book League in London on 30 March 1957 by G. Norman Knight and colleagues. Knight counted it as ‘one of the achievements of the Society to have removed the intense feeling of solitude in which the indexer (of books and journals, at any rate) used to work’.
The Society of Indexers, now based in Sheffield, is the only autonomous professional body for indexers in the United Kingdom and Ireland and is associated with other indexing organisations around the world. Its aims are to promote indexing, the quality of indexes and the profession of indexing. Membership includes around 400 specialist indexers across the UK, working for authors and publishers in more than a hundred different subjects, from accountancy to zoology.
A good book index is made neither by magic nor machine. Professional book indexers are not only subject specialists but are trained to look at each text from the readers’ perspective. Although dedicated software can help, indexing is not a task that can be automated; an index is not just an alphabetical list of keywords or a concordance. Computers can’t read, so they can’t index. There is no substitute for a proper index created by a professional indexer who has carefully analysed the text, identified the important concepts and allowed for alternative reader approaches.
In the digital age, indexes are just as essential in ebooks: a full-text search or Ctrl-F cannot think like the reader, but a human indexer can. For example, text references to ‘Theresa May’, ‘Prime Minister’, ‘Number Ten’ and ‘Downing Street’ may or may not need collating together. Context is key; it all depends. A good index is like a road map back into the main text. A bad index is at best laughable and at worst less than useless. And a non-fiction book with no index at all is a crying shame, as is regularly bemoaned in book reviews and on social media. As our past president John Sutherland says, ‘Using a book without an index is like trying to fish with your fingers’.
This June will see a veritable feast of indexing in Oxford. As the Society of Indexers finish celebrating their diamond anniversary with a special conference and gala dinner at St Anne’s College on 21 June, index scholars and lovers will be gathering at the Bodleian Library for a two-day symposium on the Book Index (22–23 June) organised by Dr Dennis Duncan. As Dennis notes: ‘Records from the papal court at Avignon show that by the early 1300s people were being paid to compose indexes. In other words, the professional indexer has been around for a good century longer than the printed book.’ The Society of Indexers is also pleased to have a panel session on ‘21st-century indexing’ at the Book Index symposium. Today’s indexers are skilled and technically literate professionals who are able to apply their specialist knowledge and considerable insight to aid the reader and enhance the value of a book.
The Society hopes that the launch of National Indexing Day will provide a useful opportunity to continue to promote the profession of indexing and the value of a good index. We will be encouraging people to share diamond examples of best indexing practice on social media with our dedicated hashtag of #indexday. As our Honorary President Sam Leith says in his associated forthcoming article in the Guardian, book indexers may just be ‘the unsung heroes of the publishing world’. It’s high time for the diamond indexers to shine.
The Society of Indexers was established in 1957 to promote improved standards in all forms of indexing. Further information about its training course, conference, local groups and how to commission an indexer can be found on its website: www.indexers.org.uk
For more on the Book Index symposium, visit: https://indexconference.wordpress.com