The Society of Indexers, our sister organisation in the United Kingdom announces the following interesting news: 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’.
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’.
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.
For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter @indexers.
For our colleagues in the United Kingdom: we wish you a very happy National Indexing Day!!!