May 2009

Kate Mertes

May 11, 2009

Conference Energy—On the day after our annual conference in Portland, I took an eco-tour with Fran Lennie through the Columbia Gorge and up to Mount Hood. We saw a bald eagle watching over a fuzzy chick, some absolutely gorgeous waterfalls, lots of salmon and sea lions at Bonneville Dam, and volcanic rock formations galore. We stood in the snow on the Oregon Trail in the mountain passes of the Cascades. As we breathed in the clear air at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, I felt like we’d truly "scaled the heights" for the conference—it was a literal fulfillment of the metaphorical goal I’d set myself. Despite the tough economy, we managed to attract over 180 attendees; the 43 sessions were all well-attended, and people both enjoyed themselves and learned a lot. To name some of the highlights, Our keynote speaker, Carol Fisher Saller (editor of the Chicago Manual of Style’s online Q&A and the author of a lively book, The Subversive Copyeditor), was a big hit. Fred Leise bared all in "The Naked Indexer," a session in which he exposed his indexing process for all to see—a formula I hope we can use in other ASI sessions (it would make a good chapter meeting!). And Cheryl Landes presented a very workable formula for indexing usability testing. Dave Ream called "knotty bits," a morning of short sessions on common indexing problems faced daily by indexers, a kind of speed learning. Read all about it in the next issue of Key Words!
Minutes Posted—The ASI board has just recently approved the minutes of the April 22, 2009, meeting, and they will be posted on the website shortly (look in the members’ area). Ably led by Fred Leise, we efficiently made our way through a heavy roster of topics. Here are some highlights:

  • ASI is in pretty decent financial shape. We have pretty much reached our goal of putting away 6 months of operating expenses in reserve, which is the industry standard, and while we still need to be fiscally conservative, we can actually use some of our funds to develop new programs that further ASI’s interests as an organization.
  • We now have a new chair of the membership committee, Mary Mortensen, who we feel sure we be active in promoting solutions to member needs and concerns.
  • We fixed on several new potential awards, including one for new indexers and one for editor/publisher of the year, and asked the Awards and Honors Committee to develop rubrics for them.
  • The Training Committee is developing white papers to fill in some of the gaps in the current course.
  • We received copies of the proposed revised international agreement (between all the indexing societies) and will be considering its ratification over the next few weeks.
  • The board reviewed a first draft on the salary survey, and a second draft is being prepared; Enid Zafran and Richard Shrout will review the final survey before it is released. The salary survey is one of the few ways we have of gathering reliable statistics on the indexing business and indexers, and we have put special effort into developing a professional survey.

The two biggest items on the agenda for me, however, were the new Website design and our burgeoning marketing strategy:
Website Improvements On Their Way -- Have you ever noticed that you can walk by a construction site for weeks and nothing seems to be happening, and then all of a sudden the building seemingly starts sprouting out of the ground like a dandelion in spring? Fred Leise has done an absolutely sterling job developing a new, contemporary, cleanlined Website that’s easy to use and makes good sense of our content. His three new design options were examined by the board and also presented to conference attendees, and Fred is gathering comments on these and finalizing the design. The new Website will, among other things, allow SIG and Chapter web hosting.
Marketing Efforts—Our executive director, Annette Rogers, developed a marketing and publicity campaign to address industry and public awareness of indexing, and we’re finally beginning to put it into play. Leonie McVey, chair of the Industry Presence Subcommittee, has made sure we’ll have a voice at this year’s BookExpo, and has identified and developed means of reaching out to other publishing associations. We’ve also arranged for email promotions of the Jobs Hotlines and the Indexer Locator to increase their industry profile, and also email promotions of our publications list. We are now looking at publishing articles about indexing in relevant journals and magazines, and ensuring that ASI is properly listed in Wikipedia.
Publications—ASI’s brand new publication, Indexing Specialties: Cookbooks, is now available for purchase on the ASI Website. It’s full of fascinating articles, even if you never plan to index a cookbook: read about Nelson Mandela’s preference for Indian cuisine, the difficult issue of and indexer’s need of specialized knowledge , bookstore owners and cookbooks, classificatory indexing, the storage and display of recipes online, and an analysis of those American classics, The Joy of Cooking, as it appeared from 1931 to 2006 (my favorite recipe in the mid-60’s version: stewed squirrel, alas, banished from the current volume).
Committee Chairs Needed—CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS! Interested in knowing how ASI works? Want to get involved in the nitty gritty? Here’s your chance. ASI needs members to fill the following positions:

  • Chair of the Bylaws Committee—people in the Legal SIG might be especially interested in this. The Bylaws Committee works on potential revisions to the ASI bylaws as needed, and answers questions of interpretation.
  • Publications Marketing Subcommittee—in charge of marketing ASI’s publications to the world beyond indexing. Chair and members needed.
  • Training Publicity Subcommittee—in charge of publicizing the ASI Training Course to indexers, potential indexers, the publishing industry, library schools, and any other appropriate venues you can come up with. Chair and members needed.
  • Locator/Jobs Hotline Publicity Subcommittee—works with the current Locator and Jobs Hotline chairs at the special task of publicizing these ASI services. Chair and members needed.
  • Suzi Kaplan, chair of the Awards and Honors Committee, is currently looking for new members to help design protocols for new indexing awards.

Contact me directly, at for further information and to volunteer.
Kate Mertes President, ASI May 11, 2009