Interview with Fred Leise
by D’Ann Hamilton-White
I believe I’m approaching the “old dog” category, but I can still learn new tricks! I learned several of them at the annual ASI conference in June. One of them concerns a process Fred Leise developed for B-o-B indexing. He offered a brief introduction at the Saturday session, and I had a chance to talk with him later and ask him a few questions. I know you’ll be intrigued by this new trick as much as I was!
Q. First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself.
A. I started indexing back in 1995 and work mainly on scholarly books, especially in the humanities, East Asian history, and international relations. I’m also an independent taxonomy design consultant and the lead content strategist for Potomac Indexing. And I just completed a year as president of ASI.
Q. What inspired you to develop this process?
A. I attended Kay Schlembach’s workshop, “Metatopic Menace.” As you know, the handling of the book’s metatopic has changed significantly over the past five years or so. This relatively new process provides a structure that supports the book’s structure. It takes the metatopic and what I call the pan-granularism that is expressed through the chapter and section titles in the book.
Q. Can you expand on the pan-granularism term?
A. Well, granularity refers to the degree of specificity of a topic—the details. And pan-granularity encompasses the entire range of the book’s concepts. So it’s broad and detailed at the same time. The index should reflect that.
Q. Can you briefly explain how you do that?
A. It’s a two-level approach. First is the structured indexing, which is created from the chapter and section titles. This is top-down level. Next is the textual indexing which comes from the details of the book. This is the bottom-up level.
Q. Can you give an example?
A. Sure. Let’s say you have a book on the IBSATI countries: India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Indonesia. The index would have a main heading like this:
IBSATI countries, 5–90
South Africa, 5–21
Then, the main heading for each country would have subheadings such as:
Arab Spring and, 68–70
conclusions on, 74–75
foreign policy, domestic politics and, 60–68
human rights and democracy, 71–74
neighborhood of, role in, 56–60
overview of, 50–56
The first main heading represents the structured indexing as applied to the metatopic, the breakdown of the book into its primary components. The subheadings for Brazil represent the structural indexing at the chapter level, the detail within the chapter on Brazil. Then there are the regular entries that indexers normally create.
That example doesn’t really get into the nitty gritty of this process. I’m offering an ASI course in November, which will provide more detail.
Q. Great! Tell us about the course.
A. It’s called How to Create Brilliantly Structured Indexes: A Metatopic- and Pan-Granular-Based Process. It’s an expansion of the session I gave in Chicago in June. Right now the plan is to have 3 sessions: Nov. 3, 10, and 17. Details and registration are available here.
Q. Thanks. I’ll definitely sign up for the course. Why do you think this is a good method?
A. We create the index for the user, and the user could either be someone who is considering buying the book and wants to know what information the book contains at a high level. Or the user could be someone who read the book and wants to refer back to a piece of information. And one never knows what detail the reader will recall and look for in the index. This process attempts to satisfy both needs.
Q. What do you like about this process?
A. I like that it helps users, and I like the structure of the index, which supports the book’s structure. The process is highly structured and regular. You can count on it to work. A well-structured index ensures that the index matches the work as much as it can in a creative field. I enjoy both aspects: the structure and the creativity inherent in developing an index. One of the reasons I enjoy knitting is I’m creating something while following a pattern and set method of forming the stitches. I played violin for several years—again, a structured setting in a creative field.
Q. How many of these indexes have you created?
A. Somewhere between 30 and 40 indexes.
Q. Anything more you’d like to say about this process?
A. Although it may be challenging to implement, it’s good. This process really encapsulates everything I’ve learned about indexing for the past twenty years.
You can register for Fred’s online learning course here.