October 2009

Kate Mertes

October 2009

In an effort to ward off excess avoirdupois, I've taken to walking up Monument Hill every morning in my home town. It's a pretty stiff pull, but very pleasant as the weather grows colder and the leaves turn color. It's also a good opportunity to work things through. This morning I was thinking about how we get things done (or don't get them done) in ASI. We always have lots of good ideas, but we don't tend to get them done very fast, if at all. Of course part of that is the wages of living in a democratic institution. It's easy to get stuff done when you can bark out an order and everyone scurries to obey. But the process of consultation and buy-in always takes time. We also are still largely a volunteer organization, and volunteers' time is necessarily limited. When we start calling for the half-yearly committee reports, we seldom have more than 40 percent of our action items completed. So I started to think about the circumstances in cases where we HAVE gotten something significant accomplished – and I had a bit of an epiphany. The committees, groups, and individuals that get stuff done tend to be those with the most specific, clear, concrete tasks – revising the bylaws. Creating a welcome packet. Shepherding books through the publication process. Publishing Keywords. So, when we review committee activities at the November board meeting and list action items, we're going to look at narrowing and specifying tasks for our volunteers. How does that sound to you?

Indexing outreach: Of course, some volunteers concretize their own tasks very effectively. Leoni McVey, for instance, has devised and begun to put in place an effective program that should be of great assistance to ASI members. She's identifying conferences around the country at which indexers could be effective speakers or exhibitors, and she'll be putting out a regular list, mainly through chapters. Members are encouraged to attend conferences in their field and advertise their own services and those of ASI. It's a way to publicize indexing as a practice and is also an effective means of selling your own services. We'll also plan to post these meetings on the website – check out the news page for further announcements, and make sure to read Leoni's article in Keywords.

As an example of how to represent indexing and ASI at non-indexing meetings, the PNW chapter has a fantastic booth setup (some of you may have visited it at the Portland conference this spring). Here's how it works, in Jane Henderson's words:


To encourage people to stop, we have a big bowl of dark chocolate Hershey's kisses that we offer to everyone who walks by. To make it easier for our indexer-volunteers to approach people, we offer two activities. The activities are (1) write an index entry or (2) answer a question about indexing. In return for participating in either activity, the visitor is invited to draw a slip of paper from a bag. If the slip drawn reads "book" the participant may choose one of several donated books that have been indexed by one of the PNW/ASI indexers. If the slip reads "word" the participant may select a word bookmark from dozens of choices. All words name characteristics or qualities such as frivolity, jocularity, tenacity, brilliance, and happiness - in other words, they are all (conceivably) indexable terms. On the backside of the word bookmarks are the ASI logo, and websites for the national and chapter organizations. There are actually people who come to our booth year after year to get a new word.



In addition to the activities, we have our chapter brochure, a selection of ASI brochures, a set of ASI books for display, a diagram that shows the different elements of an index, a listing of all chapter members by name and by specialties. One of our volunteers is available to talk about the materials on display while the other one or two volunteers help folks with activities (there isn't much sitting, as you can see from the photos). Since publishers don't often come around to the booth, we spend the first 45 minutes or so each morning while it's still quiet going to their booths giving out brochures and candy kisses and talking about indexing. We don't have statistics, but we do know that as a result of our presence at Wordstock people have decided to become indexers, indexers have been hired by authors or publishers, and a great many people have learned that people make indexes - they don't just happen.


PNW has used this booth system at a number of book-oriented events. The same plan could be adopted for county fairs, urban festivals, and many other happenings. If you're looking for a chapter activity, this could be it!

Wilson Award: Carolyn Weaver recently told me that Margie Towery's Wilson Award-winning index to The Letters of Matthew Arnold (2002) has been hyperlinked to the digitized text of this multi-volume work. Both a downloadable PDF sample from the index and a link to the digitized version are now available via the Wilson page of the ASI website. The webmasters have provided both links so that site visitors can see not only how this award-winning index looks in print, but also because it's a great example of a hyperlinked book index to a monumental work.

Indexing Central (Minneapolis, 2010): The call for papers has gone out, and you have until November 10th to submit an idea for a presentation at the next ASI Conference. Fran Lennie is planning a stimulating and educational meeting in a vibrant city, and I hope to see you all there. Did you present a well-received program at a local chapter meeting? Have you given a talk to a local editorial association and found it was well-received? Think about sharing it with us! Chapters and SIGs should also keep in mind that Fran is planning an extended poster session. This is a great way for special interest groups for present themselves to potential new members, and posters are also a wonderful medium for smaller, visually oriented projects.

Kate Mertes President, ASI