ISC Conference, Day 2—To award or not to award?

The Indexing Society of Canada is planning to establish a new award to recognize excellence in indexing. Indexing societies elsewhere in the world have their own awards, but Canadians aren’t eligible for most of them. At the ISC conference, Max McMaster of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers, Jan Wright of the American Society for Indexing, and the ISC’s Christine Jacobs discussed the considerations that should go in to the award criteria and judging process.

McMaster, a three-time winner of the ANZSI medal for outstanding indexing, has also been a judge for the medal. The judging panel consists of three experienced indexers, but they will consult an outside expert if the subject matter of a submitted work is too esoteric for them to understand. He suggests that the ISC be careful not to limit the types of works that can be eligible for the award and to provide a certificate or plaque to the publisher of the winning work as well—good PR for indexing. Publishers should be encouraged to submit their books for consideration, but more often it will be indexers who submit their own work. McMaster warns indexers that they’re at the mercy of the book’s editor and typesetter: he had once submitted an index he thought was award worthy before realizing that the publisher had inadvertently removed all of the index’s indentation, severely compromising the final index’s usability.

Jan Wright won the ASI’s H.W. Wilson Award for her index to Real World InDesign CS3. She hasn’t been a judge but has spoken to the judges on the panel that granted her her award. Submissions for the award go to the ASI’s chapters around the country, and they are anonymized. Cheryl Landes remarked that many indexers would be willing to pay a high entry fee to submit their work if it meant that they would receive feedback on their submissions.

Christine Jacobs gave an outline of what the ISC’s award might look like. The awards committee plans to announce the award at the next AGM and issue a call for nominations. They hope to accept submissions in either English or French and both print and online works. Currently there’s no cash prize attached to the award, but the awards committee is taking a step-by-step approach, and it may be part of the award later on. Jacobs emphasized how the award can be a form of validation for a winning indexer and that it would help raise the profile of the profession and encourage high standards.

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