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Results of An Indexing Survey
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Updated for October 2003

Below are results of an informal survey that I have started to give to conference attendants and students. Some of the questions and answers are included below. The survey instructions are these: "Give your best answers. There are no right or wrong answers." Note that for the sake of clarity I have occasionally made small edits to survey answers, without changing their essential nature.


What is the absolute most favorite aspect of your current indexing work and/or career? Answers appear to fall into two major categories: learning and independence.

  • Learning: "variety of books" -- "reading a book and learning something" -- "books I would have not have chosen to read on my own" -- "keeping current with new scientific/medical issues" -- "learning new stuff" -- "learning more about something I'm not familiar with"

  • Independence: "independent work and intellectual fulfillment" -- "working freelance, working at home, working independently" -- "No boss!"

  • Other answers: "analysis of text and content" -- "Someone pays me to read and write"

What is the absolute least favorite aspect of your current indexing work and/or career? Again, most answers fall into two categories: value perception and looking for work.

  • Value perception: "inadequate pay" -- "payment" -- "tight deadlines that can threaten the quality" -- "pressure of short deadlines and high expectations"

  • Looking for work: "searching for jobs" -- "marketing self" -- "It is very difficult to get work" -- "Editing indexes down" -- "scheduling" -- "criticism"

  • Other answers: "lack of coffee talk"

If you are still indexing in ten years, what about the industry (or yourself) do you think will be significantly different from today? Many participants left this question this blank. When not predicting technological changes, most respondents were rather pessimistic.

  • Technology: "more digital work" -- "online indexing, rather than print" -- "better indexing software" -- "for me, probably nothing, since I'll always index books" -- "more online text" -- "more emphasis on Web indexing (though print books will not go away)"

  • Pessimism: "my eyesight" -- "total lack of human contact" -- "shorter deadlines and more competition"

  • Other answers: "a greater knowledge of indexing subtleties"

If you had unlimited magical powers and could change the face of indexing and indexers right now, what would you want to change most? Almost unanimously, these answers demonstrate discontent with how indexers and indexes are perceived.

  • Value perception: "income" -- "higher rates of payment" -- "greater understanding by publishers of what an index is" -- "increase the pay" -- "deeper appreciation of indexing by publishers, authors, etc." -- "any limitations on the index assignment" -- "credit for indexers, as with book jacket designers" -- "more recognition for the craft; no one understands what we do"
  • Other answers: "nothing" -- "I'd like to meet more often with other indexers"

On a scale from 1 (terrible) to 10 (amazing), how do you rate yourself among other indexers? What would need to change for you to raise that number? For the answers below, I attempted to include data about the indexer's experience. I am surprised at how high the numbers are. Even some beginners consider themselves in the top 50%!

  • Experienced indexers: "7; Continue improving my knowledge and skills" (12 years) -- "7; I'd need to worry less about getting paid" (10 years) -- "10; Unlimited time" (35 years) -- "9; more time" (20 years) -- "9.5" (30 years) -- "10; more experience and learning from mistakes" -- "10; nothing" (8 years)

  • Novice indexers: "1; finish my indexing course" (1 year as student) -- "n/a; practice" -- "5; more experience" (2 years) -- "5; lots of experience" (<1 year)

Imagine having your ideal job. What is your job title? I threw this question in for fun. Given answers to previous questions, though, I'm not surprised with the answers.

  • Realistic answers: "classification engineer" / "librarian, indexer, proofreader" / "information architect"

  • Unrealistic answers: "master of information" / "CEO" / "lottery winner" / "indexing goddess" / "goddess" / "genius" / "information architecture queen and mom" / "word guru, or word wizard"


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