American Society for Indexing Conference Review

The American Society for Indexing (ASI) held its annual conference in San Antonio on April 17–19, 2013. The shift to e-books and digital apps has affected indexing as much as other areas of publishing, so many conference sessions focused on e-books. Speakers included Joshua Tallent (e-book developer and designer), Corey Pressman (digital media strategist), David Ream (developer of indexing and publishing software), Pilar Wyman (indexer and past-president of ASI), and Jan Wright (indexer and active contributor in ASI’s Digital Trends Task Force).

Corey Pressman, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, summed up the current status of e-books the best when he called them the “new incunabula.” Elements of book design that we take for granted today — spaces between words, punctuation, tables of contents, indexes, illustrations, references, and more — were all innovations at one point. Best practices for e-books are still being explored.

Other Conference Sessions

Keynote speaker Judith Pascoe, M. F. Carpenter Professor at the University of Iowa and author of “My Last Index” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, spoke on the secret lives of indexers in literature, focusing on the works of novelist and indexer Barbara Pym. A panel led by Paul Sweum discussed coordinating style sheets with clients. Kay Schlembach and Stephanie Reymann explained content tagging for the Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations app; this involved content analysis of 19,000 quotes by a team of indexers and development of a taxonomy from the bottom up. Kay Schlembach also led a session on image tagging strategies for business. Kate Mertes gave an entertaining presentation on how technology affects the indexing process; technologies discussed included sheets of paper, index cards, word processors, dedicated indexing software, embedded indexing, and Unicode.
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I also attended Paul Sweum’s workshop Your 21st Century Marketing Strategy: Preparing to Not Only Break the Ice, But Melt It. Topics included online and print marketing materials, making contacts with prospective clients, and building relationships with established clients. Beginning freelancers in any publishing field would find this workshop useful, as would established freelancers looking to expand their business.

ASI/H.W. Wilson Award

Kate Mertes (indexer) and Liberty Fund (publisher) were presented with the ASI/H.W. Wilson Award for the index to My Thoughts (Mes Pensées), the first complete English translation of Montesquieu’s notebooks. This award was established in 1978 to honor excellence in indexing of an English language monograph or other non-serial work published in the United States. After the 2013 presentation, the name was changed to the ASI/EBSCO Publishing Award.

2014 Conference

Next year’s conference will be held from April 30 to May 3, 2014 in Charleston, SC. Although many conference attendees are freelance indexers, others who do indexing or other content analysis as part of their jobs would also find this conference useful.


Congratulations to the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEP), College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), and Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists (ACBO) on the first issue of their new jointly published journal, Optometry & Visual Performance (OVP).

OVP is intended for optometrists and others interested in how optometry and vision therapy can enhance visual performance. Topics in the first issue include cycloplegic refraction, orthokeratology, ocular morbidity in autism, and the potential effect of refractive error on reading.

OVP will be published bimonthly in both an open-access online version and in print. The online version contains additional information, such as links and videos.

OVP supersedes Journal of Behavioral Optometry from OEP and ACBO  and Optometry & Vision Development from COVD. I’m pleased to have indexed the entire 23-year run of Journal of Behaviorial Optometry. Best wishes to the editors and publishers of OVP for as many years of publication, if not longer.


The Upsides of No Power

A recent storm took out power to more than 868,000 customers in the Chicago metropolitan area. I was without power for 57 hours, from 8:00 a.m. on Monday to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. I counted myself lucky at that, as power wasn’t predicted to be restored until Friday at noon. A few customers didn’t get power back until Sunday morning.

A prolonged power outage is inconvenient, of course, especially as no power means no water from my well. Still, I discovered a few upsides of being without power:

  • I went to bed earlier (too hard to read much by flashlight!), got up earlier, and was able to exercise more and write more in the early morning hours.
  • I had limited Internet access from locations outside my home. I focused on handling just the most important e-mails.
  • The forced break from web surfing and social networking freed up time and eliminated information clutter.

I’m grateful to have the power back on, but also grateful for the break from information overload.

What’s the longest you’ve ever been without power? Did you discover any upsides?

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Purple, yellow, and white crocus One of the best ways to beat information overload is to take time to reconnect with nature. I spent the morning at my computer paying bills, updating a membership database, and writing a newsletter, but I took time this afternoon to enjoy the cold but sunny day. I like gardening, so I did cleaned up the yard and cleared weeds out of my vegetable garden. Signs of spring were everywhere—worms writhing in the soil, birds singing, and crocuses and snowdrops blooming. It was good exercise and a relaxing break after an intense week.

What’s your favorite way to reconnect with nature?

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Did you know February is Time Management Month? To mark the occasion, I’ve teamed up with other organization and time management experts to create a fabulous giveaway.

Just visit to get your free tools on managing your time more effectively. You’ll discover resources on

  • Organizing your small business and office
  • How to save time and trouble for you and your business
  • Online time management strategies
  • Business systems and structures
  • Productivity tips
  • Using ready-to-go articles in your newsletter
  • Social media made simple
  • Office makeovers
  • How to get more done in less time
  • How to beat information overload (That’s my e-course Beat Information Overload the 5F Way, which has been newly revised for this giveaway.)
  • And more!

Everything is free. There’s nothing to buy. This isn’t a teaser offer where you only get to see what’s listed and then have to buy something in order to get the goods. But the giveaway event is only scheduled to run through Feb. 28, 2011.

Time is the one thing you can’t make more of. But you can probably make better use of the time you have. Use a few minutes now to check out and pick up some great new ideas. Then let me know which giveaways helped you the most!


When managing day-to-day tasks, it can be difficult to keep the big picture in mind. It’s tempting and natural to choose between tasks based on their urgency or on how easy they are to do. Yet keeping the big picture in mind is critical in setting priorities and making progress toward your vision and goals.

I’ve recently tried asking myself the following questions when choosing what to do, and I’ve found them helpful in setting priorities and keeping up my motivation:

  • Does this task, activity, or project align with my vision and goals?
  • What one thing can I do today to advance this project or goal?
  • Am I acting like the person I want to be?

With a few variations, these questions can also help you beat information overload. Every day, we face a flood of information through personal interactions, social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, blogs, e-mail, video, television, radio, and print. Filtering out unimportant information and focusing on the most important information is key to beating information overload. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with information, try these variations on the questions above:

  • Is this information necessary to work toward my vision or goals?
  • What one piece of information do I need to advance this project or goal?
  • Will this information help me become the person I want to be?

What questions have you found useful in managing your tasks and/or information? Please share them in a comment.


People can learn in a variety of ways, but most of us have a preferred learning style. Learning new information is easier when you use your preferred style.

There are multiple ways to categorize learning styles, but one of the most commonly used is Neil Fleming’s VARK model:

  • Visual
  • Aural (auditory)
  • Read/Write
  • Kinesthetic

Visual learners learn well by seeing pictures and diagrams, watching videos, etc. If you’re a visual learner, try drawing pictures, flowcharts, or mind maps. Use multiple colors to highlight or underline important concepts. Practice recalling information by visualizing what your notes look like.

Auditory learners prefer to take in information by listening. If you’re an auditory learner, try downloading recorded lectures and teleseminars so that you can listen to them repeatedly. Read handouts and notes to yourself, or talk through them with another person. You can record significant points from your notes and listen to them later for review. Text-to-speech software may also work well for you.

The read/write preference is sometimes included as part of the visual learning style. However, learners who prefer the read/write style will learn best from text sources. If the read/write style describes you, try writing detailed notes when you need to listen to a lecture. Summarize pictures and diagrams in sentences. Make lists. Reread your notes repeatedly.

Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing something. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, find ways to apply and practice what you’re learning. For example, rather than reading a manual to learn new software, open the software, explore the menu, and create a practice document or file. Finding real-life examples, taking field trips, and making models are other good strategies, depending in part upon the topic you’re learning. If you write notes or draw pictures, be aware of how it feels as you do so.

You may have a strong preference for a single learning style, or you may have several styles that are comfortable for you (that is, you may be a multimodal learner). How can you tell? Reflect on your learning experience. Think back to times when you’ve found material especially easy or especially difficult to learn. How was that material presented to you? What strategies have you used successfully in the past? You can also find learning style assessments online. Fleming’s VARK website includes a questionnaire and other resources on learning styles.

By consciously using your preferred learning style when taking in new information, you’ll beat information overload by learning faster and more easily.


Do you have tasks or procedures that you do only occasionally, perhaps just once a year? I tackled one of my annual projects recently.

I maintain the membership database for my hand spinning guild (Illinois Prairie Spinners). Before I produce the annual membership directory, I send members customized letters that list their current information and ask for updates if needed. I start by modifying the previous year’s mail merge template that pulls information from the membership database in Access. However, making these changes can be tricky, as there are nested IF…ELSE statements in the template. These need to be changed in several places. I also need to update fields and queries in Access. It’s difficult to remember the details from year to year. For example, does -1 in an Access query mean True or False? (True!)

So I was pleased to find my notes from last year’s verification project. I’d forgotten that I’d written them, but fortunately I had saved them where I would come across them this year. They saved me lots of time and frustration.

The next time you’re working on tasks you only do once in a while, take a few extra minutes to jot down some notes on your procedures. They don’t need to be elaborate, but record key steps or details that are difficult to remember or time-consuming to recreate. Save your notes where you will find them again easily when you next do the task. You’ll be glad you did! Eventually you may even want to develop your notes into a detailed written procedure, which could enable you to hand off the project to someone else.

Have you used this technique to save yourself time and frustration? Share your ideas by posting a comment!


As an information organizer, editor, and indexer, I’m always looking for new tools to help manage information. The recent release of Paper Tiger Online helped me reorganize my business files.

I’ve long used a paper-based numeric filing system for some files, so I already knew the advantages: multiple entry points to access files and the ability to set up folders in advance.

Paper Tiger Online offers these advantages, and others as well:

  • Searching and sorting. These are important features that will save you time. A paper-based system is limited to scanning the index, which often is not in alphabetical order. This is fine for small files, but becomes awkward and slow for large ones.
  • Keywords. Although some keywords can be used in a paper-based system, it’s easier to use more in Paper Tiger Online. This improves search results and makes it easier to find what you’re looking for.
  • Notes for additional information
  • Categories to group files
  • Ease of changing, updating, and reorganizing information
  • Ability to print indexes sorted by item number or by item name. These are handy for quick reference, and they can easily be reprinted when files are updated.
  • Access from anywhere with an Internet connection

My business files contain financial information, editing and indexing projects for clients, presentations on beating information overload, reports on getting organized for taxes and on beating information overload, other writing projects, other information specific to my Info Grooming business, and general business information. Here’s how I reorganized them with Paper Tiger Online:

  • One item for each client. The notes hold the titles of specific projects and the years they were completed. If I’m working on a project for the client, the item is also assigned the category Current Projects.
  • One item for each major information product (for example, Beat Information Overload the 5F Way)
  • One item for my articles published at Ezine Articles,  one for other publications, and one for presentations. As my publications and presentations increase, I’ll add more items.
  • Items for financial information, including tax information, bank information and statements (one item for each account), annual income, and annual expenses. The latter are named Finances—2011—Income and Finances—2011—Expenses, so that they file together when sorted by name.
  • Other items specific to my business: activity reports, affiliate accounts, legal issues, plans and goals, service agreements, and web presence (for keeping track of web design decisions, keywords, statistics, etc.)
  • Items for general business information, including articles from magazines, printouts of web pages, etc.

The online video for Paper Tiger Online made it easy to get started, and setting up the files went quickly. It’s also been easy to make changes to fine-tune the system, such as changing item names and adding keywords.

I have many more ideas for using Paper Tiger Online:

  • Database for writing and product ideas. I currently use a spreadsheet for this, but Paper Tiger Online would provide more flexibility and make it possible to access this file from anywhere.
  • Conversion of my paper-based numeric systems to Paper Tiger Online. These include files for organizations that I belong to and for textile information (knitting, sewing, weaving, hand spinning, etc.).
  • Database for sewing and knitting patterns
  • Database for yarns and fibers in my “stash”
  • Database for favorite recipes and for recipes to try. The locations will be the cookbooks or other recipe sources, and keywords will include main ingredients, so I can find recipes that use specific ingredients.

These ideas are just the start. I look forward to exploring further uses for Paper Tiger Online.

Would an online filing system work for you? Add a comment, and let me know your opinion.

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Honoring all those, past and present,  who have acted to win and preserve our freedom, including our freedom of information and expression — soldiers, writers, artists, teachers, librarians, voters, statesmen, and more.