How Do They Do That? Experience the Wilson Judging Process for Yourself
By Margie Towery Spring 2011
On March 19, 2011, the Wilson Award committee met to judge the book indexes that had been submitted for the H. W. Wilson Award for Excellence in Indexing. Prior to the committee’s meeting, the registrar had received the submissions and prepared the books for judging. The Wilson judging process is completely anonymous. The registrar is the only person who knows who submitted the books for judging and/or who the indexers are. The judges only find out the identity of the winning indexer, if there is a winner for that year. I hope you’ve already heard that Michael Brackney won this year for his index to Dōgen’s Extensive Record, a translation of thirteenth-century Zen Buddhist teachings.
This year, Kay Schlembach hosted the committee at her home. Bonnie Hanks is the 2011 committee chair; Ina Gravitz played a central role this year as well. I was there as the next year’s chair. There were nine total on the committee, which includes the registrar and she does not participate in the judging. Kay’s house was an ideal place for the committee to do its work. There were several areas in which judges could sit, evaluating and making notes on each book. We spent two-thirds of the day doing just this. The atmosphere, except for a short lunch break, was like a university library during finals week!
After each judge had looked at each book, we gathered together and as a group talked about each book’s index. We had good indexing discussions in a collegial atmosphere. I was encouraged by this: all of us came from somewhat different areas of indexing, but we were all on the same page when it came to evaluating the indexes. As indexers we often say things about subjectivity in evaluating an index—this process seems to me to eliminate it.
One tool that helps in the index evaluation process is the Wilson criteria checklist—this is a checklist based on the criteria that appear on ASI’s website. This year some of us also used a shortened one-page checklist as well. Both of those proved quite beneficial. And the checklists would be equally useful for individuals who wish to evaluate indexes, whether their own or someone else’s.
You might be asking yourself: So, how do I fit in all of this? You, too, can gain practice in the process by participating in a Mock Wilson Judging. Because the Chicago–Great Lakes and Heartland chapters are cohosts of the Wilson committee for 2012, when I am chair, I wanted to provide an opportunity for more than just a few committee members to experience the judging process. That means the mock Wilson will be run just as the real judging is, at least as close as possible given a larger group of participants. One of my goals is to make the Wilson process transparent (except for the anonymity of the index submitters!).