Spring Meeting Highlights
By Carol Reed
It was great to visit with fellow Heartland indexers in Richmond this spring. Our meeting featured a presentation by Paula McCoy on database indexing, followed by a discussion led by Margie Towery on running an indexing business. We stretched a bit during Cathy Seckman’s brief ergonomics presentation, and ended with the business meeting (minutes are at the end of the newsletter). Congratulations to our new and continuing officers: Margaret Hentz and Meridith Murray, co-presidents; Sandy Topping, secretary; and Mary Peterson, treasurer.
Database indexing using controlled vocabularies
Paula’s presentation introduced us to ProQuest’s processes for indexing materials and maintaining the controlled vocabularies that guide the indexing. As Manager of Taxonomy Development at ProQuest, Paula was able to give us the big picture of how the behind-the-scenes processes work together to enhance the search experience of users.
ProQuest provides databases for professional and academic library use. The databases cover a vast range of topics, including business, science and technology, medicine, social sciences, news, government, and education. Each database gathers content from relevant sources, whether magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, newswire feeds, dissertations, books, videos, or other materials.
The indexing of all that database content is guided by authority files and by the ProQuest Controlled Vocabulary. The vocabulary terms must address everything that gets indexed. This includes metadata, such as article type, document features, and source type, as well as concepts and entities, which include subjects, company and organization names, geographic locations, personal names, and product names.
Paula is responsible for managing the 11,000+ terms in the controlled vocabulary. As you can imagine, in order to reflect language and usage changes, accommodate new subject areas, and reflect terms that become obsolete, maintenance is an ongoing process. Paula’s job involves refining relationships between terms, adding new terms, researching terms for accuracy, and integrating purchased databases into existing platforms.
The controlled vocabulary also needs to accommodate automated indexing, which is employed when the volume of content is too much for human indexers to handle. In other cases, content providers supply key terms that are then mapped to the ProQuest Controlled Vocabulary, resulting in consistency among index terms.
The end users of ProQuest’s information products don’t see any of these efforts, but they enjoy easier, more accurate searching as a result. Users can search a database according to the key words they have in mind, and they can also browse the thesaurus to discover relevant terms they may not have considered. The term relationships defined by the thesauri allow the end user to see related, broader, and narrower terms that might better fit their search topic.
Paula also discussed avenues for freelance vocabulary indexing and ways to learn more about taxonomy (see box this page).
Your indexing business
Later in the afternoon, Margie Towery began the business-related discussion by sharing her own experience getting started back in 1994. She also passed out copies of the Pacific Northwest Chapter’s collection of indexers’ stories, “My First (Real) Indexing Job”. This is fun to read wherever you are in your indexing career, and it’s especially encouraging if you’re just starting out.
Margie recommended some tips for keeping your business running:
Another smart move for indexers: keep a “drop-dead” file and update it continually. While we all hope no one experiences an illness or emergency, having a file with your current projects and contacts, pending jobs, and a list of other indexers who might be willing to help in an emergency is essential. A friend or family member can make sure your projects get handled or reassigned in your absence.
During the discussion, attendees offered their experiences with different marketing strategies. There were too many good ideas to include in this article, but here are a few:
Bend, stretch, reach for the stars
Cathy Seckman led us through some stretching exercises that target the typical problem areas for seated professionals: hands, middle back, and shoulder blades. Good ergonomics can help you prevent or minimize problems with these areas:
Thanks to all our speakers for insightful and engaging presentations!
© 2011 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.