In the run up to National Indexing Day (29th March 2018), we’ve asked some of the freelance indexers in the whitefox network to take part in a Q&A session with us to learn a little more about them and the profession they’ve chosen. Pierke is an indexer from the Netherlands with a particular interest in Middle Eastern & Islamic studies, Jewish & Holocaust studies and Asian studies.
How did you get into indexing?
After having all kinds of physically strenuous jobs and tired of running around all day, I wanted something sedentary, that I could do from home. Having a structured mindset, I thought indexing would be the thing for me, especially since I love reading. A Dutch colleague helped me find my first jobs and it grew from there.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
Although, or maybe because I am a non–believer, mostly religious books came my way. After thirteen years of indexing that particular niche I am now rather knowledgeable on Islamic, Christian and Judaic subjects, but I have a broad interest and enjoy indexing other humanities topics as well.
Why does indexing appeal to you and what are the benefits of working in this field?
I love putting everything in the compartment it belongs in and have been playing with index cards ever since I could write. Indexing fits me like a glove and I wonder why I didn’t start this career earlier in my life. Apart from the usual benefits of being a freelancer, it gives me the pleasure of reading all day and being paid for the thing I love doing most.
Technological developments have somewhat changed the way that indexers work – have you found this to be of benefit or hindrance to you, and if so, how?
Of course, indexing software is an enormous benefit. Can you imagine writing a piece of text without the support of a word processing program? Going back to the typewriter is the same as going back to the index card.
Digital developments have opened up new ways in which indexes can be constructed and presented. I find keeping abreast of these technological changes very interesting and an intrinsic part of my job. Trying out and reviewing newly developed software gives me the opportunity to have a say in the further development of it, which is a real boon.
Equally, what are you able to do that computer programmes just can’t compete with?
As an indexer, I analyse the text so I can include relevant discussions of a concept even when the actual search term isn’t used. I can also exclude irrelevant or duplicate mentions of that same subject so that the reader isn’t directed to a page in vain. Besides that, I can cater to the different approaches of readers to the index, which means lots of cross-references and alternative entry points. I don’t think the computer can manage that, yet.
What’s up next on your ‘must-read’ list?
Stephen Fry’s Mythos.
You can get in touch with Pierke on Twitter: @PierkeStitswerd