On a happier note

Today I was in London for a very interesting and informative event – “Public access to information: Challenges for information gatekeepers“, hosted by ISKO (International Society for Knowledge Organisation) and TiPS (Taxonomies in the Public Sector) at UCL.  That’s another story, which I will try and write up in detail later.

However, it was an afternoon event, so I had time to drop in to the beautiful Aladdin’s Cave of papery goodness that is Falkiner’s on Southampton Row. Oh my, how I love that place. It is a grown-ups’ sweetie shop akin to haberdashers like Ribbon Circus.

Having already bought a pen and notepad I didn’t need in Leeds Station’s Paperchase, I should have known that the spendy-bug was with me. Still. I’d rather spend on hand made Japanese papers than on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

I will add photos later, and hopefully details of the eventual fates of my purchases.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Disappointment and reflection

As can probably be anticipated by the long period of, erm, anticipation – the results were not what I wanted. But, as I mentioned before, this was not particularly unexpected.

I have borrowed a copy of the test book, and will at some time look in more detail at the feedback I received, and put some thought into my options.  Essentially, I could take it again. But – only after a year has passed, and I’ll have to take the whole thing again. And pay for it again.  So – before I embark on that costly exercise I need to be reasonably sure that I’m not just barking up the wrong tree.  Why have I been unsuccessful – is it lack of ability or aptitude, lack of the requisite time to devote to the tests,insufficient attention to detail?  No point re-taking if I just fail again and again, no matter how much my stubbornness may want me to.

I have found a little catharsis in joining in with a debate on the members’ mailing list SIdeline about the training course, its pros and cons.  I don’t want to rubbish the course. There is much that it is good about it. It didn’t match my personal learning style well, but I think some of the negative aspects have actually been revised in the newer version of the course.  So my tough luck that I chose not to switch when I had the option.  Seems a little unfair, but then others have taken and passed the course under the old rules, so I can understand not allowing me to move the goalposts near the end of the game.

There was some call for the accreditation process to be (re)simplified – but understandably others were keen that a high professional standard be maintained, and felt that the course was a good way of judging this.  It’s obviously kept riff-raff like me out so far so maybe that’s right. (Joking – I’m not bitter really. Sob.)

However what is obvious is that there are people out there who don’t necessarily look for Accreditation in their indexers.  So it’s not a deal breaker.

However. On the assumption I do go down that road again, eventually, I need to do more work in the mean time.

It does frustrate me though. Why a limit on re-sits? Why a time limit at all? Why have to re-take tests you’ve already passed? Sigh. I also suggested that mock tests would be a good idea, but someone didn’t see how this differed from the normal test. Well – it’s the only time you get detailed feedback, and it being a “real” test does put pressure on you, which isn’t always the best way to learn. And if you had an option to ask for advice if you were puzzled, it would be a useful learning experience I think.

But then everyone learns differently. Lets hope I learn by mistakes, whatever they were.

Nothing for it now but to wait.

I sent off my unit D answers, submission, whatever you want to call it, on Saturday morning.  Having spent the weekend before working on it, I realised I needed a lot more time and so took the week off work.  Yet again I found myself second guessing myself all over the place. I have no idea whether the decisions I made were right. One of the frustrations is when you are marked down, or criticised for something when you have actively decided to change something from what evidently was a perfectly reasonable approach.

At work, we did some training in subject indexing (not the back-of-book type) for our panel of freelance abstractors. Initially, we tried to do it via post – in the same way we send them a batch of books to abstract – we sent them instructions, guidelines etc, and then waited for them to be sent back. It didn’t work. What we found was that if someone misunderstood the instructions, or just got something wrong – they would get it wrong for the whole batch of books – for there was no way for us to give them feedback until after they’d done the whole lot. This made a whole lot more work for us, and potentially would have made learning our house style / procedures (which are fairly light-touch) a really slow process. So we instead ran some face-to-face workshops, which allowed people to ask questions, discuss our requirements, learn as they went along. And that proved much more successful. The work they returned following the sessions was perfectly acceptable.

If you start doing the Society of Indexers training course these days, there are some online tutorials which are a compulsory part of the course. However, I started it five years ago, when this was not the case. So the tutorials were optional.  After failing Unit D the last time, the feedback suggested I might benefit from one, so I coughed up the money and did one.  I won’t say it was totally satisfactory – there is no pass or fail really, and no detailed personal feedback on what you have done. But there is discussion – and that was very useful.  The tutor did say something which was entirely the opposite of something I had been told in feedback to a test, which was confusing. But it was a beneficial process on the whole. So I wish I had done more.  I didn’t because I just didn’t have the expendable income at the time to do something which I didn’t have to do. The whole training process is expensive.  That’s not to say I am not prepared to invest in my training, in my professional future. Just that realistically you also have to pay the rent, and bills, and so I’ve put off investing in some things until absolutely necessary.

Having a new PC this time round helped. I could download the demo version of Sky indexing software. My printer works. Last time, I had to print at work – which meant that I couldn’t do last minute checks as easily. This time I was working until midnight on the Friday night so I could do last checks on Saturday morning and still send off in time. So I wish I’d had a better PC from the start. (When I started the course I was still with my ex – who had a decent computer. After the split I had a knackered laptop and latterly a netbook) I wish I’d done more tutorials. I wish I had been able to focus on the training more during the middle few years. But homelife and work didn’t allow.

So here I am.  I think I’ve learned the ropes. I need practice, yes, and I have no doubt I will improve with experience.  It’s quite exiting really.

Just have to wait and see if I pass, or if I have to “go my own way” as it were. I hope not.  I would like to be more involved. Being based in Sheffield makes it feel more accessible than say, CILIP.  The Y&H group meets regularly, and I’ve been wanting to go along. I used to go to the Y&H branch of CILIP – and it was just a committee meeting.  Interesting as far as it goes, but not very useful, or effective for building relationships or connections.

I won’t be surprised if I fail though. I don’t think I will have made as many stupid mistakes as I did last time (coming really from not giving myself enough time to check and double check at the last moment), but there are elements I wasn’t confident about.

You have to avoid long strings of locators. Usually by distributing the references through subheadings. But the topics didn’t subdivide naturally – so I ended up using what felt to me like artificial combinations. But ones which would be potentially useful to the user I think. Still – I was uncertain. And I would have preferred to go back and check them more.

Anyway. It’s done now. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on it. I hope it hasn’t been for nothing.


Not long to go

My feedback from the last test attempt suggested that I do an online tutorial, so I booked on one. (£50) However, I got an email saying that it has been cancelled due to poor takeup.  So now I have a dilemma. There is another which runs from 15th November, so I could go for that one. However, the clock is ticking.

You get five years to complete the Society of Indexers training course. Which seemed like an eternity when I began. But life waits for no one. A full time job – which became more demanding over time, the breakdown of a 10 year relationship, moving house, recurrence of depression.  Suddenly I find the deadline looming.  And I wonder if I have time.

I don’t want to moan, perhaps there is a good reason for the time limit. If I hadn’t had a job, no doubt I would have flown through the course. Ifs and buts and maybes.  But then, there have been a few failures, a few resits. None seemingly so bad for them to throw me out. But maybe they don’t. The distance nature of the course is difficult. When we set up indexing training for our abstractors at work, we decided that it didn’t work when we tried it in a written / postal format, and so ran a couple of face to face training sessions instead. It allowed an opportunity for questions, ongoing feedback – so you don’t continue making the same mistakes.  However, the kind of indexing we do at work, is different from back of the book indexing. It is less exacting, and there are no formatting worries, and the ordering issues do not arise really.

So the online tutorial will hopefully help. But is there time for me to do it, then do the Unit D test again, then wait for the results – and if I pass, do the Practical Indexing Assignment which is the final stage – all before March? I have asked their advice anyway so we will see.  I will be frustrated if I don’t pass. Even with all the gaps caused by life’s unexpected disasters – I’ve put a lot of work into it. A lot of thought, ideas, interest. I think it is something I could do well, and enjoy. It’s a task which not everyone would like, I suppose. But it has the detail and intricacy I like. I think my mistakes come from lack of experience, not necessarily doing anything wildly wrong.

If I do fail – what then? Do I abandon the idea of indexing altogether?  There are, I’m sure, unaccredited indexers out there. I’d prefer to be “in the fold” as it were, but if I fail and can’t resit, or run out of time, then is all that time and money to go to waste? Surely in the end, if you ain’t good enough, you won’t get work. (or certainly not repeat performances)

Another thought, this delay will mean that £75 resit will fall just before Christmas. Deep joy.

Failure, part 2.

Well, looks like I was right to be hand-shaking nervous when I opened my results. Failed again. Perhaps this blog won’t last very long! Though there are lots of people who work as indexers unaccredited I suppose. I would rather pass.

Sigh. I needed some good news today too.

Can’t retake for a little while, can’t afford it anyway. They suggest I take an online tutorial. I wonder where they think the money comes from? Only able to do the course because work paid initially. I’ve paid for resits, but £75 a pop for the last test is a lot of money to find. Will look into the tutorials. Maybe it can be an exciting birthday gift from someone.

I keep meaning to get more involved in the mailing list discussions – but they’re going to an old email account i’ve only just been able to get back into. Life – that’s my problem. There’s a five year limit on taking this course, which I am rapidly coming up to. I understand in priniciple I suppose. Unfortunately for me, the last five years haven’t been uneventful. Break up of 10 year relationship, trying to sell house, moving house, increase of responsibility at work – it’s only this past year or so i’ve been able to focus on the training.

It’s not an excuse for failure though – I did think I’d done better this time. I spent more time on it, and more time on checking. But the second guessing is the problem. (or one of them) Some of the things in the comments are changes I actively made because I thought it was an improvement. But obviously not.

Anyway. I have work to do now. I will return later and write about the comments.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 10:55 am  Comments (1)  

Unit D Test, the return

I sent off for the resit of Unit D the other week, and took a week off to concentrate on it a bit. It’s not due back until mid July, so I have plenty of time. This is also aided by the fact that I don’t have to re-do the aspects of the test relating to the business (i.e. letters to potential customers, list of things you should ensure are covered when taking a commission, that kind of thing.) I can’t have done bad on those bits. So instead it’s just 3 questions – edit a given index, index and article, and index the publication they send you.

I panicked at first because I couldn’t find the feedback – I had it not so long ago but have since tidied (not that you can tell) , and it may have been a) put in “safe” place, or b) recycled. But the nice people at the Society of Indexers had them on file and were able to send me a copy to my intense relief.  So I am fully armed to do better this time.

I am indexing Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. Note how I wrote that. Despite having only just read it I can’t remember if it’s Lynn Truss’s or just Lynn Truss’ – so I copped out and turned it round. My short term memory is shocking. Ah well, that’s what reference materials are for. Hopefully my punctuation skills will benefit too – though I’ve learnt that my existing habits are actually old fashioned, but still technically correct for the most part.

Anyway. Wish me luck!

Down but not out.

(Oops – should have published in February…)

Well, I was right. I failed Unit D. But the comments were quite positive in a way. I will go back and look at them when I have some time. I can’t retake until after March, and what with year end and appraisals at work, and Holiday in May – I don’t think I’ll get to it until June. Ho hum.

Anyway, there is plenty to keep me occupied in the mean time. Investigating other indexes. Trying to figure out where I went wrong.  But also indulging in some other ideas for Pandoras Pages activities. Not only will I index the pages, but I can also make them for you!

Hand made books make lovely gifts and keepsakes, and can be personalised to suit the receiver’s personality and needs.

This one I made for our boss, who is retiring. It will be filled with photos and notes from people who have worked with her over the years.

Merry Christmas Snowland

Wishing a very merry Christmas to all out there. I hope you all (and I) get to wherevery you want to be today safely and without too much trouble.

No test D results yet – last post was this morning till next week I think, or do they do Boxing day? This suggests more that I will have failed and someone is being nice and delaying the bad news till after Christmas. But we’ll see.

Started doing an index at work yesterday for some finance procedures I’m writing. Very addictive. I hope I can get the test out of the way soon as i’m really looking forward to the practical exercises and looking for a real life commission!

Happy holidays all, have a good one.

Published in: on December 24, 2009 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  


This could be said to be jumping the gun a bit. I am waiting for the results of my Society of Indexers Unit D test, and am in no way confident that I have passed it. However, even if I have to re-sit, I hope it will not be too long before this can be the official blog of my indexing and other book related endeavours.

I have been indexing as a part of my day job for nearly 10 years, accreditation will allow me to make use of this experience, along with skills in abstracting, thesaurus / taxonomy management, and information retrieval.

I will begin to market my services on a small scale once my accreditation comes through. In the mean time, this is likely to be the host for my rambling thoughts on breaking into freelance work.

After accreditation, and testing the water of the marketplace, I will be considering what other skills / qualifications to add to my portfolio. Top of the list is proofreading, but I am also under pressure to acheive chartership, which holds more interest for me at this stage of my career than it has in years past. So who knows.

Published in: on December 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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Published in: on December 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment