Open Teleconference - Z39.4, Criteria for Indexes, May 24, 2021


Deriving from the Latin indicare, to indicate, the purpose of an index is to point users in the right direction. An index makes it possible for users to find information efficiently: to find multiple topics or features, or aspects of topics or features.

What kind of document requires an index? Generally, any document or collection of documents can be indexed with the possible exceptions of fiction and poetry. Indexes are essential for books and documents frequently referenced, including: textbooks; encyclopedias; government reports; academic, scientific, or medical journals; anthologies of literature, poetry, and music; published museum collections or catalogs; corporate and nonprofit annual reports; or legal documents. 

The Z39.4 standard, created by the NISO Criteria for Indexes Working Group and now in the process of approval as an ANSI/NISO standard, provides guidelines for the content, organization, and presentation of indexes used for the retrieval of documents and parts of documents. It deals with the principles of indexing regardless of the type of material indexed, the indexing method used, the medium of the index, or the method of presentation for searching. It emphasizes three processes essential for all indexes: comprehensive design, vocabulary management, and syntax.

It is intended for everyone concerned with indexes used for information retrieval: professional indexers working with every kind of document, database producers, publishers of indexes and of documents containing indexes, designers of electronic index displays, designers of indexing algorithms, librarians and catalogers, thesaurus creators, students, authors, and other users of indexes. 

Working Group co-chairs Marti Heyman of OCLC and Pilar Wyman of Wyman Indexing and Working Group member Jill Annitto of Atla joined NISO staff member Nettie Lagace to discuss the motivations of this project, the anticipated impact it will have on the work of indexers today, and the process followed to ensure that the eventual ANSI/NISO standard will be as up-to-date and useful as possible.

Listen to the recording below: