Index is anything that “points out” or indicates. Indexing can be described as a method of providing indicators for a body of data or collection of records. The term “indexing” should not be confused with the term “classification”. Classification is the method of filing while indexing is basically the method used for making reference to the matter filed.
The principal objective of indexing is to assist filing so that filed papers are located easily and quickly whenever they are needed. Indexing thus adds to the efficiency of the filing method. It ensures speed and consequently economy results due to increased speed. The objective of indexing is best achieved where the right type of indexing system is chosen. Where files are arranged in geographical-cum-alphabetical or only alphabetical order, an index is not needed. However, in other systems of classification, it becomes essential to provide an index for customers, suppliers, credit ratings telephone numbers and soon. Index is also required for different kinds of registers and ledgers.
In order to achieve its objectives, a good system of indexing should have the following essential features;
1. It should be simple.
2. It should be economical in operation.
3. It should allow for speed.
4. It should go well with the system of filing in the organization.
5. It should be flexible to allow for expansion when needed.
A good system of indexing, i.e., which goes well with the filing methods in the organization, offers the following benefits in the field of records management.
1. Easy Location: The required papers and documents are located very easily with the help of their index. Referencing is not a painful process.
2. Easy Cross-Referencing: A good system of indexing also ensures easy cross-referencing and thus saves on time and botheration.
3. Lower Costs: The operating costs of records administration are also low due to improved efficiency of the records administration. Time is not wasted in locating the necessary documents or papers.
Indexing may be classified into the following main categories, namely: (a) Page Index; (b) Card Index and (c) Visible Index.
a. Page or Book Index: This system is also known as alphabetical indexing as classification is based on the letters of the alphabet. One page or leaf is allotted for each letter of alphabet, fitted with a tab showing the letter and quoting the relevant page numbers. The pages may be held in a loose form or in a bound book form. Each page consists of a list of all the correspondents whose names begin with the letter to which that page or sheet is allotted. For example, all names beginning with the letter ‘A’ like Anuradha, Anandhi, Akila will be written on the page allocated to the letter ‘A’. The folder number of correspondents relating to a particular person will appear against his/ her name.
Page Index may take the form of either (1) Bound Book Index (2) Loose Leaf Book Index and (3) Vowel Index. These are described below:
i. Bound Book Index: It is in the form of bound book or register which is divide into alphabetical sections where in the names of persons are entered.
Each section has the leaves cut way at the right hand side so that the initial letters of all the sections are visible at a glance. The book index is very cheap and is a good long time record. The pages cannot be lost or disarranged because they are bound. This is an inflexible method since alterations are difficult and it accommodates a comparatively less number of entries. Example: Telephone Index.
ii. Loose leaf Book Index (or) Vertical Card Index: Loose sheets are used for indexing and the fastened are metal rings or hinges or some other device which allows the pages to be taken out and also helps in insertion of additional pages. This type of index is also fitted with a lock. It is very much used by the commercial banks and the joint stock companies for keeping the records of their customers, shareholders and debenture holders.
Loose Leaf Indexing is flexible and adaptable to different users. It offers ample scope for expansion with the main drawback of loss or damages.
· It is very cheap and simple method.
· It requires less space.
· It can be carried from one place to another.
· A strict alphabetical arrangement of names on each page may not be possible.
· Names must be deleted once they are no longer of any use. This may present a shabby appearance.
· It is an inflexible system of indexing, scope for further entries even in case of loose leaf index is limited.
iii. Vowel Indexing: In case where the number of correspondents is very large the alphabetical indexing is further classified. The names of the correspondents are entered on one page or the other according to the letter with which his name begins and first vowel in his name. This sort of indexing is known as “Vowel Indexing”. E.g. AShika the first vowel in the name is “I”. It will be classified under “Ai”
(b) Card Index: Under this method references are entered on the cards of uniform size. These cards bear the names, number of the files and other particulars to be indexed. Cards are arranged in either alphabetical or numerical order and are place in drawers or boxes which may have a rod running from one ending to the other end for holding cards in their places. These drawers are divided into alphabetical sections by means of guide cards.
The purposes for which card index may be used are listed below.
· As catalogue of books in library;
· To contain specimen signatures of customers in bank.
· To contain addresses and other particulars of customers;
· To maintain accounts of store items;
· To maintain history of employees;
· To keep records of installment sales.
· The cards provide a complete list of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the persons or the firms with whom the dealings take place.
· Each card may be ruled according to the particulars desired to be recorded.
· Ready information is available for different purposes, e.g., for knowing the number of customers in a particular territory.
· It has greater flexibility because the number of cards can be increased or decreased as desired. Cards may be grouped and re-grouped in any manner and in any order.
· The index is always alive since the dead cards are removed and transferred to dead cabinets.
· Card index can be used by a number of persons at the same time.
· There is danger of separate cards being lost by the persons who take them away from the drawers for reference.
· Ready reference may be difficult if the cards are allowed to be removed freely from the drawers.
· Card index is blind since cards are not visible at a glance.
· Card indexing is comparatively costlier than page indexing.
· Card gets torn or spoiled through constant handling. Thus, they have to be replaced from time to time.
· Cards may be substituted to commit or to conceal fraud where card ledgers are kept.
Despite these drawbacks, the system of card indexing is very elastic and simple to operate and so is used frequent by libraries, hospitals, banks (for maintaining specimen signature) and other offices (to keep credit records, staff records and so on).
The major defect of card indexing is that a large number of cards cannot be seen at one glance. This defect is overcome by visible indexing under which a large number of cards are visible at one glance. Visible card index, strip index and wheel index are the systems of visible indexing.
1. Visible Card Index: Visible card index system has gained more popularity in recent years. It is based on the principle “look at the card, not for it”. Visible card indexing can be used for retaining records such as accounts receivable, personal history of employees and specimen signatures of customer in a fairly permanent position for frequent reference. The speed in which the cards can be located and the necessary entries made, justifies the use and cost of visible card filing equipment.
The main feature of visible filing is that the main reference (i.e. the main information) on each card is visible at all times. The cards are arranged in such a way that it overlaps the one before it leaving a narrow strip at the bottom containing the name, telephone number of the subject visible.
· Speedy reference is possible as the names of the customers or subject are all visible.
· Though visible indexing costs more,
· it saves time and labour much that it offsets the additional cost.
· Additional information can be easily written on the cards even without disturbing the order in which they have been kept.
· Cards can be removed and inserted with great ease.
· Visible card indexing is very compact as a large number of cards can be accommodated in every tray.
· The visible card index equipment is costlier than the equipment required for card index.
· The filing staff must be trained properly for its operation.
It is a type of visible indexing which is used when the entries are limited to a few lines (names, addresses, etc ;). It consists of a frame into which strips of stiff paper can be fixed in any required order. Each strip is devoted to one name only. Frames containing these strips may be either fixed on the wall or arranged on a rotary stand which can be turned round to look at any part of the index. These strips can be protected from exposure or damage by using removable transparent celluloid covers.
It is an improvement over visible card index. Cards are arranged about the circumference of the wheel. A single wheel can hold as many as 1000 cards. Cards can be inserted into or taken out of the slits of the metal rod whenever needed. An entry can be made on the card by applying the brakes to keep the wheel fixed. Thus, entries can be made on the cards and cards can be referred to without removing them from the wheel.
· Wheel index makes reference very easy and quick. It saves time and efforts.
· It is economical in space as a large number of cards can be accommodated in a wheel.
· Entries can be made on the cards without removing them from the wheel.
· New cards can be added and old ones removed without much difficulty. Thus wheel index allows flexibility in operations.
Every system of indexing has its own merits and demerits. Some methods are rigid while others are flexible through expensive. The installation of a suitable indexing system depends mainly on the following factors.
1. The type and extent of information needed.
2. The cost of equipment in each system.
3. The cost of labour in each system.
4. The space required for each system.
5. The frequency of adding or deleting.
6. The purpose of using an index