It was just a month ago that many of us were together in Minneapolis for the Winter Institute, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing many of you again very soon as we begin the 2017 round of Spring Forum meetings, which kick off next week in Atlanta. (Here’s a link to all the Spring Forum dates and locations.) We appreciate that for booksellers in some parts of the country attending the Spring Forums does require a bit of travel, but, where appropriate, we do our best to keep moving these meetings to different cities in order to make them as accessible as possible to the largest number of members. We sincerely hope you can attend the forum closest to your store!
ABA is pleased to be working again with our colleagues at the regional trade associations in hosting the 10 forum meetings between March 7 and April 20. As in previous years, the Spring Forums will include an education session and our traditional open bookseller forum, where you can discuss any topic related to ABA, the book industry in general, or other issues.
However, this year’s educational programming is a significant departure from what we’ve done in the past.
Emanating from the discussions at Winter Institute’s Town Hall and Bookseller Discussion Groups, the Spring Forum educational session will focus on themes of community, connection, and communication, and it adopts a new format that we hope will create an opportunity for booksellers to share a range of ideas and viewpoints.
The session is titled “Bookstores — An Inclusive Place for Dialogue and Discovery,” and it will feature discussions led at each meeting by an ABA Board member. The bookseller interactions will take place in both large- and small-group settings, and the goal of the process will be to help booksellers collaboratively learn from their colleagues about how bookstores can fulfill their unique roles in communities.
As indicated above, this new session is a departure from our traditional educational programming. It will succeed to the degree that all attendees feel comfortable in participating in the discussions, allowing a wide range of opinions to be shared and discussed in a respectful and collegial setting, where all of us are mindful of listening as well as talking.
It goes without saying that we are currently living in a heated political environment. But, regardless of one’s political opinions, I know we all share a commitment to fulfilling the special role that indie bookstores play in their communities, recognizing that different bookstores will fulfill that role in a wide variety of ways.
ABA member stores come from urban, suburban, small town, and rural areas, and they serve a very wide range of customers. And I know that all of us want every bookseller — no matter what kind of store they come from — to feel comfortable participating in these Spring Forum sessions, and in ABA as a whole.
Though it’s hardly surprising, as we saw at Wi12, while many members share a similar political outlook, ABA recognizes, too, that those views are not held by everyone. Just as the shelves of our bookstores hold a wide variety of thoughts and opinions, our association is stronger if we respect the full spectrum of views among member bookstores and work to encourage an environment where all feel they can speak up and voice their points of view.
Your Board — and I and my colleagues — are excited to be presenting this new session at the Spring Forums, and we very much hope that, if possible, you will join us in the coming weeks for this important conversation. As noted, the meeting will also feature the traditional open forum, where many of the best and most productive conversations about helping indie bookstores have taken place. ABA doesn’t come to those discussions with any agenda or list of topics. It’s your meeting, and we very much want to hear from you!
Again, thanks to all of you who attended Wi12 for your participation and engagement, and thanks, too, to our lead sponsor, Ingram, and to the sponsoring publishers for their support, which makes the event possible.
The upcoming ABC Children’s Institute in Portland, Oregon — with lead sponsor Baker & Taylor — is just a little over a month away, and, as of this writing, there are still a few spots left for ABA member booksellers wishing to attend. There will be a great program of educational sessions, featured speakers, and authors, and I hope to see you for what I think will be the best Children’s Institute yet. And, of course, Portland has an array of wonderful indie bookstores to see.
For me, the highlight of last month’s Winter Institute was seeing the incredible level of enthusiastic engagement by so many newer and younger booksellers, and I fully expect to see that continue at the Spring Forums and Children’s Institute. Please come and be part of it!
CEO, American Booksellers Association