A Report on the May 2017 ABA Board Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met on May 29–30, 2017, in White Plains, New York, just prior to the start of BookExpo, to address a number of issues.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities since the last full Board meeting, in January, including:
    • Conducting with ABA colleagues 10 Spring Forum meetings, held in conjunction with the regional trade associations. At the meetings ABA presented a new educational session, “Bookstores — An Inclusive Place for Dialogue and Discovery,” and held an open discussion on association and industry issues. Over the course of the forums, ABA met with approximately 400 booksellers nationwide;
    • Worked, together with ABA colleagues, on a range of items related to ABA’s participation in and programming for BookExpo 2017;
    • Together with ABA Board members Robert Sindelar and Jamie Fiocco and with ABA Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger participated in a full-day session focusing on the Carver Policy Governance model of board leadership, led by Miriam Carver;
    • Executed with ABA colleagues ABA’s fifth stand-alone Children’s Institute, held in Portland, Oregon, on April 5–7;
    • Leading in New York City two separate post-event debriefing sessions for the Winter Institute and the Children’s Institute with publisher sponsors of the events;
    • Participating in April with ABA colleagues and member booksellers in both an ABA Educational Task Force meeting, held in Memphis, and in a Digital Task Force meeting, held in Chicago;
    • Attending the London Book Fair, where he had a number of substantive talks with senior U.S. publishing executives;
    • Directed ongoing planning for Winter Institute 2018, which will be held in Memphis from January 22–25;
    • Together with ABA President Betsy Burton, ABA Vice President Sindelar, and Senior Program Officer Dallanegra-Sanger conducted meetings with 25 publishers to discuss issues of mutual interest;
    • Participated via Skype in March in a meeting with Spanish booksellers and publishers;
    • Participated via Skype in April in a workshop for prospective booksellers, conducted by the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates and co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association;
    • Together with ABA Chief Financial Officer Robyn DesHotel conducted meetings regarding LIBRIS, the insurance company created by ABA for independent bookstores;
    • Worked with Ms. DesHotel to finalize ABA’s financial audit and the preparation of the association’s 990 tax filing (both of which are available on the About ABA page on BookWeb.org);
    • Together with ABA senior staff met with Robert A. Walton, the CEO of the National Association of College Stores, to discuss how ABA and NACS might better work together in support of their respective members;
    • Met in Seattle with incoming ABA President Robert Sindelar;
    • Participated in a panel at the 2017 Bronx Book Fair, “The Bronx ‘Book Desert’: Fighting Back Through Public Libraries and New Bookstores.” Also appearing on the panel were Noëlle Santos of The Lit. Bar, a bookstore/wine bar opening in the Bronx later this year; Melissa Coss Aquino of Bronx Community College; and Gesille Dixon, director of Bronx libraries for the New York Public Library.
    • Participated in a session on independent bookselling organized by Kent Watson, executive director of PubWest;
    • Conducted numerous media interviews on bookselling and the book industry.
  • Heard a report from ABA President Betsy Burton, of The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, on her activities on behalf of the association, including:
    • Appointing 10 member booksellers to the new ABA Board Diversity Task Force, and seven member booksellers to an expanded ABA Booksellers Advisory Council. The appointments followed the ABA Board’s two diversity-related initiatives that immediately followed concerns voiced by booksellers at the Winter Institute Town Hall Meeting, in Minneapolis in January.
    • Meeting with past ABA presidents to solicit their input and feedback regarding the association;
    • Co-presenting the ABA educational session at the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Spring Forum in Denver;
    • Continuing to conduct her quarterly phone calls with the presidents of the regional trade associations;
    • Together with Mr. Teicher, Mr. Sindelar, and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger conducting ABA’s annual publisher visits;
    • Continuing her bimonthly President’s Letter to members in Bookselling This Week.
  • Welcomed newly elected Board directors Kenny Brechner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, and Christine Onorati of WORD in Brooklyn, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey, as well as Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and re-elected Board member Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who is the incoming ABA vice president. (Mr. Graham was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board that is the result of the election of Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books as ABA’s incoming president.)
  • Met with William Jones Investment Management representatives Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, and received a briefing on the association’s investment policy and reviewed the performance of the association’s investment portfolio.
  • Received an update on ABA’s financials from Ms. DesHotel.
  • Heard a briefing from ABA IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies on a number of issues, including an update on a recent Digital Task Force meeting and ongoing enhancements to IndieCommerce. Mr. Davies also updated the Board on the ongoing IndieBound test, which allows consumers to purchase books directly through IndieBound.org in an effort to improve their online shopping experience for an initial purchase, and then directs customers to several independent bookstores in their area for future purchases. After a review of data and analytics that showed both improved sales conversions on IndieCommerce stores’ websites from customers referred from IndieBound and book sales on IndieBound being made primarily to customers not yet affiliated with any independent bookstore, the Board decided to continue the existing program.
  • Met via conference call with ABA General Counsel David H. Evans, to discuss a number of issues.
  • Received a report on the series of publisher visits that Ms. Burton, Mr. Sindelar, Mr. Teicher, and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger had conducted to discuss issues of mutual interest.
  • Heard a report from ABA Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger on the developing plans for Wi13, and received a briefing from Mr. Cullen on the recent meetings of the ABA Educational Task Force in Memphis.
  • Heard a report from Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger and Mr. Cullen on the association’s 10 Spring Forum meetings, which included the interactive discussion “Bookstores — An Inclusive Place for Dialogue and Discovery.” During the sessions, held in response to member feedback and requests and to the Winter Institute Bookseller Discussion Groups, participants brainstormed ideas for how independent bookstores can foster communication and create opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to express and respond to differing views in the welcoming setting of a bookstore. (The numerous suggestions resulting from these brainstorming sessions have been compiled into a comprehensive document and grouped under six keywords: activism, community, diversity, empathy, outreach, and sanctuary. Booksellers can access the document, but a username and password are required; booksellers needing login information can e-mail info@bookweb.org.)
  • Received a briefing on the third successful Independent Bookstore Day from Board member Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco on behalf of IBD.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the 2017–2018 ABA Board convened, with new Board members Mr. Brechner, Ms. Onorati, and Mr. Graham.

Ms. Burton expressed the association’s deep gratitude to outgoing Board members Matt Norcross of McLean & Eakin Booksellers and John Evans of DIESEL, A Bookstore for their years of dedicated and productive service on the Board. And Mr. Teicher and Mr. Sindelar, on behalf of the entire ABA Board, thanked Ms. Burton for her energetic and committed leadership of the association in her years as ABA president, vice president, and Board member.