Drabyak and Domnitz Scholarship Winners Announced

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This week, the American Booksellers Association announced the winners of two scholarships to the Sixth Annual Winter Institute – the Joe Drabyak Frontline Fellowship, sponsored by Workman Publishing, and the Avin Mark Domnitz Scholarship, awarded by ABA to a bookseller at a store that submitted financial data to the 2010 ABACUS Survey. ABA’s Winter Institute – sponsored by the Ingram Content Group – will be held in Washington, D.C., from January 19 - 21, 2011.

Emily Crowe, assistant manager and buyer at The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, is the winner of the inaugural Joe Drabyak Frontline Fellowship, honoring the late Joe Drabyak, master bookseller at Chester County Book & Music Company in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and former president of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, who died in August. The annual fellowship is being sponsored for the first three years by Workman Publishing.

“Odyssey’s Emily Crowe embodies Joe’s handselling spirit in so many terrific ways,” said Craig Popelars, director of marketing for Algonquin Books. “Like an evangelical minister, Emily seems hell-bent on spreading the literary gospel and saving souls one good book at a time. Algonquin and many other publishing houses have had the good fortune of having Emily champion their books, and the community of South Hadley is incredibly blessed to have both a bookstore like Odyssey and a passionate bookseller like Emily cultivating their literary landscape. I can only imagine that Joe would greatly approve of Emily being selected as this year’s winner.”

Crowe told BTW that when she received notification of her scholarship win from Popelars, she was elated, “and was even more so as he told me a bit about Mr. Drabyak (and his wife) and what he brought to the world of bookselling. I was honored and humbled and a little bit teary-eyed by the time I got off the phone with Craig.”

Crowe, who was unable to attend the 2010 Winter Institute (“because of the economy and the timing – it usually falls one week before the start of textbook rush for our store”), said, “Winning the Drabyak Fellowship ensures my place there this year, and for that I am indescribably grateful to the good folks at Workman for providing this opportunity.”

Crowe also owes her good fortune to Victoria Yoshen, Odyssey’s financial manager, who, she said, “wrote a letter that made me look far better on paper than I deserve!” (Read Yoshen’s nomination for Crowe below.)

Looking forward to ABA’s January 2011 event, Crowe said, “In addition to the wonderful educational sessions at the Winter Institute, where I try to take home as many new ideas/skills/concepts as possible to adapt and implement at the Odyssey, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect with booksellers I’ve met through the years and only see at the Winter Institute.”

This week, ABA also announced that Shelly Plumb, owner of Harleysville Books in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, is the winner of the second annual Avin Mark Domnitz Scholarship, which the association created last year to honor the former ABA CEO’s wide-ranging contributions to independent bookselling.

“We’re very happy to once again award this scholarship in honor of Avin, his commitment to providing the best possible education for ABA members, and his many years of service to independent booksellers,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “It seems particularly appropriate that this year's winner – Harleysville Books – has participated in the ABACUS Survey, and has benefited from it, since the store’s very beginnings.”

Plumb is excited by the prospect of attending her first Winter Institute and is most looking forward to visiting Capitol Hill as part of Legislative Day on Wednesday, January 19. “It will be nice to combine my two passions, bookselling and politics,” she explained.

About Harleysville’s continuing participation in ABACUS, Plumb said, “Avin was so generous to share his knowledge with us when we opened our store almost five years ago… It’s because of Avin that we have been reporting to ABACUS since our store opened. The information we have gathered has been invaluable to us as our business has grown.”

Watch for an announcement of the winners of publisher-sponsored scholarships to the Winter Institute in next Tuesday’s edition of Bookselling This Week.

Victoria Yoshen’s Nomination of Emily Crowe for the Joe Drabyak Frontline Fellowship

I have known Emily the four years since she came back to the Odyssey after several years working at Lemuria in Jackson, Mississippi. She was heralded with delight, so I was curious whether she would live up to the hype Joan and Neil (the owners) were giving her. Joan and Neil have very different ways they measure satisfaction with an employee, so I was expecting a very wide range of skills. When Emily first arrived, she and I shared an office, and I witnessed her finesse with people, her total dedication to seeing projects through in a timely manner, and her love of books. Most booksellers have that, but Emily really has that. She reads, she has articulate discussions, she knows a broad range of what is offered, so she is marvelous on the floor (when folks ask for the red book they saw an ad for in the NYT last Sunday).

Most importantly, I saw Emily grow. She took on new software systems, new job descriptions, more management tasks, and made sure she learned what she needed to know to do her job well. She and I have discussed many strategies for human resources since she is the go-to person for schedules, training, and reviews. I am impressed with her practical application of knowledge and her very heart-centered connection to what the other staff members need. It is a difficult road being in middle management, and Emily is incredibly graceful.

Emily spends half of her time as a frontline bookseller, working directly with customers and helping staff improve their customer service skills. She has perfected the skill of hearing a customer’s ranging description of their reading history, listening for the common thread, and finding the match for the moment. She has customers who know her schedule because they depend on her to help them find their next book. Emily has a broad reading base across fiction and nonfiction, literary books through commercial books for both adults and children. She rounds this out by being the non-book item buyer and embellishing the store with, and hand-selling, a broad selection of gifts and ancillary products. I own many items I didn’t know I wanted until Emily introduced me, some of my favorite scarves and chocolates.

Emily brought the First Edition Club idea to the Odyssey in her first tenure and has helped keep it vibrant with her knowledge of good selections. She has gone through two renovations at the Odyssey and kept the decision-making timing on track via management meetings. She has been involved in budget and cost-cutting discussions and helped keep the whole perspective on the table in the midst of difficult conversations, all with an eye out for the customer.

Emily also brings “fun” to the job. She has running verbal jokes with many staff members, organizes get-togethers complete with trying out new games from the sidelines she orders, and generally keeps spirits up in a running-on-the-edge retail environment.

Emily will use every skill she gains at the Winter Institute. I strongly urge you to consider her nomination.


Victoria Yoshen
Financial Manager
Odyssey Bookshop