A Report on the July 2017 ABA Board Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met on July 10–13, 2017, in Bothell, Washington.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Underwent an extended, in-depth review of the Carver Policy Governance model. The exercise was co-led by ABA President Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books in Seattle, Washington, and ABA Vice President Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities in the relatively short time since the last full Board meeting, in May at BookExpo, including:

    • Working with ABA colleagues at the BookExpo event, held in New York City from May 31–June 2, including his participation at the ABA Annual Meeting and Town Hall, which saw the highest member attendance in many years;
    • Numerous interviews with national and local press regarding independent bookselling, the importance of independent business, and other related issues;
    • Working with ABA staff on creating ABA’s 2017 Ends Policy compliance reports for presentation to the Board;
    • Planning with staff for the association’s participation in the fall regional trade shows;
    • Working with ABA colleagues on the upcoming Winter Institute, set for January 22–25, 2018, in Memphis, Tennessee;
    • Hiring new social media personnel as part of an ongoing effort to improve ABA’s messaging and public relations efforts on behalf of indie bookstores;
    • Leading ABA’s participation in a meeting with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and five other organizations to discuss the challenges facing businesses and workers as a result of the ongoing consolidation of market and economic power by Amazon.com;
    • Focusing on member outreach and retention;
    • Working on some of the final details regarding ABA’s participation in the upcoming National Book Festival, where ABA will work in conjunction with the event’s bookseller, Politics & Prose.
  • Heard a report from ABA President Robert Sindelar on his activities on behalf of the association, including:

    • Meeting with the Independent Book Publishers Association at BookExpo to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest;
    • Participating in BookExpo programming, including ABA’s Town Hall and Annual Meeting, as well as the meeting of ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Council following BookExpo;
    • Chairing the first in-person meeting of ABA’s Diversity Task Force, which was also attended by ABA Board Member Valerie Koehler;
    • Writing, in June, his first letter to the ABA membership;
    • Working on the agenda for the July Board meeting;
    • Collaborating with ABA Vice President Jamie Fiocco on the Board’s training session on the Carver Policy Governance model;
    • Preparing the orientation process for new Board members;
    • Continuing his ongoing discussions with ABA member stores.
  • With Board approval, ABA President Sindelar made the following appointment to the ABA Nominating Committee:

    • Board member Jonathon Welch, co-owner of Talking Leaves...Books in Buffalo, New York, as chair of the committee;
    • Board member Annie Philbrick, co-owner of both Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, and Savoy Bookshop & Café, in Westerly, Rhode Island, as a member of the committee.

    President Sindelar noted that he would be making three additional nominations to the committee very soon.

  • Received an update on ABA’s financials from ABA Chief Financial Officer Robyn DesHotel.
  • Met with William Jones Investment Management representatives John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, and Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and received a briefing on the association’s investment policy and reviewed the performance of the association’s investment portfolio.
  • Reviewed ABA’s Ends Policies and the 2017 compliance reports from staff in regards to those policies. (The compliance reports detail ABA’s work to fulfill the association’s Ends Policies.) After discussion, the Board approved changes to clarify the articulation of part of Ends Policy A4, “Members will have access to programs specifically aimed at growing and expanding the reach of children’s books to a wide audience of both consumers and booksellers, including such things as communication vehicles, appropriate awards, and educational programs,” amending the policy to read, “Members will have access to programs specifically aimed at growing and expanding the reach of children’s books to a wide audience of both consumers and booksellers.” The change was made not to suspend or limit any member services, but to fully focus the policy on the goal, rather than the means of achieving that goal. In addition, the Board approved amendments to clarify Ends Policy C. The new language now reads: “Member bookstores will be effectively promoted as the preferred marketplace for the public.”
  • Heard a report from President Sindelar on the first in-person meeting of the Diversity Task Force.
  • Heard a report from ABA Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen and Mr. Teicher on ABA’s participation in a Washington, D.C., meeting with ILSR and other organizations that focused on possible policy and advocacy efforts in response to the growing consolidation of Amazon’s market and economic power.
  • Discussed how ABA might facilitate access to capital for the establishment of new bookstores, especially in underserved markets of the country.
  • Received a briefing from ABA IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies on a number of issues, including IndieCommerce; IndieLite, the new platform designed for stores just starting with e-commerce and those with limited time and resources; and ongoing development of IndieCommerce.
  • Heard reports from Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger and Mr. Teicher on the recently completed BookExpo and the ongoing work regarding ABA’s participation in the upcoming fall regional trade shows, including the educational session on maximizing backlist sales being developed for presentation at the shows.
  • Received a briefing from Mr. Welch and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger on ABA’s efforts to increase productive collaborations among indie bookstores and university presses, including ABA’s participation in programming at the Association of American University Presses annual meeting in Austin, Texas, in June. There, Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger participated on a panel with Jeff Deutsch, director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago, who is also a member of ABA’s Bookseller Advisory Group. The panel highlighted the lessons learned from successful collaborations among independent bookstores and university presses, especially the national University Press Week initiative.
  • Heard a report from Mr. Teicher and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger on ABA’s ongoing program development for Winter Institute 13 and Children’s Institute 6.