A Report on the October 2020 ABA Board Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met via Zoom on October 10–11, 2020.

At the start of the meeting, ABA President Jamie Fiocco welcomed the two new Board members, Jake Cumsky-Whitlock of Solid State Books in Washington, D.C., and Melanie Knight of Books Inc. in San Francisco, California. In July, ABA member stores approved bylaws changes that increased the number of ABA Board members from 11 to 13 and stipulated that the Board will include at least four booksellers who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, at least two of whom are Black. On behalf of the Board, Ms. Fiocco welcomed the new directors and noted how much she and her colleagues were looking forward to working with Ms. Knight and Mr. Cumsky-Whitlock.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from ABA President Jamie Fiocco on her activities on behalf of the association since the last full Board meeting, in July 2020, including:

    • Regular, weekly communications with ABA Vice President Bradley Graham and ABA CEO Allison Hill regarding association business;
    • Work with her Board colleagues on establishing working groups to focus on particular issues or projects;
    • A recent advocacy meeting with North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis’ office regarding COVID-19 relief for small businesses. Joining Ms. Fiocco in the meeting were Dave Grogan, ABA director of advocacy and public policy, and Molly Bond, advocacy and public policy coordinator.
  • Heard a report from Ms. Hill on ABA’s activities since the last full Board meeting, including:

    • Launching the “October is the new December” campaign;
    • The launch of the ABA Children’s Group’s virtual reading series for educators and students with authors Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam for their young adult novel Punching the Air and an event with Patrisse Cullors scheduled for November;
    • The launch of the Q4 prep educational series for members;
    • ABA’s continuing efforts to support BIPOC members and to conduct outreach to Black-owned bookstores. She noted that 34 BIPOC-owned stores have joined ABA since March;
    • ABA’s hosting of two webinars on “Why Sales and Bestseller List Reporting Is Vital in 2020” during the fall regional trade shows; ABA staff attending the fall shows; and, together with ABA COO Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, her providing updates at the regional association’s annual meetings;
    • ABA’s work toward formulating a modified ABACUS report on 2019 and 2020 financial data during the usual ABACUS reporting period in 2021;
    • Ongoing work with ABA’s health insurance partner LIG Solutions;
    • Continued communications with Senate and House leadership, in addition to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, calling for renewed bi-partisan talks regarding more federal assistance to support small businesses;
    • Working with bookstore members to set up meetings with key legislators to discuss COVID-19 relief for small businesses, and helping them with op-eds regarding bookstore relief and the importance of the USPS for bookstores.
  • Received a financial report from CFO PK Sindwani on the results for ABA’s operations and investment portfolio.
  • Met with Williams Jones Investment Management representative Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, who presented a report on the association’s investment holdings.
  • Unanimously approved the ABA/BSI FY21 budget. The approved budget projects a shortfall due to COVID’s impact, including physical conferences shifting to virtual, membership dues attrition, and other losses of revenue. Expenses were managed to help offset the loss of revenue, including both no performance pay increases for staff and renegotiated contracts with vendors and others. The new budget did include new expenses to better support members around marketing and e-commerce.
  • Met with Madeline McIntosh, CEO of Penguin Random House U.S., and Jaci Updike, president of sales Penguin Random House U.S., to discuss items of mutual interest.
  • Met with John Rubin, president and CEO, Above the Treeline, for an update on the company’s Edelweiss 360 tool for bookstores.
  • Met with Bookshop.org founder and CEO Andy Hunter for an update on Bookshop and to discuss items of mutual interest.
  • Discussed bylaws changes to be brought to the membership.