ABA 101: Governance and Administration

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ABA 101 is a new series aimed at introducing booksellers to key points about the American Booksellers Association.

Below is an explanation of the distinction between the roles of the ABA Board of Directors and the ABA staff. A more detailed explanation of this distinction, as well as other policies concerning the board, can be found in the ABA Governance Policy Manual.

The Board of Directors

The governing body of ABA is the Board of Directors; it consists of 13 volunteer booksellers of current member bookstores, and includes one President and one or two booksellers serving as Vice President/Secretary. As much as possible, the board is representative of members in terms of store size, region, format, and the ways members self-identify. Per ABA’s recently revised bylaws, the board must include at least four booksellers who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color (BIPOC), at least two of whom are Black, at any given time.

ABA’s current board members can be found here.

Board Responsibilities

The job of the ABA Board is to represent member bookstores and to make sure that ABA meets their key business needs by establishing ends policies that serve the membership. Ends policies are the broad outcomes that the ABA is charged with accomplishing on behalf of members. It’s the board’s job to create the ends policies and the CEO’s job to interpret them then lead the ABA staff in achieving them as they see fit. It is then the board’s job to evaluate the CEO’s performance to that end. In setting the ends policies, the board focuses on monitoring trends, supporting stores, and preparing stores for the future. The board is not responsible for the administrative or programmatic means of attaining the desired outcomes.

The board receives input from the Booksellers Advisory Council; the ABC Advisory Council; the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; ABA staff; ABA’s financial advisors for its endowment; and ABA’s general counsel, as needed, to help inform their work.

Chief Executive Officer & ABA Staff

  • The ABA staff is led by the Chief Executive Officer, who is the principal manager and administrator of the association and who is responsible for the strategy and day-to-day operations of the association and all of its employees, including the hiring and firing of association employees.
  • Staff departments include: ABC Group, Accounting, Advocacy, Content, Education, IndieCommerce, Membership, Technology, and Publisher Relations.

Essentially, the CEO provides the leadership and administrative support to achieve the board’s desired broad outcomes for the association.

The Link Between the Board and the CEO

  • The board’s sole official connection to the operational organization and its achievements and conduct is through the CEO of the association.

Take a look at the chart below to see what role the Board and ABA staff have in some important responsibilities.


Chart outlining the differences between board and staff responsibilities