ABA Education at BookExpo to Highlight Diversity and Inclusion Tactics for Booksellers

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ABA is offering member booksellers attending BookExpo 2018 the chance to participate in “A Discussion on Diversity and Inclusion Tactics for Booksellers” to share ideas and discuss key issues regarding implementing diversity and inclusion in their stores.

ABA Education logoTopics to be raised at this roundtable discussion, scheduled for 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, include reviewing staff training and internal operations to increase staff diversity, how stores can better present themselves as a diverse space, thoughtful outreach to communities beyond stores’ established customer base, and more.

Building on the education session “Hiring for Diversity and Inclusion” held at Winter Institute in Memphis, this new session will teach booksellers specific tactics that will positively impact their staff, their stores, and their communities.

“With this session, we’re continuing to talk about diversity and want to offer practical solutions and ideas,” said ABA Education Manager Lisa Winn. “We want people to come and participate in what we hope will be a very interactive and, hopefully, very practical session.”

The discussion, to be introduced by ABA President and Third Place Books managing partner Robert Sindelar, will be led by three members of the ABA Diversity Task Force: BrocheAroe Fabian, a bookseller and publicity assistant at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina; Veronica Liu, founder of Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood; and Hannah Oliver Depp, communications director for WORD in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York.

Fabian, Liu, and Depp will each talk about the different ways bookstores can present diverse thinking to their communities, such as via staff training and staff interactions; creating more respectful displays, newsletters, and events; and using inclusive language to increase staff diversity. They will also discuss how stores can cultivate a more diverse and inclusive customer base by consciously reaching out to a broader community.

The three booksellers will then lead smaller discussion groups to find out what participating booksellers are doing to implement inclusion and diversity and discourage bias and discrimination in their own stores. Each small group will report to the larger group, and the panelists will wrap up with a full-room discussion on the ideas generated.

Depp told Bookselling This Week that booksellers play a unique role as a conduit between readers and publishers as the publishing community works on representation. Booksellers have the dual privilege of both representing diverse customers and introducing others to titles that they may have missed due to a lack of representation, she said.

“A lot of our communities are diverse in ways other than skin color, and due to the intimate nature of bookstores we have both the opportunity and responsibility to explore all understanding of the word with our customers and community,” said Depp. “This session is a chance for us as booksellers to delve deeper into specific tools and procedures our fellow indie bookstores can use.”

Liu feels grateful to have the chance to work with Depp, Fabian, and the other members of the Diversity Task Force, who, she said, all have ample experience creating diverse and inclusive environments, as well as the desire to share that knowledge more widely. 

“A lot of people in bookselling — and in the book industry at large — are clamoring for information on how to [make this happen] on both sides of the counter,” said Liu. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but the more often we booksellers can come together and share our experiences, philosophies, tactics, and triumphs, the better equipped we’ll be to enact any needed changes.”

The inspiration for the discussion at BookExpo comes from “Literary Bridges: Action-Focused Multicultural Inclusion Tactics for Bookstores and Booksellers,” the presentation Fabian delivered on February 20 at EurekaSIBA, a new event for members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) that featured short, educational talks by booksellers, industry professionals, and authors.

When asked to participate in EurekaSIBA, Fabian first surveyed other booksellers in her region to get a sense of their questions about diversity and inclusion. Having been in the book industry for a dozen years, Fabian knew that conversations about these topics had always been happening among booksellers, in private, online, and at industry conferences; now, however, they are finally coming to the forefront in a more public way, she said.

“We’re always going to need to have conversations about diversity and inclusion. As the industry grows and more people want to become a part of it, it’s important to create a space for people, and now we have this wealth of interest and information and ideas that can be presented back to the community,” said Fabian. “Bookstores are representative of the community and have always been community spaces, so the more inclusive we can be as an industry and as stores, the more people we can reach — and in the biggest ways.”

BookExpo 2018 will be held from Wednesday, May 30, through Friday, June 1, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. “A Discussion on Diversity and Inclusion Tactics for Booksellers” will take place on Wednesday, May 30, from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 1E12/13/14.