ABA Membership Votes to Pass Bylaws Changes

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Earlier this month, the American Booksellers Association Board of Directors voted to propose five bylaws changes for membership approval. The membership vote on these items concuded on Monday, November 23, with all five items receiving approval from the membership. 

Here are the changes that were approved:

Item 1:

Proposed Bylaws Change:

Any commercial establishment that is directly primarily engaged in the retail sale of new books shall be eligible to become a Bookstore Member. Bookstore Members shall have the right to vote in accordance with these Bylaws. Each Bookstore Member shall appoint one person as its representative to cast votes on its behalf at meetings of the Association and a person or persons to receive Association communications. Bookstore Members with more than one retail outlet shall have only one voting representative.

What this change means:


ABA’s mission is to serve bookstores. The definition of a bookstore is changing as booksellers experiment with new models, sizes, and innovations to their business, but the commonality among them all is that they are primarily engaged in the retail sale of books. This change makes ABA’s mission clearer. It also means that going forward, ABA would not open membership to stores that may sell books but are primarily in another type of business (for example, a rock and mineral store that may also have a shelf of books). Although this may mean that ABA’s membership numbers don’t continue to increase at the same rate as in the past, this will help ABA focus our work on bookstores.


ABA’s ends policies prioritize the new book business and, as a result, ABA’s programming and support is focused on new books. Although ABA would continue to support used bookstores, this change makes ABA’s priority transparent.

Item 2:

Proposed Bylaws Change:

The purposes of the Association are to act as a professional association as defined in Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, and include, but are not limited to, professional advancement, education, and advocacy on behalf of professional booksellers bookstores, such as the following:

(a) serving as the voice of professional independent booksellers bookstores and advocating on their behalf;

(b) providing professional independent booksellers bookstores with access to the information and services they require;

(c) providing opportunities for peer interaction; and

(d) promulgating policies and conducting activities for the betterment of all those individuals and firms involved in aspects of the professional independent bookselling industry.

What this change means:

“bookstores” vs. “booksellers”

ABA’s mission is to support bookstores. The association will always support booksellers, but there needs to be transparency that as a trade association our primary focus is to directly support the bookstores and indirectly support booksellers. In the language of Carver Governance Policy that ABA follows, the bookstores are viewed as the “owners” of ABA and the booksellers are the “beneficiaries.” This change helps ABA focus and prioritize our efforts and makes the mission clear to everyone.

Item 3:

ABA is also working to make the ABA Board of Directors more accessible and more representative of the membership:

Proposed Bylaws Change:

Composition of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors consists of 13 booksellers active in the day-to-day management and/or operation of member bookstores, and includes from among the 13 Directors one President and either one or two Directors serving as Vice President/Secretary. The Board is elected by the Bookstore Members. The Board of Directors shall be representative of the Association's diversity.

What this change means:

“of member bookstores”

This change effectively corrects a typo, changing from singular to plural language.

“either one or two Directors serving as Vice President/Secretary”

The work required to be on the board can sometimes be an obstacle to members serving on the board, and especially to those serving in an officer position. By allowing for two vice president positions, the workload can be better shared among the three board directors leading the board as president and vice presidents. Allowing for three people to lead the board also makes the board leadership more dynamic and more representative of the membership.

Item 4:

Proposed Bylaws Change:

Compensation. Directors do not receive compensation for their services, but shall be reimbursed for authorized expenses. Board officers may receive a stipend to offset expenses incurred by their store due to their absence while working on board duties.

What this change means:

This change is proposed to make an existing policy more transparent.

Item 5:

Proposed Bylaws Change:

Members of the BAC will be appointed by the CEO and COO of ABA with the advice of the staff and input from various members.

What this change means:

This change is proposed in order to support the shift to ABA staff-run committees.