ABA President Betsy Burton’s First Bimonthly Letter to Members

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Dear Fellow Bookseller:

The ABA Board met two weeks ago, and what a meeting it was. As I’m sure won’t surprise you, when you gather 10 indie booksellers together you get one friendly, fractious, funny, and passionate discussion after another. And this was especially the case at our July meeting because it is arguably the most important Board meeting of the year.

Every July, the Board reviews the association’s Ends Policies — a major agenda item. The Ends Policies are a clear expression of what ABA does, for whom, and at what priority to the association and the membership. They state what outcomes and results should be achieved, and these are the policies that the ABA staff, under the able leadership of ABA’s CEO, Oren Teicher, carry out from now forward. Based on extensive member input, it is the annual responsibility of the Board to create and/or edit these policies detailing ABA’s long-range goals.

It’s a fearsome responsibility, trying to separate those things that rise to the very top in terms of priorities from all the pressing issues that preoccupy us all. In order to get “up in the clouds, looking down” rather than down in the weeds checking semantics and rearranging commas, we began the July meeting by going around the room and spending a few minutes each talking about how we first fell in love with books, first fell in love with bookselling, first fell in love with this industry with which we are all so besotted, first felt the urge to move out beyond our stores to foster that industry in some way… all, of course, leading up to the central question: What goals do we have in mind that might help to do exactly that — foster the book industry in overarching ways, or at least our part in it, to the best of our collective ability.

It will come as no surprise to you that in the case of the ABA Board we all love books with consuming passion. But the ways we acquired that passion are as varied as the ways we come to love nature or one another. It made for moving listening. Our histories in our stores were every bit as diverse and interesting — and so are our goals for this industry.

As for those goals, after long and voluble discussion the Board concluded that although largely we’ve been on the right track, there was a need to modify priorities in some of the Ends Policies. One necessary change had to do with diversity. Although it’s always been an ABA policy to seek out diversity and to actively encourage diverse participation through scholarships and other aids to participation and/or training, the Board concluded that an emphasis should be articulated more clearly in our Ends Policies, and we made changes in order to do that. Our hope is that this new emphasis will mean that fresh tools might be developed to encourage the diversity the entire association desires.

Another change was simple and had, no doubt, always been in our minds and hearts but, again, hadn’t been as clearly articulated as it should be. When speaking of our industry partners we always include publishers, but we do not always name authors. Sort of a duh, right? I mean, who is more important to the business of books than authors? That change was made as well.

By the end of the meeting we had made a few other semantic changes to go along with these two substantive ones, and by clicking this link you can view the end product. Having finished with the Ends Policies, we made one more change of significance — one you’ll all need to vote on.

The Board will be requesting that the membership vote to change the number of Board members from 10 to 11. We did this for two reasons: One — another duh — that it avoids tie votes — and the other, because one more place at the Board table will encourage the opportunity for diversity.

We had other adventures in the course of our three-day meeting, discussing technology (in some detail!), marketing, and a new program in the works to promote backlist (soon to be announced!). There’s a report in this issue of BTW that reviews other matters that the Board addressed.

As ABA’s new President, I am eagerly looking forward to working with all of you these next two years. I hope you’ll never hesitate to reach out to me to share ideas or concerns (my e-mail is btke@comcast.net and my cell is 801-792-8363). The more engaged we all are the more effective we — and the ABA — will be.

I also hope you are having a good summer reading and selling the rich crop of new books out now — and are looking forward as much as I am to receiving those forthcoming this fall!

Warm regards,

Betsy Burton
President, American Booksellers Association
The King’s English
Salt Lake City, Utah

P.S. The stories my fellow Board members told at the July meeting seemed so fascinating that we thought we should share them with the membership in Bookselling This Week. Look for more on that in the coming weeks.