Two new staff members have joined the American Booksellers Association in recent months: Educational Content Coordinator Stephany Choi and Membership and Database Assistant Lauren Anastasio.
In her position at ABA, Choi reports to Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen and supports Senior Education Manager Lisa Winn and ABC Children’s Group Manager Gen de Botton by coordinating all administrative and logistical details for creating and presenting ABA education to bookstore members, including the content for Winter Institute, Children’s Institute, and regional trade shows.
Choi conducts background research and develops presentation materials for education sessions, and helps coordinate all data and presenter materials, as well as information about presenters and panelists such as headshots and biographies. She also coordinates communication, including conference calls and video calls, with presenters and panelists, and makes sure all relevant materials, including PowerPoints, handouts, and notes, are turned in.
Choi went to Boston College, where she majored in chemistry, and afterward worked at the circulation desk at the Tappan Library in Tappan, New York. After college, said Choi, she had been considering going to graduate school for chemistry, but when she found out about the job at ABA, she decided to apply.
Choi said her favorite part of the job is interacting with her fellow staff and with booksellers. She got the chance to do a lot of that at this year’s BookExpo and Children’s Institute, for which she helped develop programming.
“I like the people at ABA,” said Choi, “and I like interacting with the booksellers at different events. It’s nice to be able to see how you are helping people, that all that hard work paid off.”
Choi said she has learned a lot so far in speaking with booksellers and finding out what they need and is always looking for new ways to gauge what booksellers want to learn: “What I’ve heard from booksellers is that they want to know more about how to engage with different age groups. How do you get teens to read books and continue reading? Education related to diversity is always going to be something we should be pushing. And I think another issue that booksellers are interested in is making their stores more inclusive of readers of all genres, like romance and sci-fi.”
Anastasio’s work at the association involves maintaining ABA’s member database, which includes inputting new business and individual records and assisting in the organization, maintenance, storage and presentation of ABA data. She collects and updates all membership information for event registration, program participation, digital mailing lists, and store and individual biographic details, as well as prepares membership reports and executes various data development projects.
She also works with Member Relationship Manager Liz Roberts and Membership Assistant Kate Brennan and has been developing relationships with booksellers in preparation to become the junior member relations representative for two of the nine regions.
Anastasio attended the University of Connecticut, where she majored in women’s studies. After college, she worked as an account manager at a graphic design and printing firm in New York City and at a catering and events planning company in Connecticut. The client focus of these jobs, said Anastasio, is somewhat similar to her duties now, in that it involves explaining benefits to current and prospective members.
“I did similar work with my other jobs that were sales-focused, but I do feel more comfortable in this environment because the focus isn’t just about generating money and numbers. It’s really about helping people get the best experience,” she said.
Anastasio also worked as a bookseller at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, and once a week at Savoy Bookshop and Café, in Westerly, Rhode Island, which Bank Square owner Annie Philbrick opened at that time.
While she has been to BookExpo as a bookseller, this year was Anastasio’s first time attending as an ABA staff member; she also assisted at this year’s Children’s Institute. Working at ABA, she said, allows her to remain part of the independent bookselling community, but gives her the chance to see things from the other side.
At conferences, she said, “I enjoy the open communication that we can have meeting face-to-face at BookExpo and Children’s Institute. It’s a good way to get suggestions for what booksellers need — you get more than if it was just over e-mail.”