Dear ABA members,
Independent bookselling is facing an extraordinary time of challenges, and of opportunities. Since early March, the ABA Board and staff have been focused on providing the best possible financial and business resources to support our members through the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not all we’ve been talking about; we’ve been discussing the need for fundamental change within ABA. We are addressing our lack of diversity and representation on the board and have approved two bylaws changes to address this immediately.
One proposed bylaws change will immediately add two seats to the board, bringing the number of directors to 13. The second proposed bylaws change will commit a minimum of four of those 13 seats to be held by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) booksellers, of which a minimum of two shall be Black booksellers. In regard to the latter change, in ABA’s history there has only been one Black board director. We wish to acknowledge our failures and focus on actual system changes to ensure the erasure of Black voices no longer continues.
Your YES votes on the proposed bylaws changes will allow the board to proceed with the following:
- The board will call for board nominations from members. (Booksellers may also self-nominate.)
- A new nominating committee that includes two people of color, including at least one Black bookseller, will review the nominations, interview the nominees, and make recommendations to the board.
- Based on those recommendations, the Board will appoint two Black booksellers to serve until the next election cycle begins, in early spring 2021. At that time, these appointees can run as incumbents in the new election for a regular three-year term.
- Note: The Board has chosen to appoint two Black booksellers immediately. Otherwise, legally we would have to wait until the next election cycle, in the spring. We feel this is too important to wait. These appointments will still come from nominations from the membership.
- This new board will meet for the first time in October 2020.
There is also a housekeeping vote required to ratify the last election, and one to establish a vote tie breaker policy for the board, going out to members as well.
Our commitment to change includes reinventing how the board operates: improved communication with membership and staff, a wider sharing of institutional knowledge, and a decentralization of responsibility. We are discussing a yearly diversity, equity, and inclusion audit of the board along with regular antiracist training and making diversity part of our DNA rather than a hackneyed word sprinkled throughout our governance documents. Our aim is to build value for all members, and part of that must involve a focus on BIPOC booksellers. To do this, we need to listen to BIPOC voices, increase the speed in which these voices can inform, and increase the number of talented people engaged in ABA initiatives. We remain committed to all diversity and are also acknowledging that our efforts to include BIPOC voices have moved too slowly.
We feel this is the best way for the ABA to move forward as we value diverse perspectives, ones that are representative of all of our members. As independent booksellers, we pride ourselves on reflecting our communities, and the ABA should also reflect who independent booksellers truly are. We must be unafraid to break the mold, to set aside our old ways and create new systems. We need to listen and act and learn from all independent booksellers and we need to take a leadership role in the book industry to show publishers and authors and readers what we value.
I hope you agree with us in taking this bold step, and I urge you to approve the proposed bylaws changes.
Chapel Hill, NC