Profile: New ABA Board Member Linda Ramsdell

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

New ABA Board member Linda Ramsdell

Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vermont, may be a small store in a small town but its owner, new ABA Board member Linda Ramsdell, thinks very big. Ramsdell founded the Galaxy Bookshop after college, while a "woman in transition." "I never had the imagination to think I could operate my own store, but Hardwick needed a bookstore, so I decided to give it a try for five or six years." That was in 1988.

"Our first ad boasted, 'Over 50 titles available.' After six months at the initial 150-square-foot location, Galaxy moved into a 200-square-foot space and doubled the number of titles. In its current 1,500-square-foot home, Galaxy now has 5,000 titles. In 2003, Ramsdell opened a satellite store, Stardust Books, staffed by Craftsbury Academy high school students. The 300-square-foot store, including a tiny café, is part bookstore, part community service and education project.

Ramsdell joined both ABA and NEBA soon after opening and she has been a Book Sense member since the program's inception, in 1999. She has served as president and treasurer of NEBA from 1999 until 2003.

Ramsdell told BTW that she looks forward to bringing her perspective as owner of a small town, rural store to the members of the ABA Board. But Ramsdell's chief extra-curricular activity has expanded her focus to a very broad, comprehensive community --that of the Congress of the United States.

Since 2002, Ramsdell has been instrumental in rallying booksellers and librarians to oppose Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act -- which amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to give the FBI vastly expanded authority to search business records, including the records of bookstores and libraries.

Initially, Ramsdell and Trina Magi, past president of the Vermont Library Association (VLA), submitted on behalf of Vermont librarians and booksellers a letter regarding Section 215 to Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Their letter ultimately helped convince Sanders to introduce the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157), legislation that would remove the threat to readers' privacy.

Since that time, the threat that Section 215 poses to readers' privacy has garnered tremendous media coverage. Furthermore, as of July 2004, Sanders' bill had 151 co-sponsors. In addition, other bills were introduced into the Senate that would amend Section 215, as well as other provisions of the Patriot Act.

This past May, Ramsdell and Magi were awarded the Playboy Foundation's 2004 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for their efforts. Ramsdell remains an active member of the Working Group on 215, a committee that is coordinating the activities of booksellers, librarians, publishers, and writers.

After her first ABA Board meeting this past July, Ramsdell was convinced that "the Board has a great process. The work of the Board is less about my particular goals and more about the agenda of the entire Board. Since the Board is well balanced -- large and small stores, urban, rural, and suburban -- we can work on policies that will help booksellers across the board. I was very impressed with the help ABA got from Ivan Barkhorn [consultant to ABA on strategic matters]. He helped us identify and strategize what booksellers need to thrive. My work with NEBA helped me to see the importance of stepping back from the day-to-day work of running a store and looking to the future to plan strategically."

Since Ramsdell credits the educational programming of both ABA and NEBA for teaching her how to "become a professional bookseller," she sees great importance in providing booksellers with many opportunities for learning.

"As a board, we are looking at ways member stores can become more professional by looking at our businesses with the range of tools available. We are also looking to raise the profile of our stores in the community. We want to raise the consciousness about why it matters where people shop." -- Nomi Schwartz

Look for a profile of new Board member Cathy Langer, of Tattered Cover Book Store, in next week's issue of Bookselling This Week.