A Report on the ABA Board's 2010 Summer Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association's Board of Directors held its summer meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, from Thursday, July 15, through Sunday, July 18.

The meeting was preceded, on Thursday, with an orientation for new Board member Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas. The orientation was led by ABA President Michael Tucker of Books Inc. in San Francisco; Vice President Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois; and ABA senior staff. The full Board then convened with ABA senior staff for meetings from Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Reviewed the association's governance documents, including the ABA Bylaws, Governance Process Policies, Board CEO/Linkage Policies, and the ABA Executive Limitation Policies;
  • Directed staff to formulate language to amend Section 9-1 of the Governance Policy Manual to reflect outside third-party oversight of the governance review process and to provide the full Governance Review Committee with discretion to perform a “light” audit if there are no significant issues;
  • Undertook an exercise to rate the association's programs and services to inform a review of ABA's Ends Policies;
  • Voted to amend ABA Ends Policy "C" by inserting the word “authors.” The new end policy reads:

    “C. Member bookstores will be vital partners to publishers, wholesalers, authors, and vendors.”

  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities since the May Board meeting, including:

    • Discussions with Discover Re about possible opportunities to grow LIBRIS, the ABA insurance program;
    • Participation in the June meeting of the International Booksellers Federation in Brussels, as well as meetings with executives from the Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom and Ireland in London;
    • A meeting with Kristen McLean, executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, to continue the dialogue about a possible merger between the two associations;
    • Attendance at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June in Washington, D.C., as well as a meeting with executives of the National Association of College Stores;
    • Discussions with Reed Exposition to explore new opportunities for BookExpo America;
    • ABA's e-fairness/Internet sales tax efforts, and his plans to attend a conference of state retail trade associations in Denver in August;
  • Heard a report from ABA President Michael Tucker, who thanked Board member Betsy Burton of The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, for overseeing the Board’s self-evaluation process, and also thanked the entire Board for returning their CEO evaluations;
  • Conducted its annual review of the association's Chief Executive Officer;
  • Approved the following appointments to the Nominating Committee: Betsy Burton of The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah (chair); Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas; Richard Howorth of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi; Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington; and Paul Yamazaki of City Lights Books in San Francisco;
  • Discussed the nomination process for Board candidates, including a revised series of guidelines drafted by Nominating Committee Chair Burton;
  • Following a review of the structure of the association’s wholly owned for-profit subsidiaries, adopted “ABA For-Profit Subsidiary Oversight Guidelines,” which includes a cap on subsidiary Board service at 10 years (the guidelines will soon be posted to BookWeb.org);
  • Approved appointments to the Board of Directors of Booksellers Order Service (BOS), ABA’s wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, per the BOS bylaws, which mandate the appointment of ABA's current CEO as well as a current and a former ABA Board member. Approved were ABA CEO Teicher, ABA Board member Dan Chartrand of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire, and former ABA Board member Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado;
  • Heard a report from ABA COO Len Vlahos on the May meeting of the Booksellers Advisory Council, which featured a debrief on ABA’s activities at BookExpo America 2010 and an exercise to rate ABA’s programs and services;
  • Met with William King, senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, who reviewed the performance of ABA's endowment relative to key measuring indexes and reported that Merrill Lynch’s forecast is for a slow but continued economic recovery;
  • Was introduced to Kurt Graham, regional marketing director for Apex Capital Management, ABA’s small-mid growth fund manager, who reviewed Apex’s history, key employees, and investment philosophy;
  • Received a report from CEO Teicher and CFO Eleanor Chang on ABA's third quarter financial results, which reflected the association's continuing efforts to be extremely prudent in controlling all expenses. ABA staff continues to project a break-even or better result for the full fiscal year, which would put the association far ahead of original budget projections; however, it was noted that this is largely dependent on the continued recovery of the association’s endowment;
  • Heard a report from COO Vlahos on progress made in developing new business models with publishers in the wake of the Board Task Force visits in May 2010;
  • Received a report on plans for the Sixth Annual Winter Institute, to be held from January 19 - 21, 2011, just outside of Washington, D.C., as well as on the status of an Indie Retailer Summit, to be sponsored by ABA just prior to the Winter Institute;
  • Conducted a review of the association's dues structure with a focus on creating incentives for smaller stores to join;
  • Discussed a draft joint agreement between ABA and the Association of Booksellers for Children detailing how ABA would implement the programs of ABC should that organization vote to merge with ABA;
  • Received an update from COO Vlahos and Technology Director Matt Supko on the burgeoning market for digital content and on plans for ABA IndieCommerce, including work underway to prepare for the integration of Google Editions, as well as work approved by the Board at its May meeting to substantially improve key features of IndieCommerce;
  • Reviewed ABA's plans for the fall regional trade association meetings;
  • Had a working dinner with Candlewick Press President and Publisher Karen Lotz; Director of Field Sales Elise Supovitz; Executive Director of Marketing, Publicity, and Events Jennifer Roberts; and Senior Vice President for Sales and Digital Initiatives John Mendelson to exchange ideas and information on how independent booksellers and Candlewick can work together better to sell more books;
  • Had a working lunch with Margo Baldwin, president and publisher of Chelsea Green, to discuss how independent booksellers and Chelsea Green can work together better to sell more books, with a specific focus on the publisher's recent experiments with consignment models.

The ABA Board and senior staff at last weekend's meeting in Exeter, NH. front: COO Len Vlahos, Beth Puffer, President Michael Tucker, CEO Oren Teicher; center: Dan Chartrand; back: Ken White, Betsy Burton, Vice President Becky Anderson, Tom Campbell, Sarah Bagby, Steve Bercu.