A Report of the ABA Board's Winter Meeting

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Among those attending the recent ABA Board meeting were (from left to right) ABA Vice President Ann Christophersen and Board members Lilla Weinberger and Karl Pohrt.

The ABA Board held its winter meeting from January 18-19 in Atlanta. The meeting took place during a busy week for booksellers; in addition to the ABA Board, the ABA Booksellers Advisory Council (BAC), the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), and members of the boards of the regional booksellers associations were all involved in a number of meetings throughout the week.

At the ABA Board meeting, members heard the report of the ABA Nominating Committee and approved the committee's recommendations for Board members for incoming terms. In addition, the Board elected Ann Christophersen of Women & Children First of Chicago as president and Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida, as vice president/secretary for terms 2002-2003. The slate of officers will appear on the ballot for Board members' elections for members' ratification, which will be mailed in early March. (For a full report on the committee's work, click here.)

In other business, the Board:

  • Heard a report on LIBRIS -- the ABA insurance program -- from Michael Murphy of RiskCap, ABA's insurance consultants, which manage and advise on LIBRIS. The report included a discussion on potential strategies geared toward both increasing the participation of booksellers and the value of the program to the association.
  • Met with the association's auditors from KPMG Peat Marwick -- Charlene Laniewski, audit partner, and Debbie Tucker, audit manager. The auditor's report stated that "the consolidated financial statements referred to … present fairly, in all materials respects, the financial position of ABA, Inc. and subsidiaries as of September 30, 2001, and 2000, and the changes in their net assets and their cash flows for the years then ended in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. And the opinion to the consolidating and other supplement information and the consolidated financial statements -- are fairly stated in all material respects in relation to the consolidated financial statement taken as a whole."
  • Heard a report on the bookseller-specific program developed by ABA for this year's BookExpo America (BEA). (For a schedule of professional development-related events at BEA, click here.)
  • Reviewed a new marketing program for BookSense.com.
  • Heard an update on the development of the online edition of the Book Buyer's Handbook, and received a report on the introduction of Bookselling This Week online and the launch of the new electronic reporting options for the Book Sense Bestseller List.

ABA President Neal Coonerty

On the Monday and Tuesday preceding the ABA Board meeting, the ABA Booksellers Advisory Committee met in Atlanta. Joining the BAC was Barbara Kaufman of Chapter 11 Discount Bookstores, who was appointed to the BAC by ABA President Neal Coonerty. The agenda of the BAC meeting was heavily focused on providing input for the new ABA strategic plan, and the meeting was facilitated by Ivan Barkorn, a consultant to ABA. The BAC also provided ABA senior staff with feedback and suggestions regarding BTW and the new electronic reporting options to the Book Sense Bestseller List.

Attending the BAC meeting were: Dana Brigham of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts; Ellen Davis of Dragonwings Bookstore in Waupaca, Wisconsin; Robin Green-Cary of Sibanye in Baltimore; Timothy Huggins of Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts; Mary Ellen Kavanaugh of My Sisters' Words in Syracuse, New York; Luanne Kreutzer of St. Helens Book Shop in St. Helens, Oregon; Tom Campbell of Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina; Dave Kaverman of Little Professor Book Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Michelle Lewis of Afro-American Book Stop in New Orleans; Susan Novotny of Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, New York; Beth Puffer of Bank Street Bookstore in New York City; Roberta Rubin of The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Illinois; Bob Sommer of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona; Michael Tucker of Books, Inc. in San Francisco; Collette Morgan of Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis; Meg Sherman of Chinook Bookshop in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Sandra Torkildson of A Room of One's Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin; and Donna Urey of White Birch Books in North Conway, New Hampshire.

On Wednesday, the Strategic Planning Committee focused its work on the formulation of a new strategic plan and, then, working with the input from the BAC, took steps to draft association goals for the plan. The Strategic Planning Committee is composed of members of the ABA Board and two non-Board members, currently Timothy Huggins of Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts, and Fran Keilty of Atticus Bookstore in Middletown and New Haven, Connecticut.

BTW will be providing more coverage on the developing strategic plan in the upcoming weeks, and, in addition, the spring Booksellers Forums will give booksellers a chance to share information, ideas, and concerns regarding the association and its future plans -- and to help prioritize the suggested goals under the new strategic plan.

Also meeting Wednesday was the Governance Review Committee. This committee, established under the ABA Bylaws, reviews annually the ABA's practices to ensure that they are in accordance with policies and procedures adopted by the Board. The committee is composed of bookstore members, none of whom are members of the Board, but one of whom is a previous officer. The current members are Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona; Chuck Robinson of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington; and John Barringer of Little Professor Book Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The committee will issue its report this spring.

On Thursday, the members of the ABA Board, ABA senior staff, and leadership from the regional booksellers associations took part in a session with Miriam Carver, a policy governance author and consultant. Carver's books, including Reinventing Your Board, were influential in the last ABA governance changes. After this meeting, Carver also had an extended period of detailed work with the Board of the Southeast Booksellers Association (SEBA). Wanda Jewell, SEBA executive director, told BTW that during the three days of work, "we wrote one hundred percent of the policy for governing SEBA," adding that "the Board is very energized and very focused on what SEBA should be doing and can do -- it was an incredibly valuable experience."

On Sunday and Monday, the Board of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression gathered for its annual "in-person" meeting. (Most ABFFE meetings are conducted by conference call.) Following a report on the threat to civil liberties in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Board unanimously voted to endorse a statement by In Defense of Freedom (IDOF), a coalition of over 150 national groups on both sides of the political spectrum that have expressed concern that measures to increase national security not extend to censorship and other abridgements of the Bill of Rights.

Among other things, the IDOF statement affirms "the right of peaceful dissent, protected by the First Amendment, now, when it is most at risk." (The IDOF statement can be read at http://www.indefenseoffreedom.org.)

ABFFE President Chris Finan reported to the Board that author Barbara Kingsolver has agreed to participate in a panel discussion of the current civil liberties climate during BookExpo America. Kingsolver recently wrote booksellers to protest an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal that she said suggested "that patriotic booksellers remove my books" from their shelves. (To read Kingsolver's letter , click here.) The panel, "911: Civil Liberties in a Time of Crisis," will be held on Friday, May 3, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

The week of meetings also provided an opportunity for discussions between the ABA Board and senior staff and the bookseller leadership and the executive directors of the regional booksellers associations. Eileen Dengler, the executive director of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, noted that in addition to a constructive exchange of ideas among the regionals in their meetings, the meetings with ABA provided a good opportunity to offer ideas, suggestions, and feedback to the national association.